Meaningful Work

Most people prefer to find work that is fulfilling, in a career field they are passionate about, and with pay that compensates them rewardingly. But what makes work truly meaningful? What if work was meant to be fulfilling because it served a greater purpose, a purpose outside of ourselves? 

Whether it’s an entry-level position, work at home, or a leadership role there are many times where we have to do the work that is set before us. This is also known as whatever our hands find to do (Ecclesiastes 9:10). This may or may not be something we’re excited about or paid a lot of money for, but there’s still a purpose behind it. 

Originally work was established with the purpose of worship and expanding God’s kingdom on the earth. Then after the fall, a new layer was added while keeping the original intent. Work was going to be much harder, yet God provided a way for His people to be a part of the healing process in a broken world. God’s people were to be part of the solution and an Offspring was promised (Genesis 3:15). God’s people would have a new opportunity to glorify Him by having families, spreading out over the earth, and using their talents to serve His good purposes, while providing help to others (some product or service).

Work In The Beginning
In the beginning work was performed by God and then He gave instructions and assigned tasks to Adam and Eve. They were to be stewards of creation in perfect relationship with their Creator as they went about their assigned tasks.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Genesis 1:28 

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
Genesis 2:15

Work After The Fall
As revealed in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve’s rebellion had consequences that still impact our working lives:

…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…
Genesis 3:17b-18a

Work is now more difficult, but work was not the curse even though the curse affects our work. 

And then in the first eleven chapters of Genesis we go from the pre-fall garden of grace, caring for God’s creation, and expanding it to spread God’s fame, to a fallen people coming up with a grand plan to disobey God by living in one place and trying to make a name for themselves.

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
Genesis 11:4

Is work all about me, my self-worth, building a personal brand, accumulating wealth and retirement, while making a name for myself? Isn’t this a Tower of Babel mentality? 

There are two traps that we easily fall into. Our job, and the money and prestige it generates, can either feed our ego and selfish desires, or it can do the opposite where we tend to grumble and complain due to discontentment.

Consider these verses:

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.
Ecclesiastes 5:10 

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
1 Timothy 6:6‭-‬7 

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.
Colossians 3:23

The Work Of Redemption
As mentioned in the introduction, after the fall God had a plan to restore and redeem and work continued to be incorporated into His plan. Below is a helpful excerpt from a devotional by the team at Theology of Work regarding “God’s Good Idea: Work and Redemption.”

Despite the curse, the work commissioned in Genesis 1 and 2 continues. There is still ground to be tilled and phenomena of nature to be studied, described and named. Men and women must still be fruitful, must still multiply, must still govern.

But now, a second layer of work must also be accomplished—the work of healing and repairing things that go wrong and evils that are committed. In a world of sin and sadness, many jobs echo God’s redemption: Scientists and salespersons help people overcome various difficulties by providing products to make life easier and healthier. Law enforcement officers and parents provide safety in the midst of chaos. Accountants and repairmen fix broken ledgers, appliances and technology.

These and other roles project hope for the coming restoration (Revelation 21:1). One day, brokenness will be gone; pain will be no more. But until that day, even the most frustrating jobs can be means by which we carry out the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). We can reflect Jesus’ finished work in our own lives as we display God’s characteristics to the world and work to redeem areas of brokenness.

The Greater Purpose
While we can’t work to earn our salvation, we can show the world where our Hope lies as we’re working. As we’re going and doing we can show by our actions and how we conduct ourselves that there is a greater purpose to what we do. The purpose includes the greatest command to love the Lord our God and our neighbors.

Therefore, work has meaning and is a tangible way we can minister to a broken world, while honoring God, providing income to steward and to give away to expand His kingdom, while helping others in need. It’s also an opportunity to point others to the promised Offspring, Jesus Christ, to emulate Him as His disciples, and to tell others about His finished work on the cross.

Work, after all, is still a means of worship…so whatever we do, let’s do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Navigating Offenses: Overlooking vs. Dealing With It

One of the hardest things we have to learn is how to deal with others who have offended us, while doing it with love and self-control. If you’re a parent, you know this quite well. And no one does this perfectly, so we all have some growth in this area. Can an offense be overlooked or does it need to be dealt with? The world calls this emotional intelligence, but leaves out the spiritual element and our need for the gospel.

Finger pointing and the blame game started right after the fall and taking up an offense ensued. Enmity and jealousy were introduced and you know the rest of the story…

Let Scripture Guides Us

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends (Proverbs 17:9).

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11).

Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others (Ecclesiastes 7:21–22).

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:8-9).

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them (Luke 6:31).

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7).

Is It Really Something To Be Offended About?
Is it a potato? A what? Yes, a potato. In our family, believe it or not, there was once an argument over a baked potato among two of our children. Heels dug in, neither side would let it go, and tempers flared. After all calmed down it was rather silly and they knew it, but in the heat of the moment sinful hearts were revealed. We now have a saying when a minor offense comes up. Are you making this a potato?

Sometimes we like to argue and fight over insignificant things because it’s in our sin nature to take up an offense, point fingers, and insist on a satisfactory outcome in the courtroom of our own justice.

Consider these verses:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:18-19).

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:15).

The next time there’s a potato in your family, point it out, talk about how it needs to be overlooked, and explain that love covers a multitude of sins. Explain how we should be gracious and merciful, and how it relates to the gospel…”but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Let’s help train one another to overlook the offense because we live in a broken world where offenses come frequently. Age and spiritual maturity help, but some situations are much more difficult than others. Sometimes it requires dealing with it.

How Would You Handle These Two Examples?
A family member isn’t coming home for Christmas this year, they’re going on vacation instead. This breaks a longstanding family tradition and now other family members aren’t coming either. You can sense the tension.

A friend at work applied for the same managerial position you did after you told them about it. You feel you’re more qualified and taken advantage of. They received and accepted the offer and now you work for them.

When It Can’t Be Overlooked
The rule of thumb is what love can’t cover, it has to be dealt with. Overlooking an offense in a loving self-controlled way is healthy, but conflict avoidance, with the appearance of overlooking, isn’t healthy.

Avoiding conflict often means sweeping the dust under the rug, letting it accumulate, and then all the mess comes out later. I’m not talking about taking time to calm down, or needing some space. I’m also not talking about separation because of safety from an abusive situation. Sometimes temporary separation is necessary. I’m talking about avoiding someone because you don’t want to deal with an offense that’s eating at you.

If love can’t cover it, meaning you can’t forgive and let it go because it’s bothering you so badly, or because the offense was so sinful, that’s when you have to deal with it. The rules are clear, we’re to go directly to the person and have the conversation about the offense to try and resolve the matter.

Matthew 18
Verses 15-20 provide the guidelines for dealing with someone who has sinned against us and the aim is to confront gently and attempt to restore the relationship. One practical way to work through an offense is to explain how the offense makes us feel versus attacking someone for what they did or didn’t do. Meaning, telling the person when you did X, I felt Y and it really bothered me is a better approach than letting them have it with a verbal barrage for what they did to you and making sure they know how wrong it was. Explaining to them that you want to work through things because you care about the relationship also goes a long way toward mending it.

This may take a lot of work and self-control, but it’s a loving step towards forgiveness and reconciliation versus attacking or simply retreating into an entrenched position of “you’re the worst.” Telling someone how you feel shows vulnerability and opens the door of communication, attacking someone slams the door and often creates more conflict, and entrenching into our position creates a stalemate. Remember, if possible, try to live peaceably with others…it takes the willingness of the other person to work through things fully. Sadly, it may not be possible.  

Therefore, serious offenses and stubbornness of heart may require others to be engaged. This is where seeking wise counsel and bringing one or more into the mix helps. Each step of the way the circle is enlarged, but the aim is to keep it as small as possible. 

Outside the church, this may have to be dealt with within the family circle, HR department, or governing authorities. Within the church, this process is known as church discipline. The last step is few and far between, but the first step is practiced all the time in one on one conversations and no one else is even aware. The entire church is rarely involved. Yet God knows our stubborn hearts and He provides this process to help confront serious offenses in a Biblical, God honoring and loving way.

Growth And Hope
Whether it’s a potato or a more serious issue, we find forgiveness, hope, peace, and comfort in the gospel. Relationship difficulties sprout opportunities to trust God more, to grow in our love for God and others, and to grow in our understanding of how we should forgive because we’ve been forgiven.

Be encouraged, Revelation 21 tells us all will be made right. One day the brokenness we experience will end, the relationships between God and His people will be fully restored, we won’t offend or be offended, justice will prevail, and there will be joy and peace forevermore.

The Root Of Worry

What we desire most in life often causes us the most stress. The sin of worry stems from focusing on the cares of this world more than trusting God. This is likely a symptom of a greater sin, an underlying sin, one that may be deeply rooted within. This is known in the Bible as idolatry or covetousness. 

Brad Bigney defines it well so I’ll use his definition. “Idolatry is anything or anyone that captures our hearts and minds and affections more than God.” When we elevate anything or anyone above God, our worship and affections and desires are placed on something or someone that will never be able to fulfill us like He can.

One way to identify an idol in our life is to look at what causes us the most emotion, angst, and worry when something or someone happens to disturb our affections for it or threatens our expectations around it. What is it that frustrates and makes us anxious? Perhaps our idol is the American Dream and what frustrates us is anything that threatens our comfort. You know…the life with a successful career, safety and security, family, health, retirement, and a hobby or two, because, hey, I’ve worked hard and I deserve it.

Whenever we identify an idol in our lives we soon discover how it rules us in an unhealthy way. It causes us to live anxiously, to do things selfishly, and to treat others poorly. Yet, we may not recognize it in ourselves for a long time because idols are often hidden beneath seemingly good things (work, family, ministry, exercise, etc.) that have become ruling things.

Matthew 6:25-34 specifically addresses worrying about money. However, there are principles that we can apply to being anxious about anything. Just like looking to make more money, but quickly learning money doesn’t solve all our problems, it actually tends to create more problems for us. So it goes with any idol we hold and refuse to lay down.

The Greek word found in Matthew 6:25 for anxious is merimnaó (phonetically mer-im-nah’-o). It means over-anxious, troubled, distracted, pulled apart, to go to pieces, torn. Worry is destructive and tears us apart. We know in the proceeding verses of Chapter 6 we can’t serve both God and money. And the same applies to the other idols that have mastery over us.

Warren Weirsbe writes, “Worrying about tomorrow does not help either today or tomorrow. If anything, it robs us of our effectiveness today – which means we’ll be even less effective tomorrow.”

He also states, “It’s not wrong for us to possess things, but it is wrong for things to possess us.” And here’s where we need God’s Word to help us and to remind us to seek God and His Kingdom first and all these things will be added. This doesn’t mean we’ll get everything we want. There’s no guarantee of the good life, no promise we won’t have cancer or never go hungry, or never die. No, the promise is everything we need to do His will in the building of His Kingdom.

So let’s examine ourselves and take note when we’re anxious to see if we can discover the root of our worry, confess it, repent, and seek to trust Him as we put His Kingdom first: 

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:25-34

We need this reminder, don’t we? 

And everytime we notice the beauty of a bird or flower, let’s remember that Jehovah Jireh provides all that we need as we seek first the Kingdom. The most important being a Savior Who is All-Sufficient, Awe-Inspiring, and All-Satisfying!

Hard Is Not Hopeless

When life is hard, the mind is perplexed, persecution persists, sickness strikes, grief is heavy, the body is tired, emotions are high, spirits are low, and the flesh is weak – may we meditate on these Bible verses to help us abide in Christ with hope, patience, and endurance.

Genesis 18:14
Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you–in about a year–and Sarah will have a son.

Job 42:2
I know that You can do all things and that no plan of Yours can be thwarted.

Psalms 34:18-19
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

Psalms 147:3‭-‬5
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

Isaiah 26:3-4
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

Isaiah 43:13
Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it? 

Jeremiah 32:17
Oh, Lord GOD! You have made the heavens and earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You!

Lamentations 3:21-23
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Mark 10:27
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Luke 1:37
For nothing will be impossible with God.

John 16:33
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Romans 5:3-6
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 8:35-39
And who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 12:12
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

1 Corinthians 1:8-9
He will sustain you to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 4:7-8
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 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.

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

James 1:2-5
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

1 Peter 1:3
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 

1 Peter 4:13
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Ephesians 6:10-11
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

The Lowest Of The Greatest

Who’s the greatest is often debated. Who’s the greatest President? Who’s the greatest of any given sport? The disciples of Jesus Christ seemingly could never let go of which one of them was the greatest (Matthew 18:1-5, Mark 9:33-37, and Luke 9:46-48). Peter, James, and John must have believed they were in line for the title since they were the only three invited up on the Mount of Transfiguration.

But who did Jesus say was the greatest among men? It’s the Elijah of the New Testament and the answer is found in Matthew 11:11:

“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Here Jesus makes a paradoxical statement about him. He names John as the greatest, yet immediately states that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater. So where is Jesus going with this?

Let’s first note that the greatness that Jesus is referring to is John’s unique position in preparing the way for the Messiah. It wasn’t because of John’s talent, special merit, or personal holiness. It was because he was chosen to fulfill the prophecies from Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1

Next, let’s remember John’s special birth. The angel in Luke 1:14-17 tells Zechariah (John’s father):

And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Later on John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb when she meets Mary who is pregnant with Jesus (Luke 1:41).

Now to understand Jesus’s statement we also have to back up and understand the full context of Matthew 11. John the Baptist was in prison when Jesus proclaimed him the greatest. The man predestined to prepare the way for the Messiah is no longer sure he was right about Jesus as he sits in a dark dungeon wondering if he got it wrong. 

Can you imagine what was running through John’s mind? Isn’t it just like us to question God in our lowest moments? John had previously declared he was unworthy to baptize Jesus and that he couldn’t even carry His sandals (See Matthew 3). Now John was sending messengers to question Jesus to confirm if He really was the Messiah (Matthew 11:2-3). 

The greatest was at his lowest and Vance Havner sums it up nicely for us: “What (John) had preached like a living exclamation point had become a question mark to the Preacher Himself. But our Lord did not reprimand the troubled prophet. Instead He made His best statement about John the Baptist on the same day the prophet made his worst statement about the Lord.”

And Jesus answered them (those that John sent), “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me (Matthew 11:4-6).”

Havner goes on to state: In other words, “Blessed is he who does not get upset by the way I run my business!…God doesn’t operate by our timetable and sometimes it does not add up on our computers.”

The answer Jesus gave was an amazing confirmation that He truly was the Messiah, and his last sentence is an indictment of many offended Christ followers. The greatest prophet was prophetic indeed when he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).” John never made it out of prison and then lost his head to a wicked, foolish promise made by King Herod (See Mark 6). John didn’t live to witness the horrors of Christ on the cross and didn’t get to see His victorious resurrection, yet he accomplished all that God called him to do.

When we find ourselves at our lowest, let’s remember John the Baptist and know that during our hardest trials and difficulties God may be doing His greatest work in us, through us, and around us (without us). Yet He is still good and great and worthy of all praise.

And here one other passage comes to mind…I wonder if John the Baptist remembered Habakkuk’s prayer while he was in prison (See Habakkuk 3). It fittingly begins with:

Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds…(NIV)

And later Habakkuk rejoices in song (3:17-19) and gives us a glimpse of what he’s learned as a model for how we should trust and praise God in the midst of suffering (in this case famine):

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places. (ESV)

Though…Yet…Though I’m in prison…Yet will I praise you. We can trust Him because He is good and He is great. He must increase, but I must decrease for He is the Greatest!

Investing in the New Year

It’s time for a mental year end inventory of our assets…bank accounts, investments, 401(k), house, cars, boats, furniture, phones, electronics, clothes, collections, books, coins, stamps, sports memorabilia, video games, guns, you name it.

Are you satisfied with what you have and the most recent gifts you received? Are you concerned it’s not enough? Perhaps you’re concerned that you’ll lose it.

First of all, it’s not wrong or a sin to have any of the above, but it could be if it defines who we are. Investing wisely and saving for the future are sound Biblical principles. However, let’s consider Matthew 6:20: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. And let’s check our hearts…is it possible that we’re more concerned about earthly treasure than we are heavenly treasure? Are we more concerned about our mini-kingdom’s than we are about the people around us?

The truth is every one of our things will be taken away. We can’t buy our way into heaven and we can’t take anything with us. In fact, the only things we can take with us to the next life aren’t things at all. It’s people.

Therefore, let’s focus on laying up treasures in heaven and setting our minds on things that are above, not on things on this earth. For we have died and our lives are hidden through Christ in God (See Colossians 3:1-4).

So, what can we do differently to invest more wisely in God’s Kingdom and the lives of other people? The greatest investment we can make is not one that we buy shares in, it’s a Treasure that we give away. It’s the good news of Jesus Christ and the hope and forgiveness of sin He provides.  

In the new year, may we steward our lives and resources to become better disciplemakers to be used toward His Kingdom gain, while we learn to count all else as loss. 

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. ~Philippians 3:8

Fishers of Men

“And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him” (Mark 1:16-18).

This phrase, “fishers of men,” occurs only here and in Matthew 4:19. A similar statement is found in Luke 5:10, “And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.'”  These are the only references in the New Testament about “fishing” for men, and we note that here Simon is assured, “You will catch men.”

Those who once were real “fishermen” were met by the Master, and He effectually said to them, “Follow me.” Isn’t it extremely noteworthy that our Lord did not go to the halls of learning or to the seats of government to get His disciples, but to the seashore? Does this not tell us that Christ’s mission was different? He even prayed to His Father, saying, “As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). How glorious! Christ had come to do “the will” of His Father (John 6:38), and true believers have as their mission to proclaim the Son of God in His glory, just as the Son was “sent” by the Father to “glorify” Himself (John 17:1-4).

The task of evangelism is to point sinners away from dead, fleshly religion, including all self-righteousness, to Christ the Lord. Using the metaphor of fishing, the heaven-sent Servant teaches His learners to become “fishers of men.” This does not mean that we can actually “save” people from sin or hell, or “save” them for heaven. The way we are “fishers of men” is to do as Paul did at Antioch, saying, “And we declare to you glad tidings, that promise which was made to the fathers; God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus.” Yes, we proclaim the crucified but risen Lord! Then Paul quotes Isaiah’s prophecy as fulfilled in Christ: “I will give you the sure mercies of David” (Acts 13:32-34). This is true evangelism, when we tell sinners that the “mercies” of God are “sure” to an elect people!

The apostle Paul taught God’s electing grace and His absolute sovereignty (Romans 8:28-35), the Father accomplishing salvation for all of His people through the Savior’s intercession: “Christ Jesuscame into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15); “For Christ also suffered once for us, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Christ Jesus does bring us to God, as Him being substituted in our place is totally effectual. “Fishers of men” means that we are following Christ, telling His story, saying with John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The “world” of “God’s elect” is thus redeemed, justified, called, and kept because of the manifold grace of God shown to poor, unworthy sinners in Christ Jesus. Our being “fishers of men” is always successful, the Lord powerfully “drawing” all of His elect into the great net of His sovereign, distinguishing grace!

Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly….
Other refuge have I none;
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee.
~Charles Wesley

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A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

New Every Morning

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

“Lamentations” is a book of sorrow, pain, anguish, and judgment. But Jeremiah, despite his depression and being brought very low (v. 18), still exults in Jehovah’s faithful love and mercy. Are these contradictions? They seem to be, but of course are not. When we “recall to mind” (v. 21) the great faithfulness of our God, we see clearly that his mercies are “new every morning.” How encouraging this is! The Lord’s daily love and compassion call for daily praise and daily worship!

“Great is your faithfulness.” We must often repeat these four great words to ourselves and to others. Yes, men wrong us, and there is much evil in the world. But we must not allow sin and wrong to overcome us with such anxiety that we forget how indebted we are to the “rich mercy” of God in our Lord Jesus Christ. Note verse 26:“It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” This holy “salvation” is all wrapped up in the one, precious Savior of sinners, “Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Those who know and love Christ are the recipients of abounding grace and measureless mercy. Believers can truly say with much rejoicing, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

God’s love is steadfast, and his love never ceases; Yahweh’s great mercies will never come to an end; every single morning we can be assured that God will be faithful to us. Is not this great cause for praise to Christ Jesus? Yes, and we are glad to read this: “It shall be well with them that fear God” (Ecclesiastes 8:12). “Well” means no wrath, no judgment, no rejection, but acceptance, love, favor, and mercy through the finished work of Calvary’s bloody cross. When we camp around Calvary our personal depression seems so small and insignificant compared to the Lord of life dying as our Substitute. His death and resurrection assure us of real victory over all sin, all depression, and all the fretting of this life. Let’s praise our Savior anew every morning! “To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever” (Romans 16:27).

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A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

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