Growing by Faith
We walk by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7
Today’s verse refers to the walk of becoming more like Christ. It takes place when we live by faith. When we judge everything by what we see, however, we will have difficulty growing.
Remember the twelve spies Israel sent into Canaan (Num. 13)? Ten came back and said they felt like grasshoppers in a land of giants. Those ten walked by sight. But Joshua and Caleb had faith, knowing that God was on their side. Ten didn’t think God could handle the circumstances, but two knew He is bigger than any situation.
Do you live by faith? If you want to grow spiritually, believe God’s Word and trust Him in every situation.
||God’s Sacrificial Love
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
God’s love is vicarious and sacrificial.
Today we continue a short study of a topic that brings joy to every Christian: God’s love. Both Paul and John call His love “great” (Eph. 2:4; 1 John 3:1), because only great love would provide such a sacrifice as God did in Christ.
We have already seen that God’s love is unconditional, unrequited, and righteous. God’s love is also vicarious; it bears the pain of others. In a prophecy about Christ, Isaiah wrote: “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried” (53:4). Christ bears our earthly sorrows, and, infinitely more significant, He bore the pain and punishment for our sins.
True love is a sacrificial love that gives without expecting anything in return. God gives so many good things to everyone, and He gave the greatest gift of all, His Son. As John 3:16 teaches, love was His motive for sending Christ to die; He wanted to provide salvation for us.
Again we must examine ourselves after seeing God’s love. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” Are you encouraging and helping other Christians in difficulty? Also, ask yourself if you love regardless of the sacrifice. Some will “love” up to the point of pain or inconvenience but no further. However, Jesus commands us, “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35). Love is not always easy, but it’s always best.
So much more could be said about God’s love. Countless books and hymns have been written about it. We can get only a basic understanding in these few paragraphs. But let this introduction serve as a starting point for a lifelong study of God’s love. It’s one of the greatest themes in the Bible; you can’t miss it.
Suggestions for Prayer: Pray for strength to bear the burdens of others and to love with sacrificial love.
For Further Study: Jesus talks about His love for us in John 15:9–17. In what ways should we respond to God’s love? ✧ Based on these verses, think of specific ways you can demonstrate your love for God and others.
A NAKED INTENT UNTO GOD
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
Now here is a strange thing. If you talk about mysticism in our day, every fundamentalist throws his hands high in the air with disgust to let you know that he considers the mystics dreamers, those who believe in the emotion and feeling. But all of those old saints and the fathers of whom I have read taught that you must believe God by a naked, cold intent of your will and then the other things follow along.
A naked intent unto God—those old saints were practical men. They have exhorted us to press on in faith whether we feel like it or not. They have exhorted us to pray—when we feel like it and when we don’t. They never taught that we would always be lifted emotionally to the heights. They knew that there are times when your spiritual progress must be by a naked intent unto God.
Oh that we would have this naked intent to know God, to know Jesus Christ! To be able to put the world and things and people beneath our feet and to open our hearts to only one lover, and that the Son of God Himself! ITB075
Lord, give me today a new passion for knowing You, a “naked intent” that compels me to seek You always, no matter what I feel. Amen. 
The Result of Godly Mourning
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.—Matt. 5:4
The positive result for those who mourn is very clear: “they shall be comforted.” God reserves the blessing of His comfort exclusively for the contrite of heart. Those of us who mourn over sin will have our tears wiped away by Jesus’ loving hand.
The Old Testament similarly speaks of God’s comfort for the true spiritual mourners. Isaiah said that Messiah would come “to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning” (Isa. 61:2–3; cf. Ps. 23:4).
In one sense, this “comfort” will be realized only when we meet our Messiah face-to-face. In heaven the Lord “will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Rev. 21:4). Even the most discontented Christian is assured that eternal comfort awaits God’s children in glory.
But God is also the God of present comfort. As we continually mourn over sin, He will continually comfort us. The Scripture declares that “God our Father” has already “given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace” (2 Thess. 2:16; cf. Rom. 15:4; 2 Cor. 1:3). May we walk, therefore, in the light and joy of His blessed comfort, even on this side of its heavenly fulfillment.
|Have you given up hope of finding comfort in your here and now? The promise of God’s comfort can be yours to claim as you grieve over sin and surrender your heart to holiness. You needn’t wait to feel relief. It’s as near as your next humble prayer.
WE WERE OUTCASTS TOO
As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you.
We confess, do we not, that we have a Christian responsibility to believe God’s Word and to obey God’s Truth?
Then we should accept the fact that it is our task to practice the Christian virtues in the power of the Holy Spirit as we await the coming of Him who will come.
The great spiritual needs around us should drive us back to the Gospel records of the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus. When evil men crucified Jesus, killed Him, they had no power to change Him. They could not alter the Person or the personality of the Son of God. Putting Him on the cross did not drain away any of His divine affection for a lost race.
The best thing we know about our Lord and Savior is that He loves the sinner. He has always loved the outcast—and for that we should be glad, for we too were once outcasts! We are descended from that first man and woman who failed God and disobeyed. They were cast out of the garden, and God set in place a flaming sword to keep them from returning!
Dear Heavenly Father, that You love us at all is amazing. But to think that You came down to earth to redeem us is nearly inconceivable. Such love is worthy of all my praise and obedience.
||A Prayer for Godliness
“This I pray . . .” (Phil. 1:9).
Your prayers reveal the level of your spiritual maturity.
As we come to our study of godliness in Philippians 1:9–11, we note that this passage is a prayer. Typically, Paul’s prayers reflected his concern that his readers mature spiritually. That is impossible without prayer, because spiritual growth depends on the Holy Spirit’s power, which is tapped through prayer.
Prayer is so vital that Jesus instructed His disciples to pray “at all times” (Luke 18:1). Paul commands us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Peter said we should be “of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer” (1 Peter 4:7).
Scripture gives many other commands to pray, but the true test of your spirituality is your compulsion to pray, not simply your obedience to commands. As a Christian you exist in a spiritual realm in which prayer is as natural as breathing is in the natural realm. Just as atmospheric pressure exerts force on your lungs, compelling you to breathe, so your spiritual environment compels you to pray. Resisting either brings devastating results.
The more you see life through God’s eyes, the more you are driven to pray. In that sense your prayers reveal the level of your spiritual maturity. Paul prayed with urgency day and night because he shared God’s love for His people and His concern for their spiritual maturity.
Examine your own prayers. Do you pray from a sense of duty, or are you compelled to pray? Do you pray infrequently or briefly? Do your prayers center on your own needs or the needs of others? Do you pray for the spiritual maturity of others? Those important questions indicate the level of your spiritual maturity and give guidelines for making any needed changes in your pattern of prayer.
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the privilege and power of prayer. ✧ If you have neglected prayer, or if your prayers have been centered on yourself rather than others, confess your sin and ask God to give you a sense of holy urgency in praying as you should. ✧ Is there someone for whom you should be praying more consistently?
For Further Study: Read Daniel 6:1–28. ✧ What was Daniel’s pattern of prayer? ✧ What accusation did the political leaders bring against Daniel? ✧ What was the king’s attitude toward Daniel? ✧ How did God honor Daniel’s faith?
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE CANNOT FEED ON NEGATIVES
…Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.
The Christian is saved from his past sins. With these he simply has nothing more to do; they are among the things to be forgotten as the night is forgotten at the dawning of the day.
The Christian is also saved from the wrath to come. With this also he has nothing to do. The wrath of God exists, but not for him. Sin and wrath have a cause and effect relationship, and because for the Christian sin is canceled, wrath is canceled also. To be engrossed still in what we have been saved from is to live in a state of negation.
We are not called to fellowship with nonexistence. We are called to things that exist in truth, to positive things, and it is as we become occupied with these that health comes to the soul.
Spiritual life cannot feed on negatives. The man who is constantly reciting the evils of his unconverted days is looking in the wrong direction. He is like a man trying to run a race while looking back over his shoulder!
There is an art of forgetting, and every Christian should become skilled in it. Forgetting the things which are behind is a positive necessity if we are to become more than mere babes in Christ.
And here’s the good part: into the empty world vacated by our sins and failures rushes the blessed Spirit of God, bringing with Him everything new. New life, new hope, new enjoyments, new interests, new purposeful toil, and best of all a new and satisfying object toward which to direct our soul’s enraptured gaze!
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 61). 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. 57). 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. 61). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.