Monday: Genesis 4
Tuesday: Matthew 4
Wednesday: Ezra 4
Thursday: Acts 4
Friday: Genesis 4, Matthew 4, Ezra 4, Acts 4
Monday, Genesis 4: Hope is ever present as God grants Adam and Eve two sons, and yet, evil seems to prevail as the human race plunges further into sin. God, ever faithful gives Cain a warning – “sin is crouching at the door… you must rule over it.” But Cain does not resist. Even still, even in the midst of consequence, God mercifully allows Him to live, to prosper, to be protected, to have offspring. God gives Seth, offering redemption and fresh hope – and people began to call on the name of the Lord.
Even after Christ’s redemption, sin is ever crouching at the door. We may, by His Spirit alone, rule over it. Is there a sin, even something subtle, that is crouching nearby? A small but festering anger or unforgiveness? A spirit of unforgiveness or irritability?
Recognize these “small” sins, the way they lie in wait for us. Name these things, repent and ask the Spirit to enable you rule over sin in your life. As we call on the name of the Lord, He is merciful and good!
Tuesday, Matthew 4: Jesus, fully God and fully man, is able to resist temptation, sin “crouching at the door.” He counters Satan with the truth of Scripture, and ultimately prevails. After battling temptation is when jesus begins His public ministry and I am reminded that often, our hardest work is unseen, beginning in our own hearts and minds before we can minister to others.
Though we will never be perfect, we can learn a lot from Jesus’s example. In the Scripture, we have the truths that we need to combat the lies of the enemy. Today, identify one lie that he is whispering to you, that you may even unintentionally be believing. Now search out a verse or portion of Scripture to combat that lie. Repeat it often. Write it down and hang it where you can see it. Battle the lies of Satan with the Truth of our unchanging Father’s Word!
Wednesday, Ezra 4: Corruption, bribery and jealousy stop the progress on the temple and its wall for 15 years. I imagine the discouragement of the people of Judah as they are slandered and falsely accused. They may feel like evil is winning, that their enemies prevail. It can seem that way, can’t it?
Are there any situations in your life that feel hopeless, or where you feel that evil has triumphed or pain will have the final word? I’ve certainly been there, I think we all have. I encourage you to call a trusted friend or family member and name these things. Invite them to pray with you, and believe as you pray that even when it feels hopeless, suffering and darkness will not prevail.
Thursday, Acts 4: Peter and John are imprisoned for sharing the Gospel – it would be easy to despair, and yet, still many believed. The persevere against persecution and continue preaching the Gospel even to the rulers and authorities who are astonished by their courage. I love that the realization of the rulers as they witness the boldness of Peter and John, is that these men must have been with Jesus.
When people look at our lives, can they tell that we have been with Jesus? Are we living, and even suffering in a way that points others toward Him, that serves as a testimony to His goodness?
We all get derailed, distracted, discouraged. Sometimes it feels like we have just got it all wrong. Sin crouches at the door. Satan temps and taunts. Corruption, bribery and jealousy threaten the work we feel God has called us to. Hardship and opposition take the wind out of our sails.
And yet, our God does not change.
Still, He calls out to us. Still, He is merciful to us. Still, He strengthens us.
A week after our terminally ill friend breathed her last in our guest bedroom, words from my daughter’s home school assignment caught my eye. We ‘d been learning about paragraphs and punctuation. She wrote, “Our sick friend lived with us for a long time and my mom was brave and took care of her. We thought she might get better, but she didn’t. I saw my mom praying for her. My mom was brave.”
Brave. That certainly wasn’t what I felt as I read it, or as I shepherded my children through yet another loss. I felt downright defeated, as if I had somehow failed our friend, and my family again.
“We thought she might get better,” her paragraph continued, “but she didn’t.” It is seven years later and I cannot type those words without tightness in my chest and tears threatening to spill forth. I think it’s one of the most vulnerable things we can ever say to God, to each other, “I thought it would be this way, but it wasn’t. I thought it would be easy, but it’s not. I thought I would be better, different, more… I thought you would fix it, but…” It’s hard to breathe.
The failure can swallow us in a minute. When we face hardship of any kind, big or small, we can feel like we have failed God or worse, like He’s failed us.
Gently, He guides me to focus on the other words my ten-year-old has written. “I saw my mom praying for her.” I think about all the zillions of times my kids must have seen me praying for her. I think about the days when I didn’t feel like asking God again to heal her, or when I didn’t feel like waking up in the middle of the night to sit with her and make her some tea. I think of the times that I don’t really want to pull out the Bibles after breakfast to start our day in the Word, because I need to hurry to the next thing, or the times I don’t want to stop what I am doing to listen to a child’s hurt or the times that I don’t feel like chopping the carrots for dinner again. But I do it anyway.
And I think of Ezra who has to pause his work on the wall for 15 years, and Peter and John, imprisoned and beaten and mocked, and Jesus hungry and Eve distraught over the loss of her son and all of them praising God anyway.
And what if that is His desire for us in all our failures and our mess-ups. In all the times that things do not go as we had planned or hoped, when we loved the person who never did change, when we cleaned up the messes and no one said thank you, when we did the hard thing for no one’s approval, when there really was no wind in our sails, but we did it anyway. I think that kind of faithfulness might be the bravest kind of brave.
And I think that kind of faithfulness brings us right up close to our Father who is the most Faithful of all, who never changes, who never leaves us, and who does have purpose in all of our pain and trial.
When we look around and it all feels utterly bleak, when sin is crouching and Satan is tempting and suffering is stifling, when we feel we couldn’t possibly praise God for our current circumstance, we praise Him anyway. We praise Him for who He is. We praise Him because He loves us, no matter how many times we mess up. We praise Him because He will not leave or forsake us, not matter how hard this turns out or how badly this things ends. We praise Him because no ending here is ever truly the end when we know we have eternity with Him.
- What feels too hard right now, or like too much of a mess? We can trust God that, no matter what, His goodness and His plan will prevail.
- In the midst of persecution, hardship, and even what might look like a failure, Peter and John do not pray for the their suffering to end, they prayed for more boldness and courage to face the situation at hand. And God, always faithful, answered and strengthened them! Dear one, God will give you the strength and courage for whatever you are facing today and in the upcoming season.
- Turn on a worship song that you love and praise Him anyway, no matter what you are facing today.