Maturity in Suffering
May the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
1 Peter 5:10
A Christian’s call to glory necessitates walking the path of suffering. Today’s verse explains why. Suffering is God’s way of maturing His people spiritually. He is pleased when we patiently endure the suffering that comes our way. Suffering is a part of God’s plan to prepare His people for glory.
The apostle Peter said this regarding the value of suffering: “You greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6–7). God allows suffering as a validation of our faith. It also produces patience, though patience is a quality we won’t need in eternity—there will be no reason for impatience there. But beyond those benefits, suffering increases our capacity to praise, honor, and glorify God—and that’s something we will use throughout eternity.
|March 4||Seeking a Closeness to God|
“Draw near to God.”
The sincerely humble will want a closer relationship with God.
The expression “draw near” was originally associated with the priesthood in Israel. Under the regulations of the Old Covenant, the priests represented the people before God. Prior to coming near God’s presence, the priest had to be washed physically and be ceremonially clean. That meant he had to bathe, wear the proper garments, and offer sacrifices that made his own heart right with God. Then he could draw near to God on the people’s behalf.
Eventually the Hebrew word for drawing near meant anyone who approached the presence of God in worship and prayer. The term became synonymous even of those whose hearts were far from God when they “worshiped” Him. For example, Isaiah 29:13 says, “This people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.”
But the sincere believer, one who has truly humbled himself before God, knows that God wants worshipers to draw near with true and pure hearts: “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22). This applies the language of the Old Testament ceremonial system to us and says that as the priests prepared themselves to be near God, we also should prepare ourselves spiritually to worship Him.
So far this month we have seen that the humble person will come to God for salvation, submit to Him as Lord, and take a stand against the Devil. But the truly humble person will see that his relationship to God is inherently more than those actions. If you claim to be one of the humble, one who has a saving relationship to the Father through the Son, be sure you can also agree with the psalmist Asaph: “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Thy works” (Ps. 73:28).
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for His grace and mercy in salvation that make it possible for us to have a close relationship with Him.
For Further Study: Read Hebrews 4. What sort of rest is the writer referring to? ✧ How does it compare to the rest that the people of Israel sought during Joshua’s time?
LORD GOD, THOU KNOWEST!
And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.
To those who have (unintentionally) degraded their conception of God to the level of their human understanding it may appear frightening to admit that there are many things in the Scriptures and more things about the Godhead that transcend the human intellect. But a few minutes on our knees looking into the face of Christ will teach us humility, a virtue whose healing qualities have been known by God’s elect from time out of mind.
Coleridge gave it as his considered belief that the profoundest sentence ever uttered by human lips was the spontaneous cry of the prophet Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones when asked by the Lord whether those bones could live: “And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.” Had Ezekiel answered yes or no he would have closed off his heart to the mighty mystery which confronted him and would have missed the luxury of wonder in the presence of the Majesty on high. For never forget that it is a privilege to wonder, to stand in delighted silence before the Supreme Mystery and whisper, “O Lord GOD, thou knowest!” ROR088-089
Lord, today I stand in wonder as I contemplate Your person and Your working. I delight in Your mystery and cry with Ezekiel, “O Lord GOD, thou knowest!” Amen. 
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.—Matt. 5:7
The most obvious way we can show mercy is through physical acts. Jesus specifically commands us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, and offer any other practical help to those who need it. When we serve others in need, we demonstrate a heart of mercy.
The way of mercy did not begin in the New Testament. The Old Testament law taught, “You shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks” (Deut. 15:7–8).
Mercy is also to be shown in our attitudes. Mercy does not hold a grudge, harbor resentment, capitalize on another’s failure or weakness, or publicize another’s sin.
Mercy is also to be shown spiritually. First, it is shown through pity. The sensitive Christian will grieve more for lost souls than for lost bodies. Second, we are to show spiritual mercy by confrontation. Paul says that, as Christ’s servants, we should gently correct “those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25). Third, we are to show spiritual mercy by praying. The sacrifice of prayer for those without God is an act of mercy. Finally, we are to show mercy by proclaiming the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the most merciful thing we can do.
|How has your life been transformed by being the blessed recipient of these various acts and expressions of mercy? What might occur in the lives of your children, your spouse, your parents, your friends—anyone to whom you begin to show consistent compassion?|
PREACH A WHOLE CHRIST
God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:9
I reject the human insistence among us that Christ may sustain a divided relationship toward us in this life.
I am aware that this is now so commonly preached that to oppose it or object to it means that you are sticking your neck out and you had best be prepared for what comes.
But, I am forced to ask: How can we insist and teach that our Lord Jesus Christ can be our Savior without being our Lord?
How can so many continue to teach that we can be saved without any thought of obedience to our Sovereign Lord?
I am satisfied in my own heart that when a man or a woman believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, he or she must believe on the whole Lord Jesus Christ—not making any reservation! How can a teaching be justified when it encourages sinners to use Jesus as a Savior in their time of need, without owing Him obedience and allegiance?
I believe we need to return to preaching a whole Christ to our needy world!
Heavenly Father, I humbly acknowledge Your saving grace in my life, and it is an honor to obey and serve You.
|March 4||Praying According to God’s Word|
“I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications” (Dan. 9:2–3).
God’s sovereignty doesn’t eliminate the need for prayer.
Have you ever wondered if it’s Biblical to pray for things God has already promised in His Word to do? Is it proper to pray, say, for the salvation of sinners, knowing that God will redeem all the elect anyway, or for Christ’s return, knowing it is a sure thing? Daniel gives us a clear answer.
God prophesied through Jeremiah that the Babylonian Captivity would last seventy years (Jer. 25:11–12). When Daniel read that prophecy, he realized that the time was near for his people to return to their homeland. That inspired him to pray fervently.
In Daniel 9:19 he cries out, “O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Thine own sake, O my God, do not delay.” He was in tune with God’s Word and understood that somehow his prayers were part of God’s plan.
The exact relationship between God’s sovereignty and our prayers is a mystery, but it is clear that somehow God’s Word and our prayers are co-laborers in achieving God’s will.
Like Daniel, you and I live in a time when many of God’s promises seem near fulfillment. Never before have world events pointed so dramatically to the nearness of the return of our Lord. Consequently, this is not the time for complacency or over-enthusiastic speculation. It is the time for careful Bible study and fervent prayer.
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for His faithfulness and the sure promises of His Word. ✧ Ask Him for spiritual wisdom and insight to discern His will and then live accordingly.
For Further Study: Jeremiah 24:1–25:13 gives some background to Judah’s captivity in Babylon. After reading those verses, answer these questions: ✧ To what kind of fruit did God liken Judah? ✧ What did God say would happen to King Zedekiah? ✧ What warning did the prophets give to Judah? ✧ What was Judah’s response? ✧ How would God deal with Babylon?
SINFUL MAN: UNCOMFORTABLE IN GOD’S PRESENCE
And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
Sin never feels comfortable in the divine presence!
Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden. Their fear and chagrin for the moment overcame their conscious need of God. Jonah, in his determined refusal to obey God’s command, rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
Peter, with a sudden acute consciousness of personal guilt, sought not to flee from the Lord’s presence but begged the Lord instead to depart from him!
Men need God above everything else, yet are uncomfortable in His presence. This is the self-contradictory moral situation sin has brought us into.
The notion that there is a God but that He is comfortably far away is not embodied in the doctrinal statement of any Christian church. Anyone who dared admit that he held such a creed would be considered a heretic and avoided by respectable religious people; but our actions, and especially our spontaneous utterances, reveal our true beliefs better than any conventional creed can do.
If we are to judge by these, I think it can hardly be denied that the average Christian thinks of God as being at a safe distance, looking the other way!
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 77). 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. 72). 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. 76). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.