Our six children always looked forward to their birthdays. Along with the usual present and a cake we had another ritual. Each year the kids would put their backs to the wall and I would measure with a pencil how much they had grown in that year. They were excited when they would pass one of their siblings. They got really excited when they grew taller than mom. My boys were so glad when they passed up dad on the growth chart. I think we quit measuring with those pencil marks when my youngest daughter passed up her dad.
Measuring our physical growth was rather fun as a kid. I wonder if we have measured our spiritual growth recently. The writer to Hebrews challenged his readers with this verse: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food” (Heb. 5:12). Though they had been saved long enough to become teachers they hadn’t grown spiritually. I wonder if we are growing in our knowledge of the Word of God. Do we have a better grasp on scripture than we did last year? How often do we pick up the Bible and read an extended portion taking notes and making applications? Have we grown in our prayer life? Have we expanded the scope of our prayers to include others beyond our family and friends? Have we grown deeper in our love for the Savior? Does the mention of His name stir our hearts more and more the longer we know Him? Are we growing in our resistance of temptation and mastery of the sins of the flesh? Can we see any growth marks in our relationships to others? Does anger and bitterness have less of a grip on us than it did last year? Do we see less of a focus on our self and more of a concern for others?
Father in heaven examine my heart and measure my growth today. Stir deep within me a desire to grow more and more like my Savior.
The thief found an unlocked window to sneak into the house while the owners were out of town. They found the jewelry that the lady of the house had in a drawer. She was broken hearted for the loss of the valued items. But what brought a greater grief is that the jewelry was handed down to her from her grandmother. She was robbed of her inheritance.
We who know Christ are promised a wonderful inheritance that He left for His followers. Two valuable items that Jesus left us in His last will and testament are His joy and His peace. They were His and guided and guarded Him throughout His life. In His last meeting with His followers before His death He gave them His joy. John 15:11 says: “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full”. The same joy that filled the heart of our Lord has been given to you and me as His followers. That same meeting with the disciples was the occasion when Jesus gave us His peace. He tells us in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid”. We have received the joy of Jesus and the peace of Jesus as our rightful inheritance as His followers. However I have to confess that sometimes I get robbed. There are occasions when I allow someone to sneak into my heart and steal the joy that Jesus gave me. While they are stealing my joy they also pick up my peace that I left unguarded. That is when I have to confess that I have left the door unlocked and the window open. I have allowed some person to steal the peace and joy that I inherited from my Lord.
How about you? Have you been robbed of your inheritance in Christ? Who is it that is robbing you of the wonderful peace and indescribable joy Christ has given to you? Lock the door and shut the window and hold tightly to your precious inheritance in Christ.
The most embarrassing moment of my growing up years happened to me in the third grade. I was new to the school and didn’t know all of the rules. I remembered hearing the teacher say if anyone wanted to get a popsicle for recess just come up to the front. I liked popsicles so I stood in line in front of the teacher’s desk. When it became my turn I told the teacher that I would like a grape popsicle. She looked at me and waited and then said to me, “where’s your nickel”. I either didn’t hear the part that you had to pay for the treat or she just assumed everyone knew. I remember being so embarrassed. I also remember the laughter of the other kids because I did not have a nickel to pay for the treat.
I am so glad that God doesn’t make us pay for the greatest gift the world has ever heard of. The refreshment of eternal life is offered freely even in the Old Testament. Isaiah 55:1 says: "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price”. That passage promises that our deepest thirst and our greatest hunger can be satisfied in the Lord. God invites everyone to come, to seek, and to call upon Him. Jesus also tell us: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). The salvation from sin that Jesus purchased with His death on the cross is offered to the world free of charge. All we must do is repent of our sins and come believing in Him.
Aren’t you glad that when we come to the Lord and humbly ask Him to forgive us of our sins He will not turn us away? We will never be embarrassed or laughed at for asking for eternal life. And our Lord will never say to us, “where’s your nickel”.
The Olympic Games generates so much interest in our country and around the world. People love to watch their favorite athletes compete and give their best performance. The 2016 Olympics had several heroes emerge from the competition. Michael Phelps has been called the greatest Olympian of all time after he finished his swimming career with 23 gold medals. Simone Biles became the most decorated American gymnast after winning 4 gold medals and 1 bronze in the 2016 Olympics. Records were set, medals were awarded, and our heroes received the recognition they deserve.
Most of us will never achieve anything near the hero status of an Olympic athlete. However our world needs what I call everyday heroes. You don’t have to run, swim, jump, or accomplish any other physical feat to be this kind of hero. The Bible has many ordinary people who became heroes in their time. As we look at these people we see some character traits that set them apart as heroes that we can aspire to. The first characteristic of heroes is that they have great compassion. They care deeply for others. They are not just living for themselves but are driven by a love for family, friends, or country. Heroes also have a sense of calling. Queen Esther when faced with the possibility of the annihilation of her people was told by Mordecai: “…Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). David when facing Goliath was heard to say: “is there not a cause?” What cause, what purpose, what task greater than you is God calling you to? Everyday heroes also exhibit uncommon courage. They are willing to make a sacrifice and risk their lives to save someone else. Esther said: “…if I perish, I perish”. (Esther 4:16).
Everyday heroes do not wear capes, they do not get their names engraved on marble, and they may never win a gold medal. Yet in this self-focused world we can live a God-directed and others-centered life. We can be someone’s hero.
Pastor Stultz has been writing this weekly devotional for many years. In 2009, he published a compilation of devotionals in book form, also called Moments of Meditation