Unto the Hills: A Daily Devotional
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Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; … Here in North America we still have freedom of worship. In many parts of the world believers cannot assemble together; they cannot speak of their religious convictions because of totalitarian power. Here in North America we have Bibles everywhere. We have the opportunity to preach. God has blessed us with a thousand and one spiritual blessings. In days of uncertainty and confusion, such as we are now passing through, these are gifts that go beyond our power to understand; and yet they are gifts of God that become ours when we receive His Son as our Savior and Lord.
God has given us the greatest Gift of all—His Son, who died on the cross and rose again so that we can know Him personally and spend eternity with Him in heaven: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15, NIV). I don’t know what trials you may be facing right now, but God does, and He loves you and is with you by His Holy Spirit. Cultivate a spirit of thankfulness even in the midst of trials and heartaches. Thank God Especially for His Salvation in Jesus Christ From one end of the Bible to the other, we are commanded to be thankful. In fact, thankfulness is the natural outflowing of a heart that is attuned to God. The psalmist declared, “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving” (Psalm 147:7, NIV). Paul wrote, “Be thankful” (Colossians 3:15, NIV). A spirit of thanksgiving is always the mark of a joyous Christian. In ourselves we do not have the strength that we need to live the way God wants us to live. But when we turn to Him, we discover that “it is God who works in [us] to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13, NIV). Jesus promised His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18, 20, NIV). Separated from friends, unjustly accused, brutally treated—if ever a person had a right to complain, it was this man, languishing almost forgotten in a harsh Roman prison. But instead of complaints, his lips rang with words of praise and thanksgiving!Ingratitude is a sin, just as surely as is lying or stealing or immorality or any other sin condemned by the Bible. One of the Bible’s indictments against rebellious humanity is that “although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” (Romans 1:21, NIV). An ungrateful heart is a heart that is cold toward God and indifferent to His mercy and love. It is a heart that has forgotten how dependent we are on God for everything. The man was the Apostle Paul—a man who had learned the meaning of true thanksgiving, even in the midst of great adversity. Earlier, when he had been imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote, “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20, NIV).
We don’t like to talk about death; it’s the forbidden subject of our generation. Yet it’s real for all of us. Sometimes on television I see motion pictures featuring actors who are no longer living. They seem very much alive in the picture, but they are dead. Some of them were my personal friends. Death is real, and when we die, that is a battle we have to fight all alone. Nobody can be with us in that hour, but David said he had found an answer that would take the fear of death away. David said that there is an answer to death, there is a hope beyond death. That hope is centered in the risen Christ. Paul wrote that to be “absent from the body” is to be “present with the Lord.” So the fear of death is removed. The next footsteps in the corridor, he knew, might be those of the guards taking him away to his execution. His only bed was the hard, cold stone floor of the dank, cramped prison cell. Not an hour passed when he was free from the constant irritation of the chains and the pain of the iron manacles cutting into his wrists and legs.Like Stephen, being filled with the Holy Spirit needs to be a way of life for us. Too often we only want to be filled with the Spirit on Sundays, and as soon as we leave our church service, we return to our worldly routines of mundane tasks, acceptable temptations or angry confrontations.
Today, too, ingratitude and thanklessness are far too common. Children forget to thank their parents for all that they do. Common courtesy is scorned. We take for granted the ways that others help us. Above all, we fail to thank God for His blessings. It is the custom of many Christians to bow their heads in public places and give thanks for the food that has been placed before them. I have had scores of waiters and waitresses tell me that when we bowed our heads, it was the first time they had ever seen that happen in their restaurant. One of the best ways to get rid of discouragement is to remember that Christ is coming again. The most thrilling, glorious truth in all the world is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. When we look around and see pessimism on every side, we should remember the Bible is the only Book in the world that predicts the future. The Bible is more modern than tomorrow morning’s newspaper. The Bible accurately foretells the future, and it says that the consummation of all things shall be the coming again of Jesus Christ to this earth. If your life is dismal, depressed, and gloomy today, Christ can turn those dark clouds inside out. The sunlight of His love can still shine into the darkest part of your life.
The Bible teaches unmistakably that we can triumph over bereavement. The Psalmist said, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Self-pity can bring no enduring comfort. The fact is, it will only add to your misery. And unremitting grief will give you little consolation in itself, for grief begets grief. Sorrow, or mourning, when it is borne in a Christian way, contains a built-in comfort. “Happy are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.” There is comfort in mourning, because we know that Christ is with us. He has said, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Suffering is endurable if we do not have to bear it alone; and the more compassionate the Presence, the less acute the pain. Have you opened your heart to Jesus Christ? If not, turn to Him with a simple prayer of repentance and faith, and thank Him for what He has done for you. And if you do know Christ, how long has it been since you thanked God for your salvation? We should not let a day go by without thanking God for His mercy and His grace to us in Jesus Christ. Thank God for His Continued Presence and Power in Your Life In the ancient world, leprosy was a terrible disease. It hopelessly disfigured those who had it, and it permanently cut them off from normal society. Without exception, every leper yearned for one thing: To be healed. Paul before his conversion was not meek. Proudly and brutally, he apprehended all Christians and sought to destroy them. He was bigoted, selfish, and vaunted. But when he wrote his warm and affectionate letter to the churches of Galatia, he said, among other things, “The fruit of the Spirit is . . . gentleness, goodness . . . meekness.” His meekness was something God-given, not something man-made. It is not our nature to be meek. On the contrary, it is our nature to be proud and haughty. That is why the new birth is so essential to each of us. That is why Jesus frankly and pointedly said not only to Nicodemus but to every one of us, “Ye must be born again.” Meekness begins there! You must have a change of nature. Second, unlike the Sanhedrin, those who are filled with the Holy Spirit welcome the truth (Acts 7:55–56). Stephen sees Christ standing at the right hand of God, and he was glad to commit his spirit to God. Conversely, those who were not filled with the Spirit began to “cry out in a loud voice” because they heard the truth and wanted to drown it out by their own words (Acts 7:57). They also covered their ears, trying to prevent the truth from affecting them. 3. Intercede for Others
Thanksgiving—the giving of thanks—to God for all His blessings should be one of the most distinctive marks of the believer in Jesus Christ. We must not allow a spirit of ingratitude to harden our heart and chill our relationship with God and with others. “Thanksgiving—the giving of thanks—to God for all His blessings should be one of the most distinctive marks of the believer in Jesus Christ.” However, a Holy Spirit-filled life has a lot to do with your effectiveness as an evangelist for the cause of Christ. If you are someone who truly wants to reach the lost (a motivation all believers should share), you need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. If you have been witnessing to a friend from work, but live a sinful life indistinguishable from the nonbelievers around you, you are likely doing more harm than good for the Kingdom of God.
Are you constantly preoccupied with what you do not have? Or have you learned to thank God for what you do have? Thank God for the People in Your Life Stephen, the first Christian martyr in the Scriptures, provides a beautiful picture of someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit, especially when compared to the Sanhedrin (religious/political leaders of the day). Acts 6:3 and 7:54-8:1 offer a few key characteristics of a man who was facing the cold reality of death at the hands of an angry mob. 1. Be of Good Report Christ taught you! If you have really heard his voice . . . then throw off your old evil nature-the old you that was a partner in your evil ways . . . For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.