Do You Really Believe God?
[Abraham] did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.
Professing to believe what God has said is much easier than really trusting Him. For instance, many people who affirm that “God shall supply all your need according to His riches” (Phil. 4:19) become filled with anxiety when financial troubles come their way.
The Bible also says that if we give sacrificially with the proper motives, God will reward us (Matt. 6:3–4). Many say they believe that principle as well, but they find it difficult to put into practice. Many Christians also fear death, even though God has said He will provide us with the grace we need to face it and will take us to heaven afterward.
Believing God means we acknowledge His glory, which is the sum of all His attributes and the fullness of all His majesty. If He is who He says He is, then He is to be believed. You will grow spiritually when you say to God, “If Your Word says it, I will believe it; if Your Word promises it, I will claim it; and if Your Word commands it, I will obey it.”
|February 17||God’s Unfailing Love|
“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
1 John 4:8
God’s love is unconditional and righteous.
We hear a lot today about love from books, magazines, TV, and movies. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that our society is the most loving on earth. Much of the “love,” though, is nothing more than lust masquerading as love, or selfishness disguised as kindness. But today’s verse tells us that “God is love”; the character of God defines love. To clear up any confusion about love, we need only to look at who God is. And then, of course, we need to seek to love others as God loves us.
First, God’s love is unconditional and unrequited. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God loved us when we were sinners, when we had no righteousness and we didn’t—and couldn’t—love Him back. God doesn’t love us because we deserve it or because we love Him, but because it’s His nature to love.
God’s love doesn’t mean He winks at sin, though. Just as earthly fathers discipline sinning children, “those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:6). True love doesn’t indulge unrighteousness, it confronts it. This kind of tough love isn’t always fun, but it’s for the best: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (v. 11).
We’ll study God’s love more in the next lesson, but now it’s only natural to examine how we ourselves are doing in demonstrating love. Is our love unconditional, or do we withhold love from those who hurt us? Do we love only those who love us back? Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:32). Loving those who love us is easy. Christ loved those at enmity with Him, and He expects us to love our enemies too.
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for His great love toward us and for its greatest manifestation in the Person of Christ.
For Further Study: First John has much to say about God’s love for us and our love for Him and others. Read the entire book, noting each instance of the word love.
MORE THAN BY HEARSAY
And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
There are many in the churches of our day who talk some of the Christian language but who know God only by hearsay. Most of them have read some book about God. They have seen some reflection of the light of God. They may have heard some faint echo of the voice of God, but their own personal knowledge of God is very slight….
When Jesus was here upon the earth, the record shows that He had work to do and He also knew the necessity for activity as He preached and healed, taught and answered questions and blessed the people. He also knew the fellowship of His brethren, those who followed Him and loved Him. But these were the incidental things in Jesus’ life compared to His fellowship with and personal knowledge of the Father. When Jesus went into the mountain to pray and wait on God all night, He was not alone, for He knew the conscious presence of the Father with Him.
In our modern Christian service we are constantly pressed to do this and to do that, and to go here and go there. How often we miss completely the conscious presence of God with the result that we know God only by hearsay! ITB023-024
Lord, draw me away today to spend time alone with You, that I might have a conscious sense of Your presence, knowing you by experience and not by words alone. Amen. 
True Happiness vs. Worldly Happiness
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.—Matt. 5:4
The world still operates according to the old popular song lyrics that say, “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, and smile, smile, smile.” This philosophy basically tells us to hide all our problems and pretend to be happy; and of course people apply this outlook to sin all the time.
Nevertheless Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn.” Godly mourning and confession of sins bring the only kind of happiness worth having—godly happiness that no amount of human effort, optimistic pretense, or positive thinking can produce.
There is a real need in today’s church to cry instead of laugh. The foolishness, frivolity, and embracing of the world’s view of happiness in the name of Christianity should make us mourn, because we know the difference between empty happiness and true happiness. God’s rebuke to the self-satisfied and indulgent happy is strong: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:8–10).
True happiness does not ignore sin or make light of it; instead it sorrows over sin, turns from it, and flees to God for genuine forgiveness. And in so doing, it finds lasting joy.
|Does this message sound depressing and cheerless to you? Have you bought the world’s line that happiness can be found only by ignoring sin, not by dealing with it? Aren’t you tired, though, of constantly coming up empty, never quite satisfied? Run weeping into the welcoming arms of God’s forgiveness.|
MAN’S WASTED POTENTIAL
Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
God has made it plain that hell is a real place—a final abode for people who do not want to love God and serve Him!
The sadness and the tragedy of this fact are that these are human beings, all dear to God because He created them in His own image. Of nothing else in the Creation is it said that it was created in the likeness of God!
Because fallen and perishing man is still nearer to God’s likeness than any other creature on earth, God offers him conversion, regeneration and forgiveness. It was surely because of this great potential in the human personality that the eternal Word could become flesh and dwell among us.
We are assured in many ways in the Scriptures that God the Creator does not waste human personality, but it is surely one of the stark tragedies of life that human personality can waste itself!
A man by his own sin may waste himself, which is to waste and lose that which on earth is most like God. The man who dies out of Christ is said to be lost, and hardly a word in our language expresses his condition with greater accuracy!
Lord, make me sensitive today to opportunities to share Your love with someone who does not have a personal relationship with You.
|February 17||How to Lose Your Joy|
“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11).
Discontent and ingratitude will steal your joy.
True joy is God’s gift to every believer, and yet many Christians seem to lack it. How can that be? Did God fail them? No. As with peace, assurance, and other benefits of salvation, joy can be forfeited for many reasons. Willful sin, prayerlessness, fear, self-centeredness, focusing on circumstances, and lack of forgiveness are the main culprits.
Two of the most common joy-thieves are dissatisfaction and ingratitude. Both are by-products of the health, wealth, and prosperity mentality of our day. That teaching has produced a generation of Christians who are more dissatisfied than ever because their demands and expectations are higher than ever. They’ve lost their perspective on God’s sovereignty and have therefore lost the ability to give thanks in all things.
In marked contrast, when Jesus taught about contentment and anxiety (Matt. 6:25–34), He spoke of food and clothing—the basic necessities of life. But preferences, not necessities, are the issue with us. We’re into style, personal appearance, job satisfaction, earning power, bigger homes, and newer cars. In the name of greater faith we even demand that God supply more miracles, more wealth, and more power.
Amid all that, Paul’s words sound a refreshing note of assurance and rebuke: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11). He made no demands on God but simply trusted in His gracious provision. Whether he received little or much made no difference to him. In either case he was satisfied and thankful.
Don’t be victimized by the spirit of our age. See God’s blessings for what they are, and continually praise Him for His goodness. In doing so you will guard your heart from dissatisfaction and ingratitude. More important, you will bring joy to the One who is worthy of all praise.
Suggestions for Prayer: Pray that the Holy Spirit will produce in you a joy and contentment that transcends your circumstances. ✧ Make it a daily practice to thank God for specific blessings and trials, knowing that He uses both to perfect His will in you.
For Further Study: Read 1 Kings 18:1–19:8. ✧ How did Elijah deal with the false prophets of Baal? ✧ How did he deal with Jezebel’s threat? ✧ What caused Elijah’s shift from a spiritual high to a spiritual low?
LIVE FOR CHRIST? THEN DIE WITH HIM FIRST
Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.
Do you realize that many, many persons now take it for granted that it is possible to live for Christ without first having died with Christ?
This is a serious error and we dare not leave it unchallenged!
The victorious Christian has known two lives. The first was his life in Adam which was motivated by the carnal mind and can never please God in any way. It can never be converted; it can only die (Rom. 8:5–8).
The second life of the Christian is his new life in Christ (Rom. 6:1–14). To live a Christian life with the life of Adam is wholly impossible. Yet multitudes take for granted that it can be done and go on year after year in defeat. Worst of all, they accept this half-dead condition as normal!
Another aspect of this attitude is the effort of many to do spiritual work without spiritual power. David Brainerd once compared a man without the power of the Spirit of God trying to do spiritual work to a workman without fingers attempting to do manual labor. The figure is striking but it does not overstate the facts.
The Holy Spirit is not a luxury meant to make deluxe Christians, as an illuminated frontispiece and a leather binding makes a deluxe book. The Spirit is an imperative necessity. Only the Eternal Spirit can do eternal deeds!
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 60). 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. 56). 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. 60). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.