Today’s Bible Reading: Nehemiah 9:22-10:39; 1 Corinthians 9:19-10:13; Psalm 34:1-10; Proverbs 21:13
The prayer of the Jewish leaders continues today in Nehemiah 9 as they recall the relationship Israel had with God during its history. It was initiated by God and His desire to have a people He could bless (Nehemiah 9:23-25).
But Israel, like a rebellious teenager, was disobedient and did not recognize the wonderful things God had given them (Nehemiah 9:26). So God let them have what they thought they wanted only to have to rescue them from that state. Then the cycle happened again (Nehemiah 9:28-30).
It is the same way in our personal lives. We walk closely with Him and are blessed. Then we forget Him in the comfort of our success and He has to bring us back around. I often get frustrated with myself for living this way but God is incredibly patient (Nehemiah 9:30). He knows exactly what I am made of and what I am capable of. He never gets tired of dealing with me. God is my father, my dad, and He is raising me to be the man He knows I can be. Even if progress is incredibly slow sometimes.
When God punishes He is only giving us what we deserve (Nehemiah 9:33-34). If we would just listen to Him He wouldn’t have to discipline us. This is why I fear that the United States is headed for a major collapse. God has given us everything – wealth, power, influence, natural resources, intelligence – but we continue to reject Him and dive deeper into evil (Nehemiah 9:35).
The response of the people to recalling Israel’s history with God is to repent and commit themselves to Him (Nehemiah 10). Remembering God’s prior provision and mercy in our lives is a great way to stir a revival in our hearts. If you can’t think of anything good God has done for you in the past, then think about the good things He did for Israel. God’s treatment of Israel was, among other things, meant to demonstrate His love for all people and nations. Just like God provided wonderful things for israel, He wants to provide similar wonders to you.
Continuing his theme of freedom vs. self-sacrifice, Paul tells us that although he was free to do what he wanted, he chose not to. He structured his life for the sake of others. How much different our society would be if we all gave up our “freedom” to be selfish and instead lived for each other. This reminds me of Jesus who, being God, did not claim His rights and instead sacrificed Himself for all of humanity. This is the model we are to follow.
Paul’s only goal in life was “to bring many to Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:19). If you are a born-again believer then this should be your only goal as well. Nothing else matters. Nothing else will last for eternity besides human beings. All our energies and efforts should all go to teaching people about Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:23).
The best way to do this is to find common ground with others (1 Corinthians 9:22). We can all relate to each other in some way. We’ve all been through the same or similar circumstances. We live in separate bodies but all of us have the same fears and hopes. This is the common ground we can find to help others start a relationship with Jesus.
But doing this does not come naturally. We’d rather serve ourselves. Paul understood this. That is why he had to train himself to live this way (1 Corinthians 9:27). Here in Arizona, where it is hot all day in August, high-school football players have practice at 5:00 AM when it is “only” 90 degrees. They have to make sacrifices if they want to do great things on the gridiron. This includes giving up things that aren’t necessarily bad but would interfere with their ability to succeed at football – like staying up past 9:00 PM on a Friday. Likewise Christians are called upon to give up things in life for the sake of the salvation of others.
Paul warns us against sin in 1 Corinthians 10. Recalling the mistakes made by Israel, he lets us know that we do not have to sin. We do not have to follow Israel’s poor example (1 Corinthians 10:11).
The temptations we face are no different that what Israel and others have gone through. But God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our means to endure it. Temptation is not sin. Giving in to temptation is. When we are tempted there is a way out so that we don’t have to give in to it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
One way to resist temptation is to focus on Jesus rather than the temptation. Pray. Recite Bible verses. If possible, remove yourself from the tempting situation – like Joseph did. There is always an escape hatch.
Faith is not visible but the evidence of faith should be. In Psalm 34 David describes how seeking God’s help should result in bright, happy faces (Psalm 34:5). When we are in desperate situations, other people will see the evidence of our faith on our face and in how we carry ourselves.
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