Handbook to God's Promises

Promises about God’s Provision

God delights in providing for you abundantly. He knows you intimately, so He knows your every physical, spiritual, and emotional need. The promises in this section will help you discover the many ways in which God meets your deepest needs—perhaps needs you never knew you had.

God’s Provision for Forgiveness of Sin

Genesis 2:25: Naked and Unashamed

Adam and Eve stand physically naked and unashamed before God because they are pure and without sin. They don’t know how it feels to expose their flaws to someone else’s scrutiny. God’s light of love shines on this first couple, filling them with security and confidence. They can’t comprehend the meaning or feeling of shame, nor do they have to.

Even though evil beats against us and sin is ever a part of our earthly lives, through Jesus’ sacrifice we can stand spiritually naked and unashamed before God. When we repent of our sin God forgives and considers us blameless before Him (1 John 1:9). He lifts our shame and replaces it with assurance.

Leviticus 4:1–2: Unintentional Sin

God knows that we are weak and flawed; He knows that we make unintentional mistakes. Sometimes an unintentional sin can feel more painful than a premeditated transgression, especially if we have unknowingly offended another party and don’t find out until much later. Even though we strive to follow God, we are prone to momentarily stumble. But if we repent, God forgives any sin. His grace covers all.

Leviticus 5:16: Making Restitution

The guilt offering requires that the sinful person make restitution for what he or she has failed to do. Sin not only includes the acts we do (sins of commission), but also the things we fail to do (sins of omission). Thankfully, God forgives both types of sin, and making restitution restores us in His eyes as well as in the hearts of those whom we have offended.

Numbers 21:8–9: Look and Live

When the stricken people look at the bronze snake on a pole, God heals them. They escape an agonizing death from poisonous venom. This act of redemption typifies the coming Messiah’s death on a cross so sin-sick people can be saved from eternal damnation. Yet salvation is only the beginning. To grow spiritually we spend a lifetime looking to Him. We are to “[fix] our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2)[1] to understand how best to live within God’s will.

Joshua 3:5: Get Ready

Before offering a sacrifice or witnessing a mighty act of God, the Israelites purify themselves from anything unclean. According to Jewish law people become tainted in various ways, including eating unclean foods (Leviticus 11), giving birth (Leviticus 12), succumbing to disease (Leviticus 13–14), or touching the dead (Numbers 19:11–22). A purification ceremony washes away the people’s uncleanness and permits them to approach their holy Maker. In this case the cleansing ritual also builds their confidence about God’s miraculous work on their behalf.

When we confess our sin and live righteously, we bolster the faith that expects God to act for us (2 Thessalonians 1:11; 1 John 1:9). How much more empowered would our lives be if at night we were to conscientiously purify ourselves and firmly believe, “Tomorrow the Lord will do miracles”?

Joshua 5:9: Roll It Away

God rolls away heavy loads that hinder spiritual progress. After a circumcision ceremony for the Israelite males God rolls away the reproach of Egypt from His people—that is, the reproach that Egypt would have had for Israel and its God had the people perished in the desert. In this situation the “rolling away” releases a newfound freedom of the heart.

Similarly, at Jesus’ resurrection, God rolls away the reproach of those who would have scoffed had Jesus remained in the tomb (Mark 16:4). And for us today, God longs to roll away our sin and remove the reproach of others who might otherwise scorn us, imperfect believers that we are. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our wrongdoings from us” (Psalm 103:11–12).

2 Samuel 14:14: Always a Way

Even though the woman from Tekoa speaks from questionable motives, she uses truth to argue her case. Her argument: God provides a way for the disenfranchised to be restored to Him. He longs to gather up the wayward in His arms, to pick them up and nurture them.

In the New Testament Jesus cries, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who have been sent to her! How often I have wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matthew 23:37). Are we willing to let Him do this? Will we assist God in restoring others when we feel the call? Why would anyone resist such a soul-warming offer?

2 Samuel 21:14: Answered Prayer

Once David attempts to rectify the consequences of Saul’s violation against God, the Lord begins answering prayer again. Sin can block our communication with God. The psalmist writes, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear; but God has heard; He has given attention to the sound of my prayer” (Psalm 66:18–19). Sometimes when we feel our prayers aren’t answered, it may be time for a heart checkup.

2 Kings 23:3: Renewing the Covenant

King Josiah renews the covenant in the sight of the Lord and the people. This is a public commitment to follow God and His ways, and the people agree with him.

Making a public confession can solidify the intent of our heart and move the hearts of those who hear. When we confess with our mouth, our heart hears and is more apt to follow through on what we say. And what could be more important than confessing our faith in the Lord?

1 Chronicles 13:13: Good Question

David asks a pertinent and pointed question. If the Ark of the Covenant has already killed one man, how can he bring it any farther without destroying more people? This isn’t the excuse of a coward who shrinks from duty, but rather the insight of one who suddenly recognizes God’s holiness and humanity’s inability to touch the sacred. Later David learns that he has handled the ark inappropriately, and when he follows God’s regulations, it reaches Jerusalem without further tragedy (1 Chronicles 15:11–28).

Without God’s intervention we cannot survive His holiness, either. Yet God provides a way for us to approach Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. When we repent and receive Christ as Savior, we gain access to the Father through the Son (Ephesians 2:18). Our sin is washed away (Acts 22:16), and we become acceptable to God (1 Peter 2:5). Those who trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation can lift up holy hands to the Father without fear.

2 Chronicles 33:13: Learning the Hard Way

After Manasseh makes disastrous mistakes and the Babylonians take him captive, the king humbles himself before God and pleads for help. God rescues Manasseh, returning him to his kingdom.

Manasseh definitely learns the hard way. The king won’t hear and follow God’s law until he learns that rebellion—his own way—doesn’t work. In fact, it devastates him. Though we rebel, God forgives us if we repent. Even more, He restores us to a position of honor in His kingdom.

Nehemiah 4:4: On Their Heads

Nehemiah’s prayer reflects understanding of an intriguing spiritual principle. Often the offense we inflict on someone else returns to hurt us. Do we gossip? Gossips could someday destroy our own reputation. Do we refuse to forgive? Later on others may be unwilling to forgive us. Do we criticize? We might someday feel the sting of faultfinding directed toward us. In other words, we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). Or, in Nehemiah’s words, the offense turns back on our own head.

This boomerang effect isn’t a “promise” we want fulfilled, but its actualization can teach us valuable lessons. First, we learn how it feels to be hurt and grow reluctant to repeat our offenses toward others. Second, we experience once again that God pardons our sin when we confess it (1 John 1:9). In fact, He heaps forgiveness on our heads.

Nehemiah 9:17: Slow to Anger

Although God expresses His anger to wayward people, He isn’t capricious or easily provoked. Contrary to what we may fear, the Lord is longsuffering, and His wrath builds slowly. Even when His people construct a golden calf and worship it, He doesn’t desert them. God’s compassion delays His judgment, and His forgiveness dissipates His rage. In a similar way, we’re offered repeated chances to confess and amend our ways.

Regarding our sin and its outcome, God really doesn’t want to give us what we deserve. However, when the Lord finally unleashes His fury, we are foolish to ignore it.

Psalm 6:9: Mercy Prayer

Even though David has stumbled in sin, he knows that the Lord hears his prayer for mercy and that mercy is his only hope. Sometimes when our situation deteriorates to this degree because of our sin, our only recourse is pleading for God’s grace. Scripture comforts us with the assurance that “one who confesses and abandons [sin] will find compassion” (Proverbs 28:13).

We all need God’s mercy every moment of every day, but those who admit their sin and recognize their need especially gain His attention. “For the Lord your God is a compassionate God” (Deuteronomy 4:31).

Psalm 66:18: Closed Ears

God always listens for the prayers of the righteous—with one exception. If we harbor unconfessed sin, the Lord will not heed our pleas and petitions. Sin clogs up the communication channels to a holy God, but we can simply and quickly restore the link. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Isaiah 6:7: Generous Forgiveness

Here is God’s promise to the prophet Isaiah, who feels undone when he sees the Lord’s glory filling the temple. Isaiah confesses his own inadequacy, but he is willing to go where God sends him. God’s response to Isaiah’s confession is forgiveness. He does not overlook the fact that even Isaiah, chosen as His prophet, harbors sin in his life. Instead, God forgives the iniquity, atones for it, and then sends Isaiah to the people with a message: Turn from sin or you will experience serious consequences. God prepares Isaiah for ministry and then uses him as an object lesson for the people: Repentance leads to forgiveness.

Jeremiah 18:8: Faithful Forgiveness

If we own up to our sins and repent, God will demonstrate His mercy and His desire to forgive. As the apostle Paul wrote, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our wrongdoings, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7; see also 1 John 1:9). Tragically, Jeremiah’s countrymen remain hard-hearted and refuse to show penitence. What barriers hold us back from contrition?

Jeremiah 33:8: A Clean Slate

Again God promises to restore His exiled people, to forgive their sin, and to prosper them anew. Human forgiveness is limited and is often doled out grudgingly and conditionally. But God’s forgiveness is wildly generous, abundant beyond imagination. He keeps no record of wrongs and again and again offers us a clean slate. In this instance God promises personal and spiritual healing to His people and, eventually, the Messiah’s ultimate forgiveness for all of us (Jeremiah 33:15–16).

Jeremiah 36:3: Amazing Forgiveness

In the midst of revealing to Jeremiah the punishment He plans for His wayward people, God instructs the prophet to remind them of the judgment they have brought upon themselves. God longs to forgive His people, if only they will acknowledge their sin and repent.

Later in this chapter King Jehoiakim rejects Jeremiah’s message, cuts up the scroll, and throws it into the fire in utter defiance of God (Jeremiah 36:23). So God asks Jeremiah and his scribe to write out the words of the prophecy again. The surprising message of Jeremiah is that, while God punishes sin, He is at the same time willing to forgive flagrant rebellion and allow His wayward children to start over again.

Lamentations 4:22: Timing Is Everything

Parents understand how difficult it can be to punish a child, but in order to foster a lasting relationship of love and trust, caring moms and dads mete out discipline when necessary. At the same time, parents are thrilled when a child repents and a ruptured relationship is restored. Their joy lasts much longer than their anger ever could.

This is God’s way with us, too. The writer of Lamentations witnesses terrible tragedies among his people, such as the temple’s destruction and starving mothers cannibalizing their own offspring (2:20). Yet there is hope—hope from a God who stands full of mercy, ready to meet us where we are with His pardoning grace. Psalm 30:5 reminds us that God’s anger endures for only a moment but that His favor lasts a lifetime. When we repent, His punishment will cease.

Ezekiel 45:15: Hopeful Atonement

God gives specific instructions to the priests for presenting sacrifices and offerings to atone for the people’s sins. Yet none of these rituals is completely sufficient to effect the forgiveness of their transgressions, once and for all. Even so, these sacrifices are not in vain, because they represent the blood sacrifice of the Messiah, the Lamb of God, who will one day meet the requirements for a final atonement.

Israel’s sacrifices serve as a hopeful reminder that the world will in time be offered a permanent release from sin. And still today, in the context of our seemingly ordinary worship experiences, God continues to imbed hope for better things to come.

Hosea 3:1: The Unfaithful Bride

Hosea’s wife Gomer is not merely unfaithful; she is a prostitute. Yet God commands Hosea to receive her back into his household with complete forgiveness and patient, unconditional love. Why does God require this of Hosea? Because God experiences spiritual adultery from His own bride, Israel, and Hosea’s pain is a human enactment of God’s pain due to the unfaithfulness of His apostate people. The Israelites have forsaken the Lord, their first love, in favor of Canaanite idol worship. But God never stops loving His bride, wooing her, and inviting her home with open arms. Our Lord still welcomes the wayward today.

Hosea 11:4: Lifting the Yoke

Scripture repeatedly presents images of God reaching out to His children, bridging gaps, bending down with provision, and lifting yokes of bondage from the necks of the oppressed. He is never content to passively wait for us, preferring to pursue us in our pain. No matter how much effort we put forth, we cannot hope to free ourselves from the entanglements of sin. Only God can lift and remove the yoke that drags us down.

Jonah 3:10: Cry for Mercy

Just as God sets up a scenario to motivate Jonah to repent and obey, so He allows the Ninevites to repent. True to His word, God accepts the repentance of this sinful city and elects not to destroy its inhabitants.

And still today He is merciful. There is no crime so hideous that God will not forgive. We all too easily forget that He is able to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We need only to cry out to Him in order to receive His mercy in overflowing measure.

Matthew 8:2–3: Cleansing Touch

The Master could have folded His arms and taken a step backward in a stance that would have spoken volumes. Instead, however, Jesus does the unthinkable and extends a healing touch. Imagine how the leper must have shivered in appreciation at that long-withheld relational gesture.

Like the leper, we find ourselves in desperate need of the Lord’s mercy for our “incurable” disease—sin. And He, in turn, longs to reach out His hand to forgive and heal us. He waits only for us to ask.

Mark 2:17: Master Physician

Jesus’ mission is to help the hurting, the disadvantaged, the out-of-control. Those who are willing to recognize their own sinful lifestyle acknowledge their need for healing, while the so-called “righteous” bury their wounds under the guise of pride and allow them to fester unattended.

A doctor cannot treat a patient who refuses to point out where it hurts. So also Jesus directs His attention to those willing to confess their needy condition. Likewise, we are never too sinful for the Savior’s healing hands. He beckons us, eager to extend a healing, forgiving touch.

Luke 1:78: Tender Mercy

Zechariah declares the tender mercy of God that imparts salvation, peace, and guidance. That constitutes quite a pronouncement from a man who has been struck dumb for his failure to believe God’s words. The inability to talk hardly indicates mercy, but the old priest recognizes God’s long-range plan and rejoices. Despite his unbelief, God allows Zechariah to speak again, to raise a son in his old age, and to do his part to help usher in the Messiah.

Despite our failings, we too can speak boldly of God’s love and provision and find comfort in His unfailing mercy toward us. God, who exhibits “compassion and . . . faithfulness” (Psalm 25:6), invites us to approach Him in confidence, “so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Luke 23:33–34: Ultimate Forgiveness

The public place of Jesus’ crucifixion is called Calvary in Latin and Golgotha (meaning “skull”) in Aramaic. Suspended on a cross between two criminals, Jesus gazes down at His murderers—Jewish religious and governmental leaders, Roman politicians, soldiers, and everyday citizens—and implores the heavenly Father to forgive them.

As sinners we all participate in Jesus’ death sentence. But thanks be to God that we are forever pardoned because He willingly “gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:6). By pardoning His executioners—by pardoning us—Jesus poignantly and unforgettably models the truth that, no matter how grievous the offense, we too can forgive others (Colossians 3:13).

Acts 3:19: Refreshment Time

Like a welcome spring rain, the Lord’s presence refreshes our souls. But it is difficult to feel renewed if we are burdened with sin. Peter exhorts his listeners—and us—to repent and enter the Lord’s presence with a clear conscience and open heart. Inner cleansing always precedes spiritual refreshing. We can pray with the psalmist, “Create in me a clean heart, God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10), and then wait for His response. God promises to refresh and satisfy us (Jeremiah 31:25).

Romans 5:20: Bountiful Grace

Some Christians find it disturbing or even disgusting that an individual convicted of heinous crimes could be saved by grace. In general we confess that God forgives any sin, yet it becomes difficult at times to accept the gruesome specifics.

But God’s Word tells us clearly that where sin abounds, grace abounds, too. Even though sin affects lives in markedly different ways, in the final analysis sin is sin, and all sin is covered by the same grace. No matter what we have done, it is never too horrible for God to forgive. His promise of bountiful grace extends to all of humanity, with no strings attached.

1 Corinthians 4:5: Nothing Hidden

Only God knows our heart’s motives, but one day even the dark places in us will be exposed. We may opt to live on earth hoarding “deep, dark” secrets, but God will reveal those hidden places when we see His face.

In Psalm 139 David invites God to search him and reveal any offensive ways. God promises us the benefits of His unconditional love and pardon if we are willing to submit to His spotlight. With His forgiveness, we can someday bask in His brilliant and unrelenting light.

Galatians 1:4: The Rescuer

Paul begins his letter to the Galatians by reminding these believers that Jesus gave Himself to rescue them from the evil age in which they live. The same is true for us today. History has proved that every age is permeated by evil. Wars, unbelief, illness, prejudice, adultery, injustice—whatever the threat, pressure, or temptation, Jesus Christ still promises us Himself, and He is the eternal rescuer.

Philemon 6: Full Forgiveness

In his letter to Philemon, Paul prays that Philemon will come to a full understanding of “every good thing which is in you for the sake of Christ.” Perhaps Paul implies that Philemon will understand God’s forgiveness more fully if he pardons Onesimus. And maybe Onesimus will better comprehend it, too.

Sometimes situations on earth model heavenly concepts to us. If we choose as God intends, we’re spiritually richer and wiser for it.

Hebrews 9:22: The Complete Sacrifice

In the Old Testament, and particularly in Leviticus, the ritual of blood sacrifice functions under the law. It requires shedding an animal’s blood to atone for the sin of a human being. In the same way, the blood of the perfect Lamb, Jesus Christ, is required as the final atoning sacrifice for the sin of all humankind.

James 5:16: Prayer Power

We often prefer to conceal our sin, assuming that we are protecting ourselves from judgment. Instead, the sin only festers, deepens our shame, and corrodes our spirit. But when we confess to one another, we free ourselves from our burden of guilt and open the door for healing—emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual.

Of course, we are to repent of all our sin directly to God (1 John 1:9). But there are times when, with a trusted friend or adviser, we can confess specific sins to one another, and the Spirit’s power to heal is applied to our lives. Above all, we are freed from guilt and condemnation.

God’s Provision for Salvation

Genesis 6:13–18: God Provides a Way Out

In this passage God’s anger burns against the inhabitants of earth, whose thoughts and inclinations are “only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). But, in His mercy, God provides a way out for one righteous man and his family. Noah’s obedience to these surprising instructions is evidence of why this man, above all others, “found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8).

Those who have trusted in God’s salvation through Jesus Christ are like Noah. By God’s grace and relying on the Spirit’s power, they work day by day, plank by plank, peg by peg to construct a life of which others will take notice. All this is in imitation of Jesus, who in His thirty-three earthly years gave His followers the perfect blueprint for a life lived in service to God.

Psalm 2:8: International Inheritance

As God’s children, we can ask Him for anything and expect to receive His best (Matthew 7:7). Jesus explains, “So if you, despite being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11).

Although we are to present our personal requests to the Father, it pleases Him when we intercede on behalf of the needy. God wants to supply their physical needs, but He also grieves their spiritual emptiness. So if we ask, He will give us the nations as our inheritance—not to rule over them, but to serve them. God maps the way to reach the lost for Christ, ensuring their salvation and an eternity in heaven.

Ezekiel 22:30: In the Gap

God desires to save the lost, and He uses His spiritual children to accomplish this purpose. One reason we remain on earth after accepting Jesus as Lord is to lead others to Him. God asks us to stand in the gap between Himself and the unredeemed. Jesus bridges the gulf between God and humans, and we can be tangible gap-fillers who point the way to Christ.

Jonah 4:11: Eternal Priority

God has His own priorities in order, and He wants us to follow His example. No matter who or what else may appear important, God cares most about people’s souls. And He asks us to exercise that same eternal priority in our daily lives.

Habakkuk 3:13: Strong Deliverer

God is a gentle and loving Father, yet He is wrathful enough in His justice to destroy His enemies. He delivers one and crushes another simultaneously. But our Lord is utterly consistent in character: His overriding desire is and always has been the salvation of His people. The Old Testament prophets speak oracles about the judgment and punishment of God, but they also hold out the offer of His mercy and deliverance for repentant sinners. No matter the nature or extent of our sin, we can count on God’s forgiveness and blessing when we turn to Him.

Matthew 19:26: Mission Possible

In the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day, the rich were considered blessed by God and likely candidates for heaven. But Jesus debunks this concept when He tells His disciples about the true requirements for salvation.

God wants us to remember that faith in Him alone—not wealth, good deeds, or social status—saves us from eternal punishment. He also insists that no one’s situation is beyond the reach of salvation. With God all things are possible!

Acts 4:12: One Way

Driving the wrong direction on a one-way street invites disaster. So does seeking salvation through anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ. He is the one way to the Father, to forgiveness of sins, to eternal life in heaven. Although we may seek other roads, they will without exception lead to dead ends and destruction. So we can thank God for His clear affirmation that Christ is the only way.

Acts 16:31: Household Faith

The key to salvation can be summed up in one word: believe. Belief affects not only us, but also those around us. Accepting Jesus Christ as Savior, and living for Him, can draw our families, friends, and associates to salvation. There is an irresistible quality in the person who practices a transforming belief.

Acts 28:28: Listening Ears

The primary theme of Acts is that Jesus Christ freely offers salvation to everyone. The book ends with a confident declaration that the gospel will reach the Gentiles and that they will listen and respond to it. These prophetic words still apply today, following two thousand years of church growth. What a heritage!

Yet we cannot stop there. We are not only to listen to God for salvation but also to heed His voice in all that we do. We can pray with confidence, “Let me hear Your faithfulness in the morning; for I trust in You; teach me the way in which I should walk, for to You I lift up my soul” (Psalm 143:8).

Romans 3:23: All Means All

God declares unambiguously that all have sinned. That all includes the murderer and the minister, the adulterer and the church’s adult education instructor. Each human being stands equally guilty before God. Not one person can inherit Christ’s glory based on human effort.

But precisely because all people have sinned, all people have equal access to salvation. Those who trust in Jesus for salvation are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). By acceptance of this grace, all people can lay claim to this totally unmerited forgiveness.

Romans 11:29: The Unregrettable Gift

The word irrevocable means “final,” “irreversible,” or, in a sense, “unregretted.” No matter what our degree of unbelief or rebellion, God never regrets offering the gift of salvation to the world. Sometimes we give a gift and almost instantly wish we could take it back. Perhaps we have given something of great value, and the recipient does not begin to comprehend or appreciate that value. We will never fully understand, on this side of heaven, the value of Jesus’ shed blood. But thankfully, God has rained it down lavishly on us without a hint of reluctance or regret.

1 Corinthians 15:3–4: God’s Transmitters

Paul’s calling is to receive and transmit the gospel, to accept salvation and pass along the good news, and to receive truth and articulate it as doctrinal training to others. The apostle does not hoard for himself anything that he has been given. But it is important to realize that Paul can only transmit what he himself has received. We too are receivers and transmitters, designed to accept what God offers and share the bounty with others.

Ephesians 2:8: God’s Gift to Us

Our salvation originates from no other source but grace. It is a free and undeserved gift from God. All our striving is powerless to save us, and our good works pale in comparison to God’s unrivaled gift (Isaiah 64:6). Yet it is precisely because of our inability to measure up that God releases us from the pressure of trying to be perfect. God offers salvation free of charge. We are totally deficient in terms of an ability to earn salvation—but we need only hold out yielded and uplifted palms to receive it.

God’s Provision of a Spiritual Family

Exodus 17:12: Holding Up

What a sight: two men holding up another man’s arms all day long. It’s a curious picture of devotion and perseverance, of determined support for a beloved leader. This persistence leads to Israel’s victory, so in this case supporting one person affects the safety and future of a multitude. In the process, Aaron and Hur model true spiritual brotherhood. We can learn from this example as we commit to holding up someone in trouble and following through until the need subsides. And who knows but that our support for one could lead to the salvation of many?

Psalm 68:6: Finding a Family

In a culture characterized by broken families and long-distance relationships, this promise soothes the soul. God wants to fill the belonging needs of the fatherless, motherless, orphaned, widowed, divorced, and single—or of those who live many miles from their extended families or muddle through life with no significant support system. However, God uses people to fulfill these familial needs, and we’re to participate in pulling hands and hearts together.

Belonging doesn’t happen by merely wishing for it. Nor do soul connections reside exclusively in nuclear families. We’re to participate actively in God’s plan for spiritual families, whatever their makeup. The rewards are worth it.

Psalm 123:2: Look to the Lord

A well-loved baby looks to his parents with trust and adoration. He doesn’t question their ability to provide or their desire to fulfill his needs. A baby also makes his needs known until they’re met. It doesn’t occur to a baby that somebody may not be capable of helping him. He clamors until he’s satisfied.

In a similar way, we are to look to the Lord until He shows us mercy. We are to ask for, expect, and wait for His goodness until it arrives. God is our Father, and unlike human parents He doesn’t grow weary from our requests (Isaiah 40:28). Instead, He treasures our trust in Him.

Proverbs 27:17: Act Sharp

God blesses His people with community—and the opportunity for unity. It is within that context that we sharpen one another. Sometimes the result is fantastic, while at other times sparks fly. But so long as we are willing to remain committed to one another, we may be assured that we will experience God together. God provides a spiritual family within which we can be nurtured, encouraged, and held accountable as we grow to know Him better. He fulfills His promise of oneness through our relationships with other people.

Ezekiel 11:17: Safe at Home

In Ezekiel 11:16 the Lord identifies Himself as a sanctuary for Israel. This metaphor resonates with the people because enemy armies have driven them from Jerusalem and its temple, a symbol of God’s presence. But now the Lord Himself will be their sanctuary. God is the loving and pursuing Shepherd who gathers His people together into the safest of dwelling places—Himself. Whether we live in an imposing mansion or a tumbledown shanty, our only secure dwelling place is with God. He still gathers His children who have been scattered by sin. He is our sanctuary, our safe refuge, the One who pursues us to the ends of the earth and brings us home to Himself.

Mark 6:7: Strength in Numbers

Perhaps as Jesus sends His disciples out in pairs He is thinking of Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 4:9–10: “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor; for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.”

God is our strong tower (Psalm 61:3), but He often uses other people to encourage and support us, to pick us up when we fall. Being part of a spiritual family means that we have people to lean on, knowing that there is spiritual strength in numbers.

Romans 2:11: Equal Opportunity

God’s equal-opportunity plan extends to all types of people and encompasses every kind of diversity. It transcends the arbitrary and artificial ethnic, social, economic, and religious barriers that we as human beings erect and stubbornly defend. Jesus Christ invites every person to join the family of believers represented on earth by His church.

Romans 15:7: We Are One

In many of his New Testament writings, Paul encourages unity among believers. If the perfect Christ accepts the imperfect us, the apostle reasons, then shouldn’t we accept one another? Paul presents both a strong and a humble argument for us to do better than just “get along.” He encourages us to sincerely love and support one another. The more fully we are able to accept one another, the more Christlike we become and the more we please God.

2 Timothy 2:1: A Sure Foundation

God has sealed His church, His body of believers, as the solid foundation to uphold the truth on earth. The church isn’t a building, denomination, or set of rules. The church is made of people who have repented of sin and confessed Jesus Christ as their only Savior. Only God knows people’s hearts and can judge who belongs to the body of Christ. While false teachers will always try to distort the truth, we can be sure that God will direct His church to remain faithful and prevail firmly against the gates of hell.

God’s Provision of a Heavenly Father

Jeremiah 9:24: The Kind Father

This is a beautiful image of God the Father. He has complete authority, yet He elects to temper it with mercy through His kindness, justice, and righteousness. Paul writes to the Romans about this same apparent contradiction: “See then the kindness and severity of God” (Romans 11:22). When we do, we discover that God is the perfect Parent who guides, loves, and corrects us according to our need.

Jonah 1:17: Unexpected Miracles

God has a well-deserved reputation for providing a way when there seems to be no way. It is important that we never attempt to impose artificial limits on the way our Father works. We experience difficulties and tend to try to dictate to God precisely how He should save us. But God is more powerful and creative than we could ever imagine. And although His solution may not appear to be promising from our limited perspective, God invariably opens up the best way out of any predicament.

Matthew 7:7–8: Finders Keepers

“Finders keepers, losers weepers.” This childhood ditty harbors deeper wisdom about the spiritual quest. We are to keep seeking until we find, or else we will lose out on God’s treasures. Jesus understands this, and He encourages us to approach the Father with repeated and unrelenting prayer, asking Him to meet our needs through His inexhaustible divine supply.

Even beyond this, we need to keep seeking until we find not simply God’s answers and provision, but the Lord Himself. We can take heart in knowing that “He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). So keep on seeking. The heavenly Father is the greatest discovery of all.

God’s Provision for Being Loved

Genesis 37:9–11: Expect Jealousy

Joseph eventually learned that being chosen by God doesn’t guarantee that everyone will understand the calling. In most cases, those who have been blessed by God can practically depend on a jealous contingency to criticize and fight them. When that happens, it is important to gravitate toward people who sense God’s hand of blessing and to support both the chosen plan and person.

To be sure, a display of humility on Joseph’s part would have gone a long way toward alleviating his brothers’ jealousy. But Israel, Joseph’s father, recognizes God’s plan in the midst of this sibling rivalry, and ponders what it might mean for his son (Genesis 37:11).

Look around. Who stands by to support you?

Job 35:10: Songs in the Night

Suffering tends to intensify at night, and whispered reassurance, a hand holding ours, or just a gentle presence in the darkness can encourage us. The Lord wraps these comforts into His songs in the night, soothing our souls with His nearness. Whether we read the lyrics of Scripture, play hymns and choruses, sing to ourselves, or listen for God’s melodic voice within, the libretto always speaks of love.

Song of Songs 4:9–10: Stolen Glance, Stolen Heart

The main theme of this short book is unmistakable: love. Through a series of poetic choruses, the lover and his beloved profess their love for one another, and their friends praise them for doing so. These two short verses contain one of the more romantic statements in a book filled with culturally influenced imagery that is perhaps muted by our limited understanding of the context.

The man’s love for his bride in these verses is at once surprisingly spontaneous and completely consuming. Their mutual admiration is unmistakable, and as readers we can join in the celebration of their love. How wonderful that God instituted the marriage relationship between one man and one woman as a testament to and a darkly reflected image of His love for His children (see Ephesians 5:25–33; Revelation 19:7; 21:2).

Song of Songs 8:6–7: The Seal of Love

One of the great blessings God gives to us as humans is our capacity to love other people. The seal imagery in this verse implies an exclusivity and commitment that was publicly recognized, and the rest of the passage speaks of the power of the love that exists between two people.

To be sure, our capacity to love is not perfect; it remains unrefined and is often subdued and corrupted by selfishness, contentiousness, anger, or any of a number of other sins. Still, it remains one of the most powerful forces of the human experience. As God’s image bearers, our experience with the power of love should turn our hearts toward the One who loves His people perfectly, powerfully, and eternally. His seal is on our hearts, and His commitment to those who love Him will never fade.

Isaiah 26:3: Perfect Peace

Think of a baby asleep in her mother’s arms. What a picture of perfect peace! As the baby grows, she learns to trust that her mother will meet her needs. In a similar way, as we take steps to trust God, He exhibits His trustworthiness. As we grow in trust and focus our minds steadfastly on Him, He fulfills our need for peace and love.

Malachi 3:10: No Holding Back

There is no half-heartedness with God. When He makes a promise, He leaves no doubt about its meaning. Our ever-generous Provider does more than just crack open the gates of heaven so that blessings can trickle down upon His faithful children. When we respond to Him in obedience, He flings wide the gates so that His blessings can gush forth in abundant and refreshing rainfall. We cannot even begin to fathom the height or depth or breadth of God’s great love.

John 15:9: No Greater Love

In the “Upper Room Discourse” (John 13–17), Jesus talks freely of both divine and brotherly love. He encourages His disciples to love each other as He has loved them (John 15:12). Modeling this agapē love is impossible without God’s help. But when Jesus abides within us, He brings with Him the love that He Himself enjoys in His relationship with the Father. Because God loves us to an infinite degree, let’s exhibit a touch of our Lord’s generosity today and spread that love to others.

John 17:26: The Power of Love

John 17 is Jesus’ prayer for His disciples, including those who follow Him today. And what a prayer! Jesus intercedes for our protection against Satan’s onslaughts and for unity among our Christian brothers and sisters. He also prays that God’s love will dwell in us. No human being can ever begin to love us like God does. God’s love is “better than life” (Psalm 63:3), and, “if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). Because God relates to us with this unfailing love, we are liberated to extend in some small measure the same love to others every day of our lives.

1 Peter 4:8: Stretching Love

Here Peter urges his readers to stretch the boundaries of love to cover the flaws and failings of others. When we stretch, we do not ignore the sins of those around us but instead forgive them, just as we need others to pardon us. If we are willing to forgive others, they, in turn, are much more likely to forgive us for our faults.

God’s Provision for Material Needs

Genesis 9:7: Be Fruitful

As another sign of God’s intent to spare the earth, He instructs Noah to “be fruitful and multiply.” Noah’s family is to repopulate the land, producing offspring whose descendants will eventually replenish the entire world. But God’s blessing of fruitfulness extends beyond the conception of heirs. God blesses Noah, “a man of the soil” (Genesis 9:20 NIV), so that he can feed and provide for his family, too. God’s blessing of fruitfulness covers all areas of life.

Exodus 11:3: Favored People

Although Pharaoh despises God’s people, the Egyptian people ignore their ruler’s opinion and form their own. God inspires the Egyptian populace to donate their wealth, and so fulfills a promise made earlier to Moses (Exodus 3:21–22).

We shouldn’t envision the Egyptians in a trance-like state handing over their riches to slaves. Rather, we can assume that God’s mark on His people had earned the respect of their captors over the years. When we walk with God, His amazing favor more than covers us. It overflows to those around us, inspiring them to respond in remarkable ways.

Deuteronomy 8:18: The Way to Wealth

We may think we’re the clever ones when finances increase—that our newfound wealth emerges from lots of talent, education, and risk-taking, plus maybe a dash of good luck. But this verse reminds us that God pours out wealth, and only when we manage that wealth with His perspective do we truly enjoy it. Gaining that perspective begins with putting God and His precepts first because “the reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor, and life” (Proverbs 22:4).

Deuteronomy 24:19: For the Fatherless

God provides for the alien, orphan, and widow, and He employs us as the providers. In this passage, God instructs harvesters to leave behind extra sheaves for these disenfranchised people to glean for themselves. The same principle applies to olive and grape harvesters. Through faithfully observing this activity they will experience God’s blessing. How can we apply this principle to our lives today?

Ruth 4:14: The Kinsman-Redeemer

Hebrew law requires the male nearest in kinship to marry a young widow. In this culture, the transaction extends grace. She escapes the shame of singleness, receives daily provision, and continues the family name by hopefully bearing sons for her new husband. The kinsman-redeemer also purchases the deceased relative’s property, a crucial step for maintaining a family’s honor, income, and inheritance.

This Jewish tradition beautifully exemplifies how God redeems us. “For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the Lord of armies; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth” (Isaiah 54:5). As Redeemer and husband, the Lord provides for all our needs.

1 Kings 17:6: Morning and Evening

As the prophet hides in the ravine, God supplies Elijah with food and water both morning and evening. We learn from this episode that even when we are at our lowest point, weighed down by the onslaught of our enemies, God still loves and cares for us.

1 Chronicles 4:10: Be Blessed

Jabez must feel confident in the Lord because this descendant of Judah, in 1 Chronicles 4:10, asks God for guidance (“Oh that . . . Your hand might be with me”) and blessing, both personally (“keep me from harm”) and professionally (“extend my border”). The Lord grants Jabez’s request, and that might surprise some of us. Isn’t it presumptuous, maybe even arrogant, to ask God to prosper us and keep us from pain? No, not for a person who follows God. The text explains that Jabez “was more honorable than his brothers” (v. 9). Evidently God delights in this man’s righteousness and rewards him for it.

When we walk in God’s ways, we too can receive His blessings. Isaiah 3:10 says, “Say to the righteous that it will go well for them, for they will eat the fruit of their actions.” Proverbs 13:21 adds, “Adversity pursues sinners, but the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity.” Experience tells us that nobody escapes all of life’s challenges, but according to the Bible, if we live honorably we can inherit blessings.

1 Chronicles 18:11: New Ownership

After certain battles God declines to allow His people to keep any spoils. But in this case He lets David retain the gold, bronze, and silver articles captured from the enemy. The king must then dedicate these items to the Lord rather than hoarding them for himself. This dedication honors God as the victor in battle, cleanses the articles from evil attachments, and points to the Lord as the owner and giver of all good things. These valuables no longer belong to the pagans, nor does David own them. They belong to the Lord.

Likewise, when we dedicate our possessions to the Lord, we admit that we are merely stewards and not the ultimate owners of our property. Then we can enjoy our “articles” as God intends: using them for good purposes, but refusing to allow them to own or control us.

1 Chronicles 29:14: Circle of Giving

David expresses a truth that is both simple and profound. God calls us to give heartily to others, but that which we give away is in reality a gift from Him. The Lord asks us, then, to participate in a circle of giving. He gives to us and we, in turn, give to others. When we are willing to relinquish what we have called our own, then God blesses us with more. Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:38).

2 Chronicles 2:7: Expert Help

Even though Solomon has vast resources at his disposal, he still recognizes his own limitations and refuses to tolerate anything but superior work on the temple. So the king of Israel asks the king of Tyre to send him a skilled craftsman with expertise in working with precious metals, yarns, and engravings. He also asks for lumber from Tyre because the workmen there excel in cutting timber (2 Chronicles 2:8). These requests indicate that Solomon assesses his situation well. He will employ his own skilled workers, but he accurately pinpoints those areas in which he needs help. He understands how to recruit “the best of the best” from beyond his kingdom, and he isn’t too proud to ask an outsider to train his men.

When God assigns us a task, He also provides the people and wherewithal needed to accomplish it. He does this in creative ways, and we never have to worry about doing it all ourselves. So honestly assess your needs, ask God to fill them, and watch in amazement as He answers.

2 Chronicles 31:5–9: Plenty to Spare

The people give more than their firstfruits to the temple, so that the priests and Levites receive enough to support them with plenty to spare. Hezekiah orders that the bounty be placed in storehouses. When hearts are right before God people willingly give to His cause, even more than enough. And although we give without expecting anything in return, when we’re generous to God we open ourselves to experience His reciprocal generosity.

Nehemiah 6:9: Skeptics about Strength

To skeptics the rebuilding project appears too difficult for Nehemiah’s workers, but he doesn’t buy into this disbelief. It’s as though he asks with the psalmist, “From where will my help come?” (Psalm 121:1). Of course, Nehemiah already knows the answer: “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip” (Psalm 121:2–3). Nehemiah prays for strength, and God gives vigor and stamina both to him and to his workers.

Whatever the task God asks of us, He graces us with the ability to complete it. We obtain that ability, as Nehemiah does, through trust and prayer.

Proverbs 10:3: Daily Bread

How confused we can become about the distinction between needs and wants. God’s promises of provision focus on our needs. But when we are righteous, or living rightly, we can learn how to be content in every situation (Philippians 4:12).

How do we live rightly? The next two verses in Proverbs warn against laziness and exhort us to hard work. Right living entails our cooperation with God. Yet the beautiful irony is that when we are content, God blesses us abundantly. He is never a stingy father whose children have to pry blessings from His tightly closed fist. He is instead a generous and loving parent who pours out good things from His limitless storehouse. “Look at the birds of the sky,” Jesus invites us, “that they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather crops into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more important than they?” (Matthew 6:26).

Amos 3:2: Having and Giving

Just as God judges Israel for how well she cares for the needy in her midst, so we are responsible for exercising social justice. Jesus declares that those who refuse to feed and clothe the poor, who represent Him here on earth, are by extension refusing to feed and clothe our Lord Himself. If we “have,” we are expected to give. And when we give, we are assured of God’s blessing.

Matthew 15:32: Hunger Pains

For three days on a hillside beside the Sea of Galilee, immense crowds convey their wounded, ailing, and downcast to Jesus for healing. The Healer restores person after person, both in body and in soul. But Jesus also pays attention to the need of the people for food, refusing to allow the crowds to leave while suffering from hunger pains.

Jesus does not want to send us away hungry, either. Actually, He does not desire to send us away at all. His desire is to walk with us, assuaging all of our hunger—spiritual, physical, emotional, intellectual. When Jesus enters a life, He heals, fills, and ministers to the needs of the whole person.

Luke 12:22–31: The Worry Cure

God has a sure cure for anxiety. He directs us to make Him and His kingdom our primary focus. Worry is pointless because God cares for us and is intimately aware of our every need. When the weight of this world threatens to drag us down or make us anxious about work, relationships, finances—anything on this earth—God asks us to lift our sights to Him. As the kingdom of God becomes our primary concern, He promises to surprise us by meeting all of our daily needs—without our anxious prompting!

1 Timothy 4:1–4: It’s All Good

Because of the false teachings that were present in the Ephesian church, Paul urges Timothy to remind the church that all things created by God are good and to be received with thanksgiving.

With Paul’s teaching in mind we can be confident that material blessings from God aren’t inherently evil. God created the material world for us to enjoy and use for His glory. It’s how we use these blessings that matters, and this determines whether we’re living for the Lord or for ourselves.

1 Timothy 5:18: Wages for Workers

Here Paul exhorts Christians to honor those who work hard by preaching and teaching. Part of this honor includes financial support. It’s appropriate for believers to make provision for those who spiritually nurture believers. Despite the abuse of some preachers and teachers, it’s God’s desire that all workers receive the wages they deserve.

God’s Provision for Victory over Sin

Joshua 8:1: Down but Not Out

Though Achan sins and exposes the Israelites to God’s wrath (Joshua 7:20–26), the Lord instructs Joshua not to be afraid or discouraged. Joshua has obeyed and stopped the rebellion in his camp, and God assures him that he will conquer “the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land.” Similarly, repenting of our sin equips us for the spiritual battle. Though Satan wants to discourage us by parading past mistakes before us, God says, “Do not fear or be dismayed” (8:1). God focuses on present purity—seen through the power of His Son’s sacrifice on our behalf—instead of past transgressions.

Judges 21:25: Fit for Living

The book of Judges ends with the Israelites doing what is right in their own eyes. This is a sad commentary on their inability to learn from God’s interventions, and an example of the moral chaos that prevails when people don’t live under spiritual or governmental authority. Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson triumph in battle, but their personal lives fall short of God’s good intentions. Along with their countrymen, at times these deliverers still do what feels good without considering the consequences.

God wants both our public and personal selves to be fit in His eyes, not our own. So “do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3:7). Then we’ll be spiritually fit.

2 Kings 12:15: Honest Hope

What an unusual workplace! The managers who pay the workers don’t need to account for how they disperse the money. They are so honest that everyone trusts them. What a glorious picture of how God can transform individuals: A wicked and rebellious people repent and rebuild the temple with sincerity, joy, and integrity. How wonderful that, through the Spirit’s influence, people can turn their lives around and begin to live righteously.

Ezra 9:9: Not a Deserter

Even though the Jews live as slaves, Ezra recognizes that God hasn’t forgotten or deserted them. He’s giving His people “a little reviving in [their] bondage” (Ezra 9:8) by returning them to their beloved city, Jerusalem. In verse 10 Ezra admits that it is the people who have strayed from God, not God who has abandoned them. But still, Yahweh showers mercy and forgiveness on them.

When we are unfaithful, when we struggle with sin and disappoint ourselves, we can remember that God doesn’t desert us either. He graces us with forgiveness and “bits of relief” as we wrestle with habits and addictions that entangle us. The Lord knows that with His help, we can win the battle with sin.

Psalm 3:8: The Deliverer

David asks the Lord for deliverance from his enemies. He acknowledges God as his only hope, the One who truly and completely delivers those in bondage. All spiritual release flows from God, including deliverance from demons, curses, habits, enemies, poverty, addictions, and whatever else enslaves and blocks our spiritual victory. There is only one Deliverer, although people struggle against various bondages. Deliverance by any other name than that of God and His Son Jesus is counterfeit.

If we are trapped in sin, we can pray with the shepherd, “I was crying to the Lord with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. . . . Salvation belongs to the Lord” (Psalm 3:4, 8). He will save!

Psalm 60:12: The Big Gain

David begins this psalm feeling as though God has rejected him, but later he reasons that no one can extricate him from his dilemma and that God remains his only hope. With the Lord belongs victory, so David waits for God to act.

Struggling against strongholds of evil in our lives, we can sometimes feel as though God is overlooking us. People may assist and encourage us, but ultimately we need the Lord’s supernatural intervention. We can call on Him and wait for His answer. He promises to help us gain the victory.

Psalm 119:45: Freedom Walk

To walk in freedom means shedding bondage and the shame, worry, guilt, failure, and struggle it entails. We gain this freedom by obeying God’s precepts. Rather than tying us down, these laws release us into spiritual living that is characterized by a clear conscience and a buoyant heart. If we desire this inner freedom, we may obtain it not by flinging away responsibility, but through step-by-step obedience.

Proverbs 4:12: Sure-Footed Journey

The Bible often uses walking or running as a metaphor for our life with God. This promise tucks neatly into a chapter of instruction on the value of wisdom. “Wisdom is supreme,” Solomon writes just a few verses earlier (Proverbs 4:7 CSB). And surefootedness in our walk with God (i.e., victory over sin) is the logical result of following “the way of wisdom.”

Don’t we desire endurance and surefootedness? But we are still prone to wander from the path of wisdom. The next verse urges us to “take hold of instruction; do not let go.” We pray for God’s wisdom, but we can all too easily allow His instructions to slip through our fingers. This promise reassures those who walk God’s path, holding firmly to His hand.

Isaiah 38:17: The Gift of Victory

Hezekiah is ill to the point of death, and the prophet predicts that the king will indeed die. But Hezekiah appeals to God’s mercy and is granted fifteen additional years of life. Hezekiah praises God for His promise of life and forgiveness. And so it is with us: God’s mercy, not our own efforts, allows us to gain victory over sin. By His great mercy He “will not remember [our] sins” (Isaiah 43:25).

Ezekiel 3:21: Always a Way

God always provides a way out of any difficult situation. First Corinthians 10:13 promises that He will provide us with an escape route from every temptation. He also devises a way for us to evade His wrath and judgment. While in Ezekiel the righteous person escapes by obeying the prophet’s words, we bypass eternal judgment by choosing salvation through Jesus Christ. We are never trapped in a room without an open window.

Micah 7:7: Only One Hope

Micah lives in a difficult time. The institution of the family is disintegrating in the midst of idol worship and other sin. There is a pervasive feeling of hopelessness and confusion within society. Neighbors and friends feel that they cannot trust each other. People plot to hurt others, and evil has become as accepted and refined as a well-tuned instrument.

Despite all this, Micah knows where to turn. His energies are not channeled toward establishing a new world order or decreasing the crime rate. The prophet realizes that Israel’s only true hope is in God. Some forms of behavior can be legislated against, but externally imposed restraints cannot change people on the inside. What changed people then, and what changes them now, can only be a personal relationship with God.

Mark 14:38: Avoiding a Fall

Jesus understands the extent to which Satan gloats over any opportunity to attack Peter and the other disciples (Luke 22:31), so He offers them His most effective weapon: prayer. The offer still stands today.

Jesus empathizes with our weaknesses and wants us to understand how prayer can carry us through trials and temptations. He also knows firsthand what it is like to be tempted by Satan (Hebrews 4:15). Whatever the trials we face, Jesus encourages us to hang on to prayer, our direct link to His power.

Romans 12:2: The Battlefield

Paul exhorts the Romans to make a choice for life through the discipline of renewing their minds. We may rationalize that we have no control over our evil desires, but Paul insists that we can grow in our obedience to Christ by reprogramming our own thought patterns.

James 1:13–15 explains the cycle of sin. A sin is conceived when an evil desire takes root in the mind and begins to flourish. Paul states that we can abort this cycle by changing what we think about to begin with. A mind that refuses to dwell on temptation wins the battle against sin. Instead, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, [we are to] think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

1 Thessalonians 5:8: Shine On

When God sheds His unerring light, it exposes the shadowy things we hide in our souls. In the light of His love, He sweeps away the darkness and invites us to walk with Him, unashamed, in the sunlight. Even more, He holds our hand and teaches us the self-control and perseverance we need to “belong to the day” (NIV) rather than skulk in the sin and dark of night.

Hebrews 2:18: Great Compassion

In this context temptation causes Jesus’ suffering, and although He never falters, the Lord can sympathize with believers who wrestle against the enticement to sin. Unlike well-wishers who sometimes claim to empathize with us in our struggles without having experienced similar circumstances, Jesus has faced the most agonizing temptations and is “acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).[2] And partly on the basis of our Savior’s firsthand experience, His compassion for us is inexhaustible.

1 John 1:8: Denial to Deliverance

Denial runs deep in the heart of humans. We can list the faults in others but are often at a loss to identify our own. We can even deny our sins before God. In both instances, though, we only deceive ourselves. Often others pinpoint our sins before we do (even if they never mention them), and our all-knowing God sees them in plain view. The truth is that everybody sins and falls short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), but our Lord forgives our offenses if we confess them to Him (1 John 1:9). God yearns to accompany us from denial to deliverance.

1 John 3:20: Great Hearts

The Old Testament states that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). Yet John assures us that God is greater than the heart and that He can cure any wickedness it might harbor. When we receive Christ as Savior, our heart begins to function as our conscience for godly living (Psalm 37:31). Even if our heart grows overly sensitive, pummeling us with false guilt, we can set ourselves at rest in God’s presence (1 John 3:19) once we confess our sin to Him. The Lord releases us from condemnation so that we can cultivate great hearts for Him.

God’s Provision for Spiritual Growth

Genesis 41:52: Fruitful Suffering

God doesn’t waste our suffering. Whether we’re in pain because of our sin or because of His testing, the Lord can turn our suffering into blessing. We don’t need to wait until after the suffering to reap the benefits, either. God can use our pain to chisel away rough edges so we better express His character, deepening our relationship with Him. And as He did with Joseph, He might even choose to bestow personal and professional prosperity on us. Wherever God works, there’s fruitfulness.

Exodus 31:15: Holy Rest

God’s declaration in this passage stems from His own example (Exodus 31:17; see also Genesis 2:2). If God declared that His people needed a day of rest, why do we live as though we don’t? We accept the concept of sacred work—any labor devoted to the Lord—but overlook that God also ordains holy rest (Hebrews 4:10–11). When we take this physical and spiritual rest, we replenish both body and soul. We draw near to God, relaxing in His pleasure. So “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Enter into and enjoy His rest.

Numbers 18:7: The Gift of Ministry

The priesthood functions as God’s gift on two counts. First, it is a privilege for the Levites to serve God in this unique and reputable way. Second, the priests constitute a gift to the Israelites, serving their spiritual needs.

Do we consider our ministry, no matter the type or size, a gift from God? Do we view spiritual leaders as His blessing to us? The answers say more about our hearts than our heads.

Deuteronomy 11:19: Teach the Children

When the Bible tells us to teach our children about God’s precepts, it doesn’t imply setting up a classroom with an instructor and structured lessons. Though Bible classes and church schools play an important role in spiritual development, Scripture emphasizes that our children’s core instruction emerges from their relationship with their parents. According to this verse, mothers and fathers teach kids God’s Word while working and playing at home, traveling to and from places, before bedtime and at rising—and in the many other interactions between children and parents.

With thought and creativity, we can use almost any situation to teach children Scriptural principles. By doing so, our children learn to integrate the Lord into their whole lives rather than reserving Him only for church and other religious activities. As we teach bit by bit, a little here and a little there, the spiritual payoff in our children’s lives will be great and lasting.

Deuteronomy 13:3: The Test

In Scripture the idea of “testing” centers on teaching us and revealing what is in our hearts. Parts of “passing” a test may include our recognizing the sinful reality of our hearts, accepting discipline, and walking toward freedom. In this light, testing isn’t a negative experience imposed by a demanding Lord. It’s a way to teach us more about God and how to walk in His ways. In this chapter, the testing focuses on whether we follow false gods or Yahweh. If we worship the one true God, we find the mercy, compassion, and blessing that come only from His hand (Deuteronomy 13:17).

Judges 15:19: The Hollow Place

God opens up a hollow place in the ground and water gushes out so Samson can drink. In a similar way, the Lord can also open the hollow places in our souls, filling us with His Spirit and satisfying our inner needs.

Are our spirits dry and hard? Like Samson we can cry out to God, and He will soften our hearts and quench our spiritual thirst. For His people the Lord promises, “I will open rivers on the bare heights, and springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land fountains of water” (Isaiah 41:18).

1 Samuel 10:6: Powerful Change

Samuel declares that the Spirit of the Lord will radically change Saul, turning him into a prophet along with those in the musical procession. It is the Holy Spirit who deeply changes us, not our own best efforts and determination. However, we can quench the Spirit’s work in us and lose the power He bestows. Later, this happens to Saul when he chooses evil instead of godliness.

The apostle Paul understands this, and when he warns us not to quench the Spirit, he also admonishes us to live righteously: “Do not quench the Spirit, do not utterly reject prophecies, but examine everything; hold firmly to that which is good, abstain from every form of evil. . . . May your spirit and soul and body be kept complete, without blame” (1 Thessalonians 5:19–23). When we seek change through the Holy Spirit, purity precedes power.

2 Kings 2:9: Double Portion

Elisha desires a double portion of Elijah’s power as a prophet, and God grants it to him. Even the men from Jericho, prophets themselves, believe God has done so when Elisha parts the river waters (2 Kings 2:14–15).

Elisha’s request can serve as a spiritual metaphor for us. God honors our appeal for heightened spiritual power if first we desire more of Him. Seeking miracles for miracles’ sake gets us nowhere. Desiring more power in the Spirit honors God within, for opening ourselves to be increasingly controlled by the Spirit implies relinquishing more of ourselves. Spiritual power results from personal surrender. Elisha has learned this surrender from Elijah, and the Spirit Himself will teach us. So pray for a double portion and then listen for the Spirit’s response. Be prepared for whatever He may ask of you.

2 Kings 6:17: New Vision

Elisha asks God to open his servant’s eyes, and the Lord endows the fearful attendant with vision into the supernatural. The astounded man witnesses the Lord’s hosts ready to defend and protect His prophet. On the other hand, God blinds the eyes of the enemy intent on capturing Elisha (2 Kings 6:18).

In Scripture eyes and vision often represent spiritual understanding. With Elisha we can pray that God will open the eyes of the spiritually blind and give increased vision to believers. We might well begin with the psalmist’s prayer, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your Law” (Psalm 119:18). Although God keeps certain mysteries to Himself, there is still plenty He wants to show us, if we will but fix our gaze on Him.

Psalm 84:7: Strength to Strength

Those who place their trust in God send their hearts on a pilgrimage (Psalm 84:5). No fast sprints for them; they understand that the process of spiritual growth meanders up and down, over smooth and rocky terrain, throughout the course of a lifetime. Although their surroundings fluctuate, the relationship of such people with the Maker enables them to “strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble” (Hebrews 12:12) and to travel “from strength to strength.” They develop spiritual muscle that endures and allows them to reach their God-ordained destiny.

Psalm 141:5: Righteous Rebukes

How much better to be rebuked by the righteous than by the wicked! The writer goes so far as to equate correction by another believer as a kindness. If the well-meaning brother or sister in Christ speaks with love and sensitivity, there can be safety and healing in his or her words. The sin is forgiven and forgotten. On the other hand, evildoers use our mistakes to repeatedly goad and ridicule us with no intention of forgiving or forgetting.

May we build into our godly relationships the ability to lovingly correct one another before Satan grabs the opportunity afforded him by our offense and uses it to shame us endlessly. “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:15–16). That includes the work of rebuke and restoration.

Proverbs 19:17: Hearts for the Poor

Proverbs contains many exhortations to care for the poor and promises God’s blessing for those who do. Jesus declares that what we do for others we are actually doing for Him (Matthew 25:40). In addition, as we provide for others, we gain an opportunity for spiritual growth. Helping others enlarges our hearts for God and for other people. What better reward could there be?

Ecclesiastes 3:1: Testing Time

When we are sick but unable to determine what is wrong, a doctor runs tests to pinpoint a diagnosis. Before a gardener plants seed, he tests the soil to understand its composition. A mechanic test-drives and runs diagnostic checks on a vehicle to determine whether it is running as it should. In the same manner God tests us to expose the condition of our hearts (He already knows what is broken inside each person, but the testing shows us what needs spiritual repair). We can depend on this testing and learn to appreciate it. For when God examines us and we come up lacking, He offers Himself and His resources for our repair and renewal.

Isaiah 12:3: Wells of Salvation

Despite the dire predictions of Israel’s troubles in the preceding chapters, God again provides glimmers of hope. The remnant of His people will be redeemed. They will trust and not be afraid; they will draw life from the deep wells of salvation.

Like the children of Israel, we rebel against God and deserve punishment. But when we trust in Him, He saves us. And as our trust in God grows, so does our joy.

Jeremiah 6:16: The Good Way

This progression of seeking, walking, and resting is a metaphor for spiritual growth. To walk with God is to find rest for the soul. Earlier verses reveal the spiritual condition of God’s people: The leaders say “‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace. . . . Nor [do] they know even how to be ashamed” (Jeremiah 6:14–15). In other words, the people have lost their moral compass and no longer possess discernment or wisdom. Although they are moving farther from God, they fail to apprehend their own lostness. But the Lord keeps calling to His people: “Seek and you will find me.”

The God who has called to the Israelites is the same God who calls to us today. He longs for us to grow closer to Him and to walk in His way.

Jeremiah 17:8: Bearing Fruit

This poetic chapter, reminiscent of the promises of Psalm 1, contrasts the benefits of trusting God with the pain and desolation of relying on our own strength. Those who turn away from God are cursed and will be like “a bush in the desert” (Jeremiah 17:6), as compared with those who trust God, who will never “cease to yield fruit” (v. 8).

What is spiritual fruit? Jesus promises that “the one who remains in Me, and I in him bears much fruit” (John 15:5). We might be tempted to identify this fruit as some sort of measurable entity such as hours spent in ministry involvement or numbers of Christian converts, but Jesus says that it is godly character (Matthew 7:16–20). As we learn to love we grow spiritually, becoming more like Jesus and trusting the Father without hesitation or reservation.

Haggai 2:6–7: Shaking for Gold

Like a miner panning for gold, God shakes the nations to remove the unwanted debris of sin. He salvages the pure gold and refines it so that it gleams like a mirror to reflect Himself.

Matthew 5:5: Be Happy

Jesus’ Beatitudes define the path to spiritual happiness—a perspective and worldview characterized by joy and hope regardless of circumstances. God says that we are blessed when we relinquish pride and, with a mindset characterized by meekness, find our spiritual significance in Him alone. Matthew is the only scribe of the Beatitudes who mentions the incredible reward of meekness or gentleness: inheriting the earth.

Jesus, who is “gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29), invites us to learn the deceptively difficult art of meekness by emulating His attitudes and actions. Therein lies our only source of true happiness.

1 Corinthians 1:5–9: Personal Enrichment

What God gives, He gives in totality. We may feel inadequate to face our present circumstances, but God promises to provide all the resources we need to accomplish His will. Is there a particular situation or area of deficiency in your life for which you need God’s help? Ask Him. He will answer and enhance your capabilities infinitely beyond what you have thought possible.

Ephesians 5:8: Living Light

Paul reminds the Ephesian believers that they shine forth as a spiritual beacon, having been saved from the abject despair of sin’s darkness (see also Matthew 5:14). And where there is plenty of light, fruit grows abundantly (Ephesians 5:9).

When the Holy Spirit glows from within us, we can send out searchlights and serve as living lanterns for those groping hopelessly in the dead of the night.

Colossians 1:11: Keep Running

Life is more like a marathon than a sprint. Marathon runners need to exercise patience while training in order to develop the endurance to finish their races well. It is only through continual, grueling practice runs that the athlete can attain the necessary degree of fitness.

In a similar way the Christian walk is replete with uphill, arduous, and painful situations that flex our spiritual muscles and teach us patience and endurance. But the winning edge we enjoy is that we never have to walk or run on our own fuel. God strengthens us with His power, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. He also surrounds us with a great “cloud of witnesses,” those who have already completed the race and now stand on the sidelines to cheer us on to the finish line (Hebrews 12:1).

1 Thessalonians 4:3: Set Apart

While salvation is a one-time act, sanctification is an ongoing process. To be sanctified means to be “set apart” from the world and conformed to the image of Christ. Sanctification is a dynamic and progressive work of the Spirit of God, changing us from sinner to saint. However, while on earth we never graduate from the school of sanctification. Spiritually, God wants us to be lifelong learners.

To some, being set apart sounds stifling, and becoming like Christ seems much too difficult for our willful souls. But sanctification is an honorable “calling out” rather than a vindictive “reining in.” Nor do we accomplish sanctification on our own. The Holy Spirit does the work, if we’ll cooperate with Him. In the end, through the Spirit’s work of sanctification, we become more pliable and righteous, more filled with the love and joy of the Spirit. As always, God’s will is for our good.

1 Timothy 6:6: Contentment

As a way to identify teachers of false doctrine, Paul discusses their characteristics (1 Timothy 6:3–5). While Paul believes that church leaders should be cared for financially, he knows that some use a false godliness to earn money.

Sincere godliness doesn’t exhibit a need for personal gain. Rather, it’s a holiness that grows from knowing Christ. As believers of the true gospel, we can be content in any circumstance as we trust God to provide. Godliness and contentment are a powerful combination. They bless us with great personal and spiritual gain.

Hebrews 8:10: An Internal Desire

Hebrews 8:8–12 refers to a passage in Jeremiah (31:31–34) that extols the superiority of God’s new covenant through Jesus Christ over the old Mosaic covenant. In the new covenant the law becomes an internal set of principles that believers choose to obey, rather than a set of inflexible and externally imposed rules. In this new context, life, not death, exudes from the law. Consequently, we can keep the provisions of God’s law of love in the forefront of our minds while obeying Him from the heart.

2 Peter 1:5–10: Keys to Productivity

Peter states that the keys to productivity, the safeguards to prevent ourselves from stumbling, are faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Armed with these qualities, we will be effective, able to open the doors of spiritual opportunity and ministry. If we are cultivating these characteristics, nobody can stand in our way, because nothing can prevent God’s power from flowing through us.

God’s Provision for Guidance

Genesis 28:20–22: Testing God

In this passage Jacob tests the Lord much in the same way that, years later, Gideon will put out a fleece to test God’s promise (Judges 6:37–38). Like Thomas in the New Testament, Jacob needs proof before he will commit his all (John 20:25). Fortunately, God obliges all of these men and wins their trust and obedience.

Although we sometimes sin by testing God (Matthew 4:7), He might honor a sincere request to confirm His presence and purpose before embarking on a significant journey. This indicates we’re willing to obey but want to be sure we’re following the true Guide. After all, if God doesn’t go with us, it’s not worth going at all.

Genesis 45:5: Sent Ahead

God plans ahead for our provision—far beyond what we can see. Often He uses the unexpected, and sometimes He uses the calamitous, to provide for us. He molds Joseph’s tragedy into provision for a hungry world.

Sometimes we feel we’re off track and alone, even though we’re confident that we are following God’s commands. At those times we can consider ourselves “sent ahead,” like Joseph.

Exodus 13:21: Guiding Cloud

Clouds usually obscure vision and direction, but with a twist of holy irony, God uses a cloud pillar to physically guide His people during the day. The Israelites only need to follow the cloud, moving forward or stopping when it does, and they’re assured of walking in God’s will.

Just as God used a cloud to create clarity for His people, so He might also use the unexpected and unusual to guide us. If we watch carefully, He’ll show us whether to go or stay and, most of all, how to joyfully obey.

Exodus 40:36: Journey Mercy

The Israelites keep God in sight at all times, with a cloud by day and fire by night. Looking to Him, they know that they will be guided in the right path. By manifesting His presence in the pillar of cloud and fire, God gives His people journey mercy. Likewise, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), we receive mercy in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16) and guidance for each day.

Numbers 9:23: Careful Obedience

The Israelites practice exact obedience based on God’s precise guidance through the cloud. When the Lord says to stop traveling, they pitch tents. When He tells them to move forward, they break up camp. This careful obedience places them in the center of God’s will, without worries about whether or not they are on schedule. Whether the Jews stop for a year or travel for only a few days at a time, through Moses they trust the Lord’s timing.

We can receive God’s guidance through a spiritual leader or directly from the Lord Himself. Either way, we trust and obey God’s directives to be confident of His involvement in our lives. Even when God says to wait, if we obey we are moving ahead spiritually, carrying the Promised Land in our hearts.

Judges 6:37: First Fleece

Today Gideon would live in Missouri, the “Show-Me State.” The young farmer wants proof that God will protect and prosper him in battle. After all, he’s not trained as a warrior, nor does he aspire to be one. Why would the Lord choose him? God honors Gideon’s need for evidence, not just once, but twice (Judges 6:38–40). Now it’s time to act.

Though God doesn’t have to prove Himself to us, He is often gracious and condescends to bolster our faith. However, if we “set out a fleece” and God answers our request for proof of His leading, it’s time to stop the excuses. When we realize He has met our need, we need to go about fulfilling His mission.

2 Samuel 5:25: Simple Obedience

David realizes that his military victories depend on the Lord, so he follows God’s commands. He neither adopts a prideful attitude of “been there, done that” nor questions the validity of God’s tactics. He simply obeys.

What if, every time God were to whisper an instruction to us, we would obey His words? We would certainly be more victorious in our spiritual battles.

2 Chronicles 10:13: Bad Advice

King Rehoboam rejects the advice of his elders, and this decision spells disaster. Rebellion seeds rebellion as Israel separates from Judah and the two kingdoms war against one another.

Following the advice of our elders—those with greater experience and therefore superior insight and wisdom—can save us from making terrible mistakes. Rehoboam’s arrogance divides his kingdom. Our unwillingness to listen can sever relationships but can also tear apart our own hearts. “Blessed is a person who finds wisdom, and one who obtains understanding” (Proverbs 3:13).

2 Chronicles 13:12: The Lord, Our Leader

Judah’s warriors keep their priorities straight. God is the One who leads, not themselves or their earthly king. Their job is to follow and obey the Lord. Too often we make plans and then ask God to bless them, as though we expect Him to tag along after us. Victorious spiritual warfare—as well as successful living—depends on our willingness to follow His lead. Christ’s first command to His disciples is “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19).

2 Chronicles 35:21–22: Pagan Messenger

Josiah disbelieves Neco’s message to turn back from war because the Egyptian king doesn’t worship God. How can the Lord speak through a pagan? Yet God does, and Josiah loses his life in battle because of his disbelief.

God doesn’t speak to us only through Christians. Sometimes unbelievers deliver His truth, perhaps without their realizing it. Whomever God speaks through, He intends to guide us, even warn and rescue us. When we listen to the message, and do not judge the messenger, we save ourselves from trouble.

Psalm 48:14: Unto the End

The Lord leads us both in life and in death. He guides all our days, up to and beyond the moment we draw our last earthly breath. We can trust in God always to be our confidant and guide, whether on earth or in heaven. “You will guide me with Your plan, and afterward receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:24).

Proverbs 2:8: To Love Justice

To be just implies being fair and dealing appropriately with others. God mentions justice first in His “short list” of principles of appropriate conduct for His children. “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

When we act justly, God promises to watch over us. God wants to give us sound judgment, to guide us on a course toward justice. Once we are on course, He protects and guides us. Isn’t that just like our good God? He helps us to be faithful and then rewards us for becoming the very person He teaches us to be.

Proverbs 16:3: Success Strategy

We long to be successful, to achieve. We may think that we know the best way to accomplish things, but we cannot shoehorn our own agendas into God’s will. Rather, we can best forge our plans after we have committed ourselves, our tasks, and our goals to the Lord—and prayerfully considered how He is directing us. Seeking His guidance is always the first and best success strategy.

Isaiah 28:26: Growing in God

This promise appears in the middle of a parable on farming. Just as a farmer knows how to plant and harvest, so also God understands how to guide each individual to maximize his or her spiritual growth. God’s timing, methods, and instruction are perfect and work flawlessly together. God guides us in the only right way—in His way.

Isaiah 30:21: A Voice from Behind

The preceding verses assure us that when we cry for help, God will gladly answer, instruct, and guide. Sometimes we hear His guiding voice through inner promptings, sometimes through Scripture, and still other times through community. Other believers who know us can bring God’s wisdom to bear on our situation. Those around us, especially those anointed to teach, can observe what direction we are headed and guide us back to the right path.

Isaiah 58:11: The Need Meter

This promise of guidance summarizes a passage on spiritual practices, on living out our faith. Most of God’s direction in this text addresses caring for the poor. When our faith feels dry, like a sun-scorched land, the key to our receiving God’s help lies in our willingness to serve others. When we “satisfy the need of the afflicted” (Isaiah 58:10), then God, in turn, fulfills our needs.

Jeremiah 3:15: Wayward Children

God calls His exiled children to repent and return to Him. Although they have abandoned God’s way, He still desires to show them mercy and to maintain a relationship with them. But if His people refuse to come back to Him, God will not endow their leaders with the wisdom and understanding to keep them on track.

God still today provides guidance through His shepherds. Is He calling us to shepherd someone else, or to listen to the guidance of a shepherd He has placed over us? God will guide, but we must pay attention and follow.

Jeremiah 31:9: A Level Path

God’s promise to restore His people extends beyond pardon, although forgiveness is an amazing gift. He further promises the remnant of Israel that He will bring them back to Himself and their land, and that He will guide them along the way, leading them on a level path.

In the rocky, hilly desert of the Middle East, the image of a level path beside a stream is powerful, expressing the depth of God’s love, the clarity of His guidance, and His desire for the peace of His people. God’s forgiveness is complete, unconditional, and wholehearted. He refuses to hold a grudge or to bring up past grievances. Rather, the Lord promises, “I will turn their mourning into joy” (Jeremiah 31:13). Our changeless God still does the same for us.

Ezekiel 43:2: Go with the Flow

In the Bible water often symbolizes life, and in the present context God’s powerful, life-giving voice is likened to the roar of rushing waters. Those who have been caught in a strong undertow know how difficult it is to extricate oneself from the relentless, opposing force of the current. Similarly, as we immerse ourselves in the power of God’s presence, in His forceful glory, we find that we are compelled to move in whichever direction the Spirit tugs us. At that moment it is not up to us to choose the way; we need only to go with the flow, trusting that His guiding voice will not lead us astray and that He will never allow us to be dashed against the rocks of disaster.

Matthew 2:10: Heavenly Guide

King Herod is understandably disturbed by the exotic visitors—magi in quest of the Christ, the newborn King. But these resolute wise men focus on one goal: to worship “He who has been born King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2). The ever-present star is their stimulus and guarantee of success.

Some speculate that this guiding star was the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn around 7 BC. While there can be no doubt that God generally works through natural laws, it is equally true that humankind’s astrological explanations fall flat when compared to the Creator’s acts. God alone can control the stars. Genesis 1:16 reminds us that He made the stars, and Psalm 147:4 introduces the surprising concept that He “gives names to all of them.” This all-powerful Creator, who directed a brilliant heavenly body to proclaim the arrival of His Son, still controls the heavens—and He can and does guide the intimate details of our lives as well. This solicitous counsel and concern are His promises to us (Psalm 32:8).

Mark 1:35: Prayer Priority

Although Jesus communicates constantly with the Father, He still dedicates specific times to prayer. He rises before dawn to escape everyday distractions and to commune with His Father. On this particular day the Son of Man will embark on a preaching tour of Galilee. He needs wisdom, strength, and direction. In these early morning hours Jesus most likely pleads for these qualities for His disciples and for their ministry together.

But Jesus does not limit prayer to His earthly endeavors. Romans 8:34 tells us that our ascended Savior “also intercedes for us.” The high priority Jesus placed on prayer, both then and now, underscores its power and necessity. This passage reminds us that, if the Savior depended on prayer, so can we. So must we.

God’s Provision for Wisdom

Leviticus 10:10: Holy Discernment

We can identify many sins easily as blatant violations of God’s commandments. But sin can also disguise itself or reside in what seems to us to be the “gray areas” between right and wrong. God holds us responsible for all sin, whether or not we recognize the transgression. We need Spirit-influenced discernment and wisdom to distinguish between “the holy and the profane,” between right and wrong, in these situations. And if we ask, He promises to give these to us (James 1:5).

1 Kings 4:29: Measureless Wisdom

As we could never count the grains of sand on the seashore, neither can we fathom the wisdom of Solomon. He was wiser than any other person on earth, and his creativity abounded. It is difficult to imagine such talents, except that we know the king’s gifts originated with the Creator whose wisdom and creativity know no boundaries.

When God chooses to bless His children, their capacity grows remarkably. But so does their responsibility. Solomon’s accountability to God loomed as large as his treasure trove. Jesus says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more” (Luke 12:48).

Ezra 7:25: With Wisdom

Spiritual wisdom rests on Ezra, but he holds no special dispensation from God to live judiciously. The Lord imparts His wisdom to any of His children, if we only ask Him for it. James writes, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

But what characterizes such wisdom? It’s different from the world’s “I’ll outsmart you” attitude. The wisdom from heaven is “first pure; then peace-loving, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, free of hypocrisy” (James 3:17). This wisdom distinguishes Ezra, and it can characterize us, too.

Job 6:24: Teach Me, Lord

Although Job believes he hasn’t sinned, he still asks God to reveal what he has done wrong. Job opens his mind to possible blind spots in his character—and to the Lord’s correction. This willingness, even if expressed with frustration, marks a person humbly submitted to God. Job knows that if the Lord rebukes him, he will grow wiser. “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, rebuke a wise person and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise person and he will become still wiser; teach a righteous person and he will increase his insight” (Proverbs 9:8–9). And Proverbs 12:15: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a person who listens to advice is wise.” Our teacher lovingly fills us with wisdom.

Job 28:28: True Understanding

When we choose to shun evil, what happens? We understand that waywardness grieves the heart of God, our Father; that in the long term, pursuing sin only hurts us and saps our spiritual vitality; that it is easier to live “rightly” than to mop up our wrongdoings in their pathetic aftermath. And we understand that inner peace flowers from wise choices. So “do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3:7).

Proverbs 1:7: Bright Beginnings

The fear of the Lord—respect for and awe of Him—is not so much something we do as something He inspires within us. We fear God not because we ought to, but because, as we more deeply understand who He is, we respond to Him with a healthy respect and reverence. Accordingly, our primary goal is not to fear God, but to know Him. Respecting God emerges naturally from knowing Him.

As we experience God and begin to relate to Him with reverent awe, He promises us wisdom. In this verse the word beginning refers both to a starting point and to the true nature of something. So the fear of God is the essence of wisdom as well as a launching pad for growth in insight. It is wise to seek God, for our intimate knowledge of Him will only serve to expand our understanding.

Ezekiel 40:4: Listen Carefully

Steering clear of sin requires obeying everything that God commands us to do. So when God speaks, the key is to fully listen to Him. Too often we attend to only part of what He says and go away misguided and deluded. But God does not speak—or do anything—frivolously, and He calls us to be fully engaged in our relationship with Him. By avoiding distraction and paying careful attention to everything He has to say, we come to know Him and His expectations for us.

Zephaniah 2:3: In the Right Order

We yearn for many things in life—love, fulfilling relationships, success, notoriety, money. We draft five-year plans and list strategic goals that sound impressive. But God’s Word clearly tells us what we are to seek: righteousness, humility, and an abiding relationship with Him. Jesus assures us that when we seek God first, He will take care of everything else (Matthew 6:33). Our anxiety will decrease as we keep our priorities in the right order.

Romans 8:26: Our Comforter

In John 14:16 Jesus speaks of sending the Counselor or Comforter—the Holy Spirit—to be with us forever. In times of uncertainty or suffering, the Holy Spirit helps believers to pray. During our darkest moments, when we feel that we are at the end of our rope and can think of nothing to say to God to express our inner turmoil, God provides a way for us to communicate with Himself.

We need not be concerned about “saying the right thing” or having the perfect formula for prayer. The Holy Spirit is with us, interpreting our agony and articulating our need to the Father “with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).

1 Corinthians 2:16: The Mind Matters

Without the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, our minds are incapable of discerning the things of God. However, when we are empowered with the Spirit, we begin to think like Christ and find ourselves able to comprehend spiritual things.

1 Corinthians 16:9: Open Doors

Sometimes knowing and following God’s will means simply walking through the open door before us. No whip-crack of thunder shocks us into attention, and we do not even have to strain to hear a barely audible voice. An open door of opportunity simply beckons us to come inside, to see what new and amazing thing God can do.

Obedience requires faith in action on our part. It requires that we keep moving forward even without complete knowledge of where God might be leading us. But that is often the way to effective work and the abundant life.

[1]Quoted from the NASB1995.

[2]Quoted from the NASB1995.