Daily Light – February 12, 2019

Waiting When God Seems Silent

(article by Randy Alcorn)

In a time of suffering, David engaged in righteous self-talk about how he should respond in light of God’s goodness: “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).

The call to wait on God is an invitation to trust and hope. It entails believing that one day — even if today is not that day — he will make all things right. In times of waiting, as we seek God in prayer, we must learn to listen to him as well as talk to him — to shut out the clatter and quietly wait as he unfolds to us his person, purposes, promises, and plan.

But what about when we wait and listen, and God still seems silent?

God Is Near

In Deserted by God? Sinclair Ferguson discusses what our Christian forefathers called “spiritual desertion” — the sense that God has forgotten us, leaving us feeling isolated and directionless. But through faith, we can affirm God’s loving presence, even when he seems silent and we feel deserted. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8) is a promise God will not break, despite how we feel.

Several years ago, for no apparent reason, I went through four months of depression. I had to learn to trust God for his presence despite what I felt. Eventually, as I continued to open his word daily and seek his face, while still in that depression, I gradually regained my ability to sense and hear him.

Many of us have walked the Emmaus road (Luke 24:13–32). Overwhelmed by sorrow. Plagued by questions. We wonder where God is. When, all along, he walks beside us.

Is This Your Best for Me?

A pastor friend told me about his experience after his teenage son’s death: “Nearly every morning, for months, I screamed questions at God. I asked, ‘What were you thinking?’ And, ‘Is this your best for me?’ And finally, ‘Do you really expect me to show up every Sunday and tell everyone how great you are?’ Then, when I became silent, God spoke to my soul. He had an answer for each of my questions.”

Waiting on God involves learning to lay our questions before him. It means that there is something better than knowing all the answers: knowing and trusting the only One who does know and will never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

Trusting God when we don’t hear him ultimately strengthens and purifies us. If our faith is based on lack of struggle and affliction and absence of doubt and questions, that’s a foundation of sand. Such faith is only one frightening diagnosis or shattering phone call away from collapse. Token faith will not survive the dark night of the soul. When we think God is silent or absent, God may show us that our faith is false or superficial. Upon its ruin, we can learn to rebuild on God our Rock, the only foundation that can bear the weight of our trust.

His Silence Is a Matter of Perspective

There’s a sense in which God is never silent. He has already spoken in his word and by becoming man and dying for us on the cross, purchasing our eternal salvation. This is speech, and speech is not silence! What we call God’s silence may actually be our inability, or in some cases (certainly not all) our unwillingness, to hear him. Fortunately, that hearing loss for God’s children need not be permanent. And given the promise of resurrection, it certainly won’t be permanent.

Psalm 19:1 tells us the heavens shout about God’s glory. Romans 1:20 shows how clearly creation proves God’s existence. God speaks not only through his word, but also through his world. When my heart is heavy, walking our dog Maggie or riding a bike through Oregon’s beauties is often better than listening to a great sermon or reading a good book.

Still, when we can’t hear God, we can keep showing up and opening his word, day after day, to look at what he has already said — and done — and contemplate and memorize it until we realize this is not silence but is God speaking to us. Naturally, there remains a subjective sense in which we long to hear God in a more personal way. God spoke to Elijah in “a low whisper” (1 Kings 19:12).

The problem with low whispers is they’re not easy to hear — especially when all around us the wind is howling! Why does God sometimes speak so quietly that it’s hard to hear him? The answer may be to bring us to the end of ourselves. To prompt us to be still and seek him. And to build our faith and eventually speak more clearly or heal our hearing problem.

When Life Goes Dark

Martin Luther’s wife, Katherine, saw him discouraged and unresponsive for some time. One day she dressed in black mourning clothes. Luther asked her why. “Someone has died,” she said. “Who?” Luther asked. “It seems,” Katherine said, “that God must have died!” Luther got her point. Since God hadn’t died, he needed to stop acting as if he had.

What can we do when God seems silent and life is dark? We can pray with biblical writers who cry out to God:

To you, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit. (Psalm 28:1)

O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God! (Psalm 83:1)

I cry to you for help and you do not answer me; I stand, and you only look at me. (Job 30:20)

We also can remember that, however long the silence seems, God promises it is temporary. Consider Zephaniah 3:17:

The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, he will be quiet in his love, he will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. (NASB)

Just because we can’t hear God exulting doesn’t mean he is not rejoicing over us with shouts of joy. A blind or deaf child may not see her father’s face or hear his words, but can learn to sense his love and affection nonetheless. The blood-bought promise states that this brief life will be followed with an eternity in which his children “will see his face” (Revelation 22:4).

My Soul Waits for God

My wife, Nanci, while going through chemotherapy treatments that ended just a few months ago, read me this from Andrew Murray’s Waiting on God: “It is God’s Spirit who has begun the work in you of waiting upon God. He will enable you to wait. . . . Waiting continually will be met and rewarded by God himself working continually.”

“For God alone my soul waits in silence . . . my hope is from him” (Psalm 62:15). If we lean on him while we wait, God will give us the grace to wait and to listen carefully as we pray, go to trusted Christ-followers for encouragement, and keep opening his word and asking him to help us hear him.

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is a bestselling author of many books and the director of Eternal Perspective Ministries

Daily Light – February 11, 2019

dut·i·ful·ly Dictionary result for dutifully/ˈd(y)o͞odəfəlē/adverbadverb: dutifully in a conscientious or obedient manner. “I dutifully reported the accident “in a manner motivated by duty rather than desire or enthusiasm.” we all dutifully applauded the support act”

Don’t Date Christ ‘Dutifully’

(excerpt from message by John Piper)

How does a life devoted to satisfaction in Christ glorify Christ? Now, you all know intuitively that it does. Yes, you do. Every single person in this room knows it, unless you’re mentally ill — and I mean that seriously. Mentally ill people may not be able to grasp this kind of thing, and it’s tragic.

You all know that to spend time with someone because you have to is belittling to them. And to spend time with them because you want to honors them. Every single one of you knows that. You feel it. It’s written on your heart.

“When you desire Christ above all things, you implicitly show that Christ is valuable, precious, desirable — a treasure.”

Dutiful dating is demeaning. Dating for joy is honoring. Everybody knows this. Most people have probably never articulated it to themselves. They just live it. They know this — unless they’re sick. But how does it work? We all know it’s true. It does work.

Let me take you to a passage in Job. I know it’s spoken by Eliphaz: bad guy with very good theology — totally misused. Ninety percent of what Job’s counselors say is right, and then they use it all wrong. They hurt people with it. So, if he hadn’t used this sentence against Job, we would all sing it, and I am going to read it as true, because it is true. Here’s what he said:

If you lay gold in the dust . . . then the Almighty will be your gold. . . . For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty. (Job 22:24–26)

This is the meaning of Jesus’s statement, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). If you stop seeing earthly gold as your treasure, and you start seeing the Almighty as your treasure, your heart will follow this new seeing with delight.

Which means that you can follow that experience backward as well. Where a person finds supreme delight in God as his gold, God is shown to be a treasure, and the gold of the earth inferior. And there is the answer to how a life devoted to satisfaction in Christ glorifies Christ.

When you desire Christ above all things, you implicitly show that Christ is valuable, precious, desirable — a treasure. And the more intensely you desire him, and the more suffering you are willing to endure without losing your satisfaction in him, the more valuable you show him to be.

That is the meaning of glorifying Christ. That’s what it means. The intensity of my treasuring communicates the worth of the treasure. That’s what it means to glorify the treasure. Christ is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him.

Therefore, yes, Christian Hedonism — a life devoted to enjoying Christ above all — is essential for the human heart to glorify Christ as he deserves.

Daily Light – February 8, 2019

The Breathtaking Love We Tend to Forget

(article by Trillia Newbell, Guest Contributor)

The Christian life can be lived in valleys and on mountaintops, but it’s mostly walked out on the flat plains. Most of our days are spent in the mundane, the ordinary, the routine. Such monotony can produce a sense of complacency or apathy toward the Lord. He can become yet another thing on our to-do list rather than the delight and joy of our existence.

You and I have a proneness to forget the greatest love in the world. It’s a love we cannot fully comprehend or imagine, and yet, practically, we forget that he loves us, he pursues us, and we are his. As Robert Robertson put it in his great hymn “Come Thou Fount,” we are “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.”

The danger in our forgetfulness is that we can begin to think that our life is about us. We can begin to think that we’ve earned God’s favor through our goodness rather than by his grace. Or we can eventually forget the Lord altogether and live as if there isn’t One who is sustaining us; we can begin to live self-sufficiently.

Each day, each hour is a worthy fight to remember our greatest love in the world. One way for you and me to fight our temptation to wander toward lesser things is to remember the love and pursuit of God. The love and the pursuit of any human pales in comparison to the love and pursuit of God. And one of the clearest demonstrations of God’s pursuing character is written for us to see in Paul’s praise in Ephesians 1:3–14.

God’s Pursuit

If there is an ocean of grace available to us — and there is — we find much of it proclaimed by the apostle Paul in the opening of Ephesians. The Greek translation of Ephesians 1:3–14 is one long sentence — and for good reason! Paul is astounded by the goodness of God to sinful people. We did not pursue God; he pursued us. And we would never be able to imagine, let alone earn, the spiritual blessings that the Lord bestows upon us: redemption through the blood of Christ, forgiveness of sin, adoption as sons, everlasting love, an imperishable inheritance, grace upon grace, and so much more.

At least seven times, Paul references God’s pursuit of us. The opening praise sets the stage: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3). All the promises of God are Yes and Amen in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). God is not withholding anything from you that is not for your absolute best.

There is only one person qualified to give us access to these spiritual blessings: Jesus Christ. Paul mentions Jesus at least fifteen times in the first fourteen verses of Ephesians. Paul reminds us again later in Ephesians that our salvation is not our own doing — it is a gift of God in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4–9). In Christ and because of Christ, we have the gift of redemption and all that comes with that amazing gift. The cosmic reality of our union with Christ is worthy of our every praise.

So, what are these blessings? The verses that follow Ephesians 1:3 tell us.

You Are Chosen

God chose us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). When we think about a mountain like Everest or a sea like the Mediterranean, we should join in the song of the psalmist:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3–4)

God set the world in motion. The sky proclaims his awesomeness; creation points to his holiness. And yet he is mindful of sinful men? Yes! Before he created the heavens, he chose you. Holy, majestic, awesome God was mindful of sinful man. He wasn’t surprised when Adam and Eve sinned. He knew that one day we’d fall, and that we would continually sin against him. Still, he chose us. God’s character is just, holy, and oh so merciful.

You Are Loved

Paul goes on to say that Jesus has also secured our righteousness, and we will one day be presented as blameless before the Father (Ephesians 1:4). Jesus accomplished something we could never do on our own. To be blameless is to be free from guilt, free from all blame. No one walking this earth is actually blameless. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Yet in Christ we are indeed blameless. Our sins are forgiven and washed away. In Christ we will be presented as blameless on the final day, and even now Jesus is interceding for us. We are covered with his righteousness.

In Christ, you are infinitely loved (Ephesians 1:4–5). God has bestowed all of these spiritual blessings on us out of his love for us. God’s love is incomprehensible; we can’t fathom it. When we try to compare our love to God’s love, we fall awfully short. God is love (1 John 4:8). Everything we know about God and every action we see from God is bound up in his love. God cannot act apart from his love. The greatest display of his love is through the blood of Christ: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

This is a love that we could never fully understand with our finite minds and limited ability to extend love. God’s love is incomparable, and it is reserved for you in Christ.

You Are Adopted

God could have stopped there, but he didn’t. If we are in Christ, we are also adopted sons and daughters of God (Ephesians 1:5). This is an inseparable adoption (Romans 8:35–39). As Christians, we are God’s children, and heirs of all he has (Romans 8:32) — fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16–17).

Before the foundation of the world, God had us in mind and determined to create us and then adopt us as his very own children. We get to approach our majestic God boldly (Hebrews 4:16) as our Abba Father (Romans 8:15). There is nothing sweeter than to know that you are secure, safe, and loved by God in such an intimate way. In Christ, we have open access to our almighty heavenly Father.

More Than We Can Imagine

The riches of what it means to be in Christ are far greater than anything we could ask or imagine. We’ve only scratched the surface! God chose us, predestined us, adopted us, and lavished us with grace and with an inheritance beyond our wildest dreams — all to the praise of his glory.

When we are tempted to think that we must somehow be good enough to deserve God’s love, we need to bathe in Ephesians 1:3–14. These verses tell us a different story — a much better one. The God of the universe thought of us, created us, sought us out, sent his Son to die for us, and forgave us — and we didn’t do anything but receive it.

Remembering these great truths helps us fight our complacency toward the Lord. It makes us eager to know him, to love and obey him, not because of anything we can earn, but because of all that he has done. Because he first pursued us, we can pursue him.

Trillia Newbell (@trillianewbell) is the author of numerous books, including a six-week Bible study on Romans 8, If God Is for Us: The Everlasting Truth of Our Great Salvation. You can find her at trillianewbell.com.

Daily Light – February 7, 2019

Jesus is…God, Lord and King of the Universe, Creator…and He is Our Savior

(as written in the Bible, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, by Paul, Peter, John, Luke, Mark, and the Psalmist)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

And Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” And they said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” And Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:56–58).

Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. . . .” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father . . .” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:5–68–9).

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”

And Jesus cried out, “Whoever sees me sees him who sent me” (John 12:45). For Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). “In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9). “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3).

“By him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16). “He upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3), and “in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).

And yet, “though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6–8). “He committed no sin [none!], neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22).

And so it came to pass that “by the one man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). For God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).

And when that time approached, he said, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). So “after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).

“God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9–11).

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to” him (Matthew 28:18). “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand” (John 3:35).

“God has put all things in subjection” to him (1 Corinthians 15:27) — all “angels and authorities and powers” (1 Peter 3:22). He is now “the head of the body, the church. . . . the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:18). He has authority to forgive sins (Luke 7:49). He speaks, and “the wind and the sea obey him” (Mark 4:41). He commands unclean spirits, and they come out (Luke 4:36)! He rebukes fevers, and they depart (Luke 4:39). He causes the blind to see, and the deaf to hear, and the lame to walk, and lepers are made clean (Luke 7:22). He commands the dead, and they live (John 11:43–44).

He suffers the little children to come to him (Matthew 19:14), but “scatters the proud in the thoughts of their hearts, and brings down the mighty from their thrones” (Luke 1:51–52). He does “not break a bruised reed, or quench a smoldering wick, until he brings justice to victory” (Matthew 12:20). In him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).

“No one ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46). To know him is to know “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). And he is coming again on the clouds, even as they saw him go, but this time with the holy angels and with power and great glory (Mark 8:3813:26). He will deliver us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

“He does ‘not break a bruised reed, or quench a smoldering wick, until he brings justice to victory.’”

He will “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:21). In that day, “he will dress himself for service and have us recline at table, and he will come and serve us” (Luke 12:37). For he will still be “meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29 KJV).

And yet “his eyes will be like a flame of fire, his feet like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice like the roar of many waters. . . . And from his mouth will come a sharp two-edged sword, and we will see his face like the sun shining in full strength” (Revelation 1:14–16). And so we will forever be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

And we will see no longer through a glass darkly, but face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). “Rejoicing in hope” (Romans 5:212:12) will give way to the joy of sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). The pleasures of every taste that bound us to Christ in this world (1 Peter 2:3) will explode into the pleasures of heavenly feasting (Matthew 25:10). And we will know, finally, not in part, but perfectly, that in his presence “is fullness of joy” and at his “right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

Daily Light – February 6, 2019

Darkness Does and Will Descend

(article by Ed Welch:  Counselor CCEF)

We know this: darkness does and will descend. The shadow of death will envelope us all, and it extends its reach into today through physical pain, disability, loss, unrelenting depression, the troubles of daily life, the dark deeds that shape the injustices done against us, and more.

All this darkness comes in different degrees. Though much of it can feel intensely painful and unbearable at the moment, some passes and some stays with us. The loss of a pet usually fades, the loss of a child or spouse does not. It is the persistent or enduring darkness that poses the most noticeable threat to our souls.

Emotional Health and Wealth

Overlay on this enduring darkness our era in which we do not have sensory experience of Jesus. For now, we do not see him or touch him (1 Peter 1:8). Those who occasionally hear him with their ears cannot rely on the timing of those visitations. This absence of sensory contact is tolerable when life is good, but it can seem vexing when life is painful.

“We know this: darkness does and will descend.”

And there are other challenges. Our emotions drive us more than we know. The world around us suggests that we have a right to good feelings. To be fully human, it would seem, is to lean towards the happiness and pain-free side of the emotional spectrum. Even Christians adopt this mindset. Health, wealth, and prosperity don’t have to be taught from the pulpit in order to be a guiding heresy.

Good worship, for example, is usually judged by its capacity to make us feel good. Public testimonies inevitably give thanks for good circumstances that satisfy some personal desire. So, we imagine, when bad feelings come, they must be driven away quickly if we are to maintain confidence in the goodness of God.

In other words, darkness can be spiritually complex. When it comes in earnest, we need ways to counter the thoughts and feelings that offer either incomplete or inaccurate assessments of what is true.

Faith Sees and Hears

Faith is a kind of sixth and most valuable sense. It is distinguished from our sense of sight, and the other traditional senses, in that faith can see more (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith can see even when our eyes are closed.

We typically think of faith as something we have or something we do not have: we have put our faith and trust in Jesus, or we have not. We see Jesus, or we are blind to him. Yet faith is also a gift that can grow. We can have weak or little faith, or we can be “full of faith” (Acts 6:5), stand firm in faith (1 Corinthians 16:13), fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12), and draw near to the Lord “in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22). We can have less faith or more faith. Our aim is to have more faith so that, when darkness comes, we can see spiritual realities clearly.

How Jesus Heard

By faith we see the physical world and the invisible world, which sustains and surrounds what is visible (Hebrews 11:3). This faith is nurtured by hearing the words of God in Scripture, and hearing leads to seeing.

“Health, wealth, and prosperity don’t have to be taught from the pulpit in order to be a guiding heresy.”

Jesus himself lived by faith. He certainly had more faith, or clearer vision, than us, but make no mistake, his faith can be our own. Notice the seminal story of Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–10). It occurs immediately after Jesus received the Spirit at his baptism.

While enduring the worst of human troubles, he remembered, “It is written.” Jesus lived “by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Those words were more real than Satan’s lies. And those words are more real and solid than our emotions, which beg to interpret our difficult life events.

Walk with More Faith

The way of faith is not easy. The task of remembering is not natural to us. As such, the triune God is fully engaged in our mission to know his faithfulness when our emotions see nothing but darkness. The Father speaks, Jesus is the fullest revelation of the Father to us, and the Spirit opens our ears and gives us more of Jesus. More faith — more sight — is ours for the asking.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)

To have more of the Spirit feels like confidence in God and his word. To have more of the Spirit is to be assured of forgiveness of sins, which means that absolutely nothing will keep God from coming close when we are surrounded by trouble. By the Spirit, servants have seen that they were surrounded by the armies of God (2 Kings 6:17), and psalmists have seen the God who is so close, his shadow covers us at midday (Psalm 121:5). And we see the close and faithful Jesus in a way that, though our emotions sense only darkness, we see light.

“If we can still see Jesus when darkness descends, the miracle has occurred.”

Meanwhile, we do not have to wait for the miracle of sight. If we can still see Jesus when darkness descends, the miracle has occurred, and we pray to remember and see more. As we pray, we feed on the words of God in Scripture and we ask others to help us see. Those who have used these means of God’s grace do, indeed, remember his faithfulness — even while we sit in the darkest shadows.

Ed Welch is a counselor and faculty member at The Christian Counseling and Education Foundation. He has been counseling for more than thirty years and has written extensively on the topics of depression, fear, and addictions. His most recent book is Caring for One Another: 8 Ways to Cultivate Meaningful Relationships.

Daily Light – February 5, 2019

I Can’t Do This, God

(excerpt from an article written by John Bloom, Staff Writer, desiringGod.org)

Paul, who we all know had many admirable strengths, understood this profound truth and got to the place where he could say,

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9–10)

Don’t hear this as if it were from someone so immensely gifted that he’s out of touch with sorts of humbling weaknesses we mere mortals deal with. We likely barely grasp how much Paul’s various weaknesses were exposed and how many seemingly impossible deprivations, heartbreaks, and failed attempts he actually experienced. What we do know is that Jesus said right after his conversion, “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16).

It’s through our weaknesses, more than our strengths, that God demonstrates that he exists.”

Paul’s suffering and weakness-exposures weren’t punitive because he had previously persecuted Christians. Jesus had paid for that. Rather, they were a significant way in which God’s strength was revealed to the world — so much so, that Paul became a glad boaster in what made him look weak. Because in his weaknesses, people saw that the only strength he had came from God.

Why You Are Weak

That’s why we have our weaknesses. They are, perhaps more than our strengths, what qualify us to serve where God places us in his kingdom. And nothing teaches us prayerful dependence like the desperation that comes from being assigned to do what you can’t do without God.

Humans are impressed by the whole range of human strengths. But God is only impressed by one human strength: strong faith.Because faith is a dependence on God’s strength. Which is why, when God calls us into our various and diverse roles in his kingdom, he makes sure that our callings offer plenty of opportunities to expose our weaknesses. The more we understand why, the more these opportunities become occasions for joy instead of shame.

Daily Light – February 4, 2019

God’s Favorite Prayer To Answer

Article by David Mathis, Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

We took a knee. John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” or Alabama’s “Cheap Seats” would be playing over the loudspeakers. The crowd was settling into the bleachers. The infielders had finished up the final round of pregame grounders. The whole team sprinted to a spot in foul ground about thirty feet from the base, and kneeled to hear Coach’s game-time reminders and directions. Then, like clockwork, he would utter the tired and worn words again: “Our Father.”

The whole team of Southern boys joined in. “Who art in heaven.” “Hallowed be thy name.” “Thy kingdom come.” “Thy will be done. . . .” A few of us appreciated the quick Godward moment. Most simply hoped that somehow the incantation might help us win.

Hallowed be thy name. Between morning prayers and irregular rosaries in Catholic grade school, and then high school baseball — spring, summer, and fall — I must have prayed that line hundreds of times with little (if any) clue of its significance. I might as well have been saying, “Hollow be thy name.”

How Jesus Prayed

Put yourself there with the disciples when they asked Jesus how to pray (Luke 11:1). How to pray! What would he say? Whatever comes next, these will be some of the most important words in the history of the world. No wonder Catholic school boys and high school baseball players still recite them two thousand years later. What a tragedy, then, how often they amount to meaningless repetition and “empty phrases” — the very thing Jesus warned us about in the preamble to his prayer. “When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do” (Matthew 6:7). And chief among the emptiness for many of us has been the one we’ve said the most.

After addressing God as Father, a monumental development nearly impossible to overstate, what first request would Jesus make? What initial petition would headline not just the prayer of the Son of God to his Father but the model prayer, the carefully chosen words designed by the Christ to teach his disciples how to pray? Could this not be one of the most important pleas (if not the single most important) any human could utter? What Jesus says next will change everything: “Hallowed be thy name.”

So, what does hallowed mean anyway?

Hallow What?

There has been no controversy or doubt, then or now, about what Jesus said. Matthew and Luke agree down to every Greek stroke: hagiasthētō to onoma sou (Matthew 6:9Luke 11:2). In English, Wycliffe translated that line, in 1389, “Halwid be thi name.” More than a century later, in 1526, Tyndale did the same: “Halowed be thy name.” The King James Version followed suit in 1611: “Hallowed be thy name.”

The verb (hagiazō, to treat as holy) appears 28 times in the New Testament, with its noun and adjective forms occurring more than 300 times (400 more in the Old Testament). Hallow, which means to consecrate or set apart or honor as holy, has fallen largely into disuse today. Annually we mark Halloween, and sometimes we refer to hallowed grounds, but we do not hallow. Not like we once did. As far back as 250 years ago, in 1768, Benjamin Franklin sensed the problem and rendered this paraphrase of the line: “May all revere thee.”

When Jesus begins his model prayer with “hallowed be your name,” what is he asking? Father, may you set your name apart from every other name. Cause your reputation to be esteemed and reverenced and treasured above all others. Glorify your name. When we hear the Son of God pray like this, we should not be surprised. He is not the first to appeal to God’s name, to his honor and glory, as the rock-bottom ground for God’s action. Nor should he be the last.

For His Name’s Sake

The legacy of longing to see God’s glory, and petitioning God to see it, goes back at least to Moses, who prayed, courageously, “Please show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). It was a bold request. And he was not denied. God was pleased to answer, and he put on display for Moses not the fullness of his glory, but the back, and that glimpse proved to be plenty for the moment. And so, God’s people learned to appeal to God for his name’s sake, for his glory, whether in general (Psalm 109:21115:1), or, as in Psalm 23, for guidance: “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3; see also Psalm 31:3).

In fact, God’s righteous concern for the hallowing of his name is why, he says, he delivered his people from Egypt. They were sinners, and undeserving, and yet “he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power” (Psalm 106:8). “I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt” (Ezekiel 20:9; see also Ezekiel 20:1422). Then after Egypt, how would distressed Israelites appeal to God for deliverance? “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!” (Psalm 79:9; see also Psalm 143:11).

Not just deliverance when victimized, but also pardon for sin. Whether in the Psalms: “For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great” (Psalm 25:11). Or in the prophets: “Though our iniquities testify against us, act, O Lord, for your name’s sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against you” (Jeremiah 14:7; see also Jeremiah 14:21). Or even in the church: “Your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake” (1 John 2:12).

When God’s people make their bottom-line plea that he not destroy us for our sin, or forsake us in our faithlessness, we appeal, as Samuel did, “for his great name’s sake” (1 Samuel 12:22). What confidence do we have that his righteous wrath will not consume rebels like us? There is no greater ground imaginable for a sinner’s rescue than God’s own hallowing of his name.

“For my name’s sake I defer my anger; for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. . . . For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:911)

Not for Your Sake

Then, after his people had gone into exile, why would God restore them? Not because of their good ways or admirable deeds — but despite their evil ways and corrupt deeds — “for my name’s sake” (Ezekiel 20:44). “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act [to restore you], but for the sake of my holy name . . . . I will vindicate the holiness of my great name” (Ezekiel 36:22–23). Likewise, it was to God’s own name and glory that Daniel appealed on behalf of his people in exile (Daniel 9:15171819).

At the height of Israel’s kingdom, Solomon had prayed for the hallowing of God’s “great name . . . that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name” (1 Kings 8:41–432 Chronicles 6:32–33). This is the same impulse that one day found new-covenant expression in the apostle Paul, who sought “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations” (Romans 1:5). Why did Paul have to suffer so much? For the sake of Christ’s name (Acts 9:16).

And where, at bottom, do suffering Christians find the spiritual and emotional resources to persevere in persecution? “You are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary” (Revelation 2:3).

Why Jesus Died

“Hallowed be your name” was, indeed, no empty phrase for Jesus. It not only headlined his model prayer for his disciples, but also his High Priestly Prayer the night before he died. “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (John 17:1). Foremost in his mind as he went to the cross was the “name” (John 17:611–1226) and “glory” (John 17:52224) of his Father. He not only prayed and lived, but he even gave himself up to torture and death for the hallowing of his Father’s name.

Far from being hollow, Jesus’s lead petition taps in to the very foundation and goal of all history — the rock-bottom commitment of God himself, and the very heart of his Son. Let’s not let old English be lost on us who know our Bibles and pray without ceasing, without pretense, and without ignorance for the hallowing of our Father’s name. It is his favorite prayer to answer.

David Mathis is executive editor for desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Churchin Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.