The Success Syndrome
If I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.
American society is breeding a generation of Christians who primarily want to be successful. Seldom do they have a humble attitude of service. They are unwilling to make sacrifices for the cause of Christ because they have been taught, whether verbally or not, that Christians should be rich, famous, successful, and popular.
Such an orientation toward personal success rather than humble service is the opposite of what glorifies God. Living for the glory of God means knowing you are expendable and being ready to die, if necessary, to accomplish God’s ends. Such a humble attitude glorifies God.
To grow spiritually, we must lose ourselves in the lordship of Christ at the moment of salvation and allow Him to dominate our lives from then on. In doing so, we must seek only His glory—not our own comfort and success. We will not grow when we choose our own way or serve God with the wrong motive.
|February 11||God Is Always with Us|
“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”
Understanding God’s omnipresence should encourage us in times of distress and keep us from sinning.
It is a great comfort as a Christian to know that God is always present in me both essentially and relationally. No matter what the trial, He is there. Sometimes He might seem faraway, but He’s really no further away than He’s ever been. His promise to us is, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
God is always with us to support our service to Him. When God called Moses to proclaim His message and lead Israel out of slavery, Moses protested because of his lack of speaking abilities (Ex. 4:10). But God said, “I … will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say” (v. 12). Jesus commands us, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations … and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19–20). If you doubt you have the power to witness, remember that you have the same resource as any evangelist—the presence and power of God!
God’s continual presence is also a shield against sin. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). Nothing will ever tempt us without His giving us the strength to resist.
The omnipresence of God should also motivate us to holiness. Most of us prefer to sin with no one else watching. But when we sin—whether in thought, word, or action—we sin in the presence of God. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3). “His eyes are upon the ways of a man, and He sees all his steps. There is no darkness or deep shadow where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves” (Job 34:21–22). Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want God to see, because He’ll see it anyway!
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the comfort He brings to you through His continual presence.
For Further Study: Hebrews 13:5 is a quote from Deuteronomy 31:6. Read Deuteronomy 31:1–8. What was the basis for Moses’ admonition to “be strong and courageous”?
A FELLOWSHIP WITHIN A FELLOWSHIP
All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.
There is a fellowship within a fellowship—a sort of wheel in the middle of a wheel—which gathers to itself all who are of its spirit in every church in every land and every age. Its members are the God-smitten, those who have heard the Voice speaking within them and have caught a glimpse, however fleeting, of the glory of God….
They who compose this fellowship have never been herded into any one organization; they have no earthly head, pay no dues, hold no conventions and keep no minutes, yet they recognize each other instantly when they meet by a kind of secret sign which the Spirit has placed within their hearts.
These have been in the Presence and will never be the same again. They know a holy reverence, a wondrous sense of sacredness that rises at times to transports of delight. Their garments smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia, a gift from their Bridegroom and King who came walking out of the Ivory Palaces, trailing clouds of glory, to win them for Himself. TET067-068
Lord, allow me to enter that sacred fellowship—give me a “glimpse, however fleeting,” of Your glory. I’m willing to never be the same again, and I want to be permeated with that sweet fragrance that comes from being in Your Presence. Amen. 
What Is Poverty of Spirit?
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.—Matt. 5:3
Poverty of spirit means recognizing how truly deficient we are apart from God. It means seeing ourselves as we really are: spiritually lost, hopeless, and helpless. Without the gospel of Jesus Christ, everyone is spiritually impoverished, regardless of his or her material accomplishments, educational achievements, or even religious knowledge and church activities.
The “poor in spirit” are people who have recognized their spiritual destitution and their total inability to save themselves—their complete dependence on God. They know their only hope of salvation is to repent and ask for forgiveness, leaning on the sovereign grace and mercy of God. Such a person knows he has no spiritual merit of his own and that his personal strength or wisdom is insufficient to earn him lasting spiritual reward.
“In spirit” expresses the understanding that poverty of spirit can’t be merely a hypocritical, outward act. Being a genuine spiritual beggar reflects true humility, not some phony, pretentious, mild-mannered behavior. Real poverty of spirit is what the prophet said the Lord looks for and affirms: “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isa. 66:2; cf. Pss. 34:18; 51:17).
Augustine in his Confessions says pride was his greatest barrier to salvation. Until he realized that his achievements and possessions were nothing, Christ could do nothing for him. It’s the same for any who would be poor in spirit.
|What specific items or attitudes threaten your ability to remain “poor in spirit”? How does a person maintain a comfort level in God’s presence without losing the perspective of being undeserving of the privilege?|
WE ARE NOT ORPHANS
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.
I once wrote in an editorial that Christian believers are not orphans in this world, making the point that the divine Shepherd goes before us and that we travel an appointed way.
A reader wrote to question my allusion to our traveling an “appointed” way, asking: “I was brought up a Methodist. In your comments, do you mean this to be foreordination? That is what the Presbyterians believe. Just what did you mean?”
I replied that I had not meant to go down that deep into doctrine—that I had not been thinking of foreordination, predestination or the eternal decrees.
“I was just satisfied that if a consecrated Christian will put himself in the hands of God, even the accidents may be turned into blessings,” I told him.
Anyway, I am sure the Methodist brother can go to sleep at night knowing that he does not have to become a Presbyterian to be certain that God is looking after him!
Dear Lord, in these quiet moments this morning, prepare my mind and heart for the encounters You’ve arranged for me today.
|February 11||The Joy of Intercession|
“… always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all” (Phil. 1:4).
Intercessory prayer is a powerful tool in the hands of a righteous person.
A story is told of a special nurse who knew the importance of intercessory prayer. Because each day she used her hands as instruments of God’s love and mercy toward those in her care, she found it natural to use her hand as a scheme of prayer. Each finger represented someone she wanted to pray for. Her thumb was nearest to her and reminded her to pray for those who were closest and dearest. The index finger was used for pointing, so it stood for her instructors. The third finger was the tallest and stood for those in leadership. The fourth finger was the weakest, representing those in distress and pain. The little finger, which was the smallest and least important, reminded the nurse to pray for her own needs.
Undoubtedly that nurse knew the joy of praying for others. Paul knew it too. Given the same circumstances, a lesser man would be consumed with his own well-being, but Paul modeled what he teaches in Philippians 2:4: “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Such an attitude is the heart of effective intercessory prayer.
Those who lack the joy of the Holy Spirit often harbor negative thoughts toward others, which debilitates compassion and hinders prayer. That’s tragic because intercessory prayer is a powerful tool in the hands of righteous people (James 5:16).
Analyze your own prayers. Are they generous with praise to God for His goodness to others? Do you pray for the needs of others? Practice doing so, and the joy of intercession will be yours.
Suggestions for Prayer: Pray for specific people and specific needs. ✧ Thank God for what you see Him doing in the lives of others.
For Further Study: John 17 is Christ’s intercessory prayer for His disciples, including us (v. 20). After reading that chapter, complete the following statements ✧ Eternal life is ____________________________. ✧ Christ’s mission on earth was to _______________________________. ✧ The world’s reaction to Christ and His followers is__________________________________. ✧ The best way to convince the world that Christ was sent by the Father is to ________________________.
OUR HEAVENLY ABODE: PART OF GOD’S GOODNESS
…We have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 CORINTHIANS 5:1
The true Christian may safely look forward to a future state that is as happy as perfect love wills it to be! No one who has felt the weight of his own sin or heard from Calvary the Saviour’s mournful cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” can ever allow his soul to rest on the feeble hope popular religion affords. He will—indeed, he must—insist upon forgiveness and cleansing and the protection the vicarious death of Christ provides.
“God has made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” So wrote Paul, and Luther’s great outburst of faith shows what this can mean in a human soul: “O Lord,” cried Luther, “Thou art my righteousness, I am Thy sin!”
Any valid hope of a state of righteousness beyond the incident of death must lie in the goodness of God and the work of atonement accomplished for us by Jesus Christ on the cross. The deep, deep love of God is the fountain out of which flows our future beatitude, and the grace of God in Christ is the channel by which it reaches us!
Even justice is on our side, for it is written, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 54). 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. 50). 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. 54). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.