July 8, Monday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“God Works in Strange Ways”

Ecclesiastes 9:1-3

But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

You may have been in this situation before: you’ve invited a friend to Sunday service at your church, and to your surprise, this staunchly atheistic businessman miraculously agrees! You’re not sure whether it’s just to get you off his back, or there’s genuine interest, but all you’re hoping for is that the sermon this week is a “good one.” 

My friend Sam was in this exact scenario.  He had finally convinced his friend to join him for a Sunday service at his church, but to his utter dismay, the lead pastor was away on a speaking engagement that week; and so the eldest of all the elders took to the pulpit. The old gentleman opened to 1 Chronicles chapter 1. As Sam buried his face in his hands, the elder read in a slow monotonous voice, the genealogy of the Israelite people. Things couldn’t have gone worse. With a long sigh, Sam concluded that his friend was surely never coming back to church.

The service drew to a close, and as soon as the benediction was given, Sam’s friend turned to him, and to Sam’s absolute shock, he said, “Sam, I think I want to become a Christian.” After a short, confusing, yet joyous pause, Sam had to ask, “Wait. WHY?”

His friend replied, “As the old man was speaking about people living and dying, I asked myself, what’s going to happen to me when I die? And then I realized, I need to know more about Jesus.”  God certainly works in strange ways (to us, that is).

Solomon brings to light one of humanity’s most avoided, yet most important topic: death. We’re all headed in that direction; from the morally upright to the most crooked of criminals. Perhaps we do not ponder on this truth enough, for if we did, we would be driven daily into the arms of Jesus, the conqueror of death. Today, take a moment to ponder and thank Jesus for His victory over the grave. If there is an opportunity, share this joy you’ve found with a friend, family member, or co-worker.

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for Your death and resurrection. The hope of eternal life with You gives meaning and brings joy to the things that I do here on earth. Help me to live in light of the joy of eternal life today.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Kings 10


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 1:21-26: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

Questions to Consider

  1. Which does Paul say is better: to live on earth, or go to heaven to be with Christ?
  2. What is Paul’s purpose for continuing to live out his life on earth?
  3. If going to heaven is incomparably better, why do we, as Christians, continue to live in the brokenness of this earth?

Notes

  1. Paul says that it is better to be with Christ. The reality of our situation as Christians is that what lies ahead of us, after we pass on from this world, is far better! This is part of the glorious salvation into which Christ has saved us. But why not just end this life, and go on to what is better?
  2. Paul says that remaining in the flesh is “more necessary on your account.” In other words, the reason God hasn’t taken him home is because he has a mission on this earth to spread the gospel and build the church.
  3. As a believer, a glorious, sin-free, pain-free, God-filled life is waiting for us less than 80 years away. But why wait to enter this glorious new life? Because we have a mission to fulfill here, and when that mission is complete, we will enter fully into that glorious life. But until then, each day is purposefully given to us so that we may love others, spread the gospel, build up the church, and expand His Kingdom. How is His Mission influencing the way you live your life?

Evening Reflection

Earlier today, we looked at a passage where Paul had to make a decision: to depart and be with Christ, or remain on earth for the sake of others. Departing seemed much better for Paul, for remaining on earth required much more suffering, sacrifice, and discomfort; yet Paul’s attitude was to remain in the flesh for the sake of the church.

If you think about it, Jesus had made a similar type of decision: He could have stayed in heaven with the Father, which would have been much better for Him; no one would have said anything.  But for our sake, he came in the flesh, requiring suffering, (huge) sacrifice, discomfort, and death; and yet Jesus’ attitude was to give himself entirely up for our benefit. 

How can we imitate such self-sacrificial love that we see in Christ, as Paul also sought to emulate? Do we love others enough to sacrifice our own comforts and rights?

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