God says He’ll complete the work He has begun in us, but we often suffer unnecessarily in the process. Like Nemo and Dorie in the movie Finding Nemo, we ignore God’s instructions and end up “swimming through schools of jellyfish.” Like the fishy pair, we survive, but not without getting stung and suffering a great deal of pain and heartache!
Isaiah 63 & 64
Jellyfish, Pain and Heartache
Ignoring His counsel
Philippians 1.6 is one of my favorite verses. It gives me great hope when it says, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Isn’t it good to know that He is the one who will complete His work in us? And … He never gives up! But I wonder how often we make His work harder … on us!
Someone gave me a great illustration of this. I was explaining this passage and she told me it reminded her of the scene in Finding Nemo where Nemo and Dorie were told not to go around or over the gap, but through it. When they get there, that just doesn’t seem right to them; so they decide to swim over it. They end up running into a huge school of jellyfish! They survive it, but not without getting stung and suffering a great deal of pain! How like our attempts to figure things out for ourselves, often ignoring what God says, and doing what seems right to us! (Prov. 14:12)
Today’s Other Readings:
Isaiah 63 & 64:
4 For since the beginning of the world
Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear,
Nor has the eye seen any God besides You,
Who acts for the one who waits for Him.
5 You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness,
Who remembers You in Your ways.
You are indeed angry, for we have sinned—
In these ways we continue;
And we need to be saved.
6 But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.
This passage speaks of the greatness of our God and our universal need for salvation. Each of us is like an “unclean thing.” All our righteousness, all our good deeds, all our attempts at trying to save ourselves or earn God’s approval are like filthy rags. We are unclean by nature, sinners from the womb.
But God …
Do you realize that the Bible is all one big “but God”? But God who is rich in mercy, who knows what we are, chose to die in our place!
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5.21).
That’s reason to shout!
To Die is Gain, but Only in God’s Timing
Verses 17 & 18, “The dead do not praise the LORD, nor any who go down into silence. But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.”
Even though we will praise God for all eternity in heaven, dead men and women will not be able to praise Him here on this earth.
Paul spoke of this in our Philippians reading today. He said, for him to die would be gain for him personally, but it would prevent him from bearing fruit in his earthly ministry (Phil. 1.21-22).
That’s the balance that we as believers should have. We should have a yearning for heaven and all that is promised to us, but we should have an equal desire to stay here as long as God wants us to stay, so that we can fulfill His purposes for us here on the earth.
Whoever Digs a Pit …
“Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him.”
This is the law of sowing and reaping. Paul in Galatians 6 stated it this way:
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
We not only plant seeds and reap results in our finances and other material ways, but in our relationships, as well. In Romans 12 Paul said:
17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
We read a verse like Proverbs 26.27 or the passage in Romans and we think, “I’m OK. I’m not seeking revenge from anyone.”
But these passages don’t just refer to the man who plots revenge or the woman who attacks her husband’s lover. This was written to you and me about all the ways we seek revenge, yet try to put a nicer façade on it. Things like giving our husbands the silent treatment or withholding affection from our children because they have disobeyed us.
It does not mean that we ignore the sin of others, but we must deal with them biblically. We have two choices when someone sins against us. We can choose to let love cover it (Prov. 10.12) or we can go to our brother in love (Matt. 18.15). But the silent treatment or some other form of returning evil for evil is not a biblical response for a believer in Christ.
If we cannot let love cover it, then we must go to the other person with the right heart attitude (Gal. 6.1-2). That starts with examining ourselves and taking the logs out of our own eyes (Matt. 7.5) and then we must go in a spirit of gentleness with a desire for reconciliation (Matt. 18.15; Gal. 6.1).
How has God spoken to you today? Did you see a passage in a new light? Did you see an area where you need to grow and change? Did you find a promise to hold on to? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Over the next few days we’ll talk about how we grow in holiness, evaluate how much we really want to know Jesus, and more.
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