God is my witness, whom I serve with my Spirit.
Nowadays, we use the word spirit in the same way the apostle Paul used it in today’s verse. We may watch an athlete go all out in his performance and then comment that he exhibited “spirited” play, which means that his whole being was involved in his effort. When I was in college, the “Esprit de Corps” award was given to the football player who gave the most effort on the field. That is the way in which Paul served the Lord.
Paul never served the Lord without a wholehearted commitment. In so doing, he distinguished himself from the hirelings whose labor was external and insincere (John 10:11–13). So be like Paul—give a wholehearted effort in your service to Christ.
|January 21||Biblical Patience|
“Walk … with patience.”
Patient Christians endure negative circumstances, cope with difficult people, and accept God’s plan for everything.
In our instant, microwave, drive–through, “I want it now” culture, patience is hard to come by. We get upset if we have to wait too long in the supermarket line or get stuck behind the guy driving ten miles per hour under the speed limit.
But today’s Scripture tells us that our lives need to be marked by patience. The Greek word translated “patience” literally means “long–tempered.” A patient person doesn’t have a short fuse or lose his temper.
There are three aspects to biblical patience. First, patience never gives in to negative circumstances, no matter how difficult. God told Abraham He would make him into a great nation and give Canaan to his descendants (Gen. 12:2, 7). When God made this promise, Abraham and Sarah had no children. They had to wait far past their childbearing years before God gave them a son. But Hebrews 6:15 says, “Having patiently waited, [Abraham] obtained the promise.” “He did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Rom. 4:20). He trusted God and patiently waited for Him to fulfill His promise.
A second aspect of patience is coping with difficult people. Paul tells us to “be patient with all men” (1 Thess. 5:14). This is applied gentleness—a spirit that refuses to retaliate. Our normal reaction is to be defensive when provoked. But a patient person bears insult, persecution, unfair treatment, slander, and hatred. You can’t start a fight with a patient person. He defends God, not himself, knowing that He will repay all wrongs at the right time.
Third, patience accepts God’s plan for everything. It doesn’t question God. A patient person says, “Lord, if this is what You have planned for me, that’s all right.” Romans 8:28 says, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Since God is in control, we can be patient, waiting for Him to work out His will.
Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God to help you recognize when you’re apt to be impatient. When those times come, pray for strength to endure them.
For Further Study: James 5:10 says the prophets were examples of suffering and patience. Read what two prophets had to endure in Isaiah 6:9–12 and Jeremiah 1:5–19. ✧ How might they be examples to you as you seek to be faithful in the face of life’s tests?
WE ARE JUST BEGINNING
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.
Oh, my friend, we are just beginning. God’s personality is so infinitely rich and manifold that it will take 1,000 years of close search and intimate communion to know even the outer edges His glorious nature. When we talk about communion with God and fellowship with the Holy Spirit, we are talking about that which begins now but will grow and increase and mature while life lasts….
The Holy Spirit is a living Person, and we can know Him and fellowship with Him! We can whisper to Him, and out of a favorite verse of the Bible or a loved hymn, we hear His voice whispering back. Walking with the Spirit can become a habit. It is a gracious thing to strive to know the things of God through the Spirit of God in a friendship that passes the place where it has to be kept up by chatter. COU123-124
Lord, bring me into a communion with You that only grows richer and more splendid the longer it lasts. Enable me to hear the Holy Spirit, and through Him to know You more deeply. Amen. 
Satan’s Promises—Corrupt Strings Attached
The devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.—Matt. 4:8
Satan offered the world’s kingdoms to Jesus on his own corrupt terms. God allowed this test to prove that Christ was and is a worthy Son, fit to one day inherit the world and rule from His throne. The devil, on the other hand, wanted to prove the Son’s unworthiness by getting Him to prematurely grab the kingdoms God had already promised Him.
The enemy approaches Christians also with corrupt bargaining chips. Whatever they might want in the realm of business, politics, fame, or anything else, he claims it can be theirs for a “reasonable” price or trade-off. He says we can be or have whatever we want, just so long as we pursue it according to the world’s way—which is also Satan’s way. In effect, it’s like saying to ourselves, “Why wait for a heavenly reward when you can cut corners, shade the truth, run ahead of God’s schedule, and have what you want now?”
But when we grab hold of Satan’s corrupt strings, we put self first and God last. Instead of seeking God’s kingdom first (Matt. 6:33), we act more like Abraham, who sought God’s promise of an heir through his own impatient, selfish act with Hagar (Gen. 16:1–6). The result of that sin was tragic and heart-breaking, and has been to this day.
|“The world” doesn’t really know what “glory” is. And if we had a keener, more realistic sense of God’s awesome splendor, we’d see the world’s flimsy reflections for what they really are. What seems glorious and glamorous about the world to you? Ask God to help you see it truthfully.|
CHRIST AS HE REALLY IS
One like unto the Son of man…out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword.
Revelation 1:13, 16
The Christian message has ceased to be a pronouncement and has become instead a proposition. Scarcely anyone catches the imperious note in the words spoken by Jesus Christ.
The invitational element of the Christian message has been pressed far out of proportion in the total scriptural scene. Christ with His lantern, His apologetic stance and His weak pleading face has taken the place of the true Son of Man whom John saw—His eyes as a flame of fire, His feet like burnished brass and His voice as the sound of many waters.
Only the Holy Spirit can reveal our Lord as He really is, and He does not paint in oils. He manifests Christ to the human spirit, not to our physical eyes.
These are strenuous times, and men and women are being recruited to devote themselves to one or another master. But anything short of complete devotion to Christ is inadequate and must end in futility and loss.
Lord, help me to see You as You truly are—mighty, righteous, just, and holy.
|January 21||Reflecting God’s Ownership|
You were sealed with the Holy Spirit “with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:14).
Someday God will take full possession of all that is rightfully His.
Yesterday we saw that God seals us with the Holy Spirit as a pledge of our eternal inheritance. Here Paul says He does so “with a view to the redemption of [His] own possession.” That refers to the day when God will take full possession of all that is rightfully His.
Satan, to a certain degree, usurped God’s rulership to become the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), and the whole world currently lies under his power (1 John 5:19). Consequently, all creation is in bondage to decay and “groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Rom. 8:22, NIV). It eagerly awaits the time when the curse of Genesis 3 will be reversed, all Christians will be fully glorified, and sin will be eternally vanquished. What a glorious time that will be!
You are God’s special possession because you are His by redemption as well as by creation. In Revelation 5:9 the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders sing to the Lord, “Worthy art Thou … for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” In Acts 20:28 Paul charged the Ephesian elders to guard carefully “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
That makes you a priceless commodity to God—part of “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God” (1 Peter 2:9–10).
As God’s special possession, you should reflect His ownership and sovereign rule in everything you do. Remember, “you are not your own … for you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19–20).
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God that you are His treasured possession. ✧ Seek His Spirit’s leading in proclaiming His excellencies to others through your words and deeds. ✧ Ask Him to teach you to esteem other believers as highly as He does.
For Further Study: Read Ephesians 2:1–13, noting the spiritual privileges and responsibilities that are yours in Christ.
UNSUNG BUT SINGING: THE UNAPPRECIATED CHRISTIAN
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the LORD.
To value the esteem of mankind and for Christ’s sake to renounce it is a form of crucifixion suffered by true Christians since the days of the apostles. It cannot be denied that the way of the cross is unpopular and that it brings a measure of reproach upon those who take it. The learned historians tell of councils and persecutions and religious wars, but in the midst of all the mummery were a few who saw the Eternal City in full view and managed almost to walk on earth as if they had already gone to heaven. These were the joyous ones who got little recognition from the world of institutionalized religion, and might have gone altogether unnoticed except for their singing.
Unsung but singing: this is the short and simple story of many today whose names are not known beyond the small circle of their own company. Their gifts are not many nor great, but their song is sweet and clear!
John Milton lost his sight and mourned that loss in the third book of his Paradise Lost. But in spite of his affliction he refused to be desolate. If he could not see, he could still think and he could still pray. Like the nightingale he could sing in the darkness “…as the wakeful bird Sings darkling, and, in shadiest covert hid, Tunes her nocturnal note.”
We are never sure where a true Christian may be found—and the busy world may actually not even know he is there—except that they hear him singing!
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 32). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.
 MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 29). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 33). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.