18 “Come now, let’s settle this,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
I will make them as white as wool.
19 If you will only obey me,
you will have plenty to eat.
20 But if you turn away and refuse to listen,
you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies.
I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Isaiah 1:18-20) NLT
There are times the Lord has warned me—“that is not a good choice you are making.” He’s spoken to me through his word. But I, like the Israelites, tend to be “stiff-necked” and wanting my own way. Surely, I know better. What can be the harm of doing things my way? So, the proverbial “sword of your enemies” enters the picture. I tend to learn some lessons the hard way! Thankfully, there is repentance. Through Jesus, my sins are white as snow.
16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.[g] 17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” (Rom 1:16-17) NLT
I believe the Good News about Christ. I believe Jesus forgives my sins. Oh, how I wish he didn’t have to forgive as many as he does. I am thankful he makes me aware. The longer I walk with him, the more it grieves me when I haven’t acted as I know he would want me to act. I lose my temper, I say unkind words, I miss opportunities to be his hands and feet out of fear or because I’m just “too busy”. I complain way too much instead of trusting. If I look through my lens, I certainly don’t see a person becoming more like Jesus. But that is what is so good about the Good News. He does see the changes; he does not give up on me. With every pound of that hammer on the nails that held him to the cross, he showed how much he loves me and wants me to be with him. I am righteous because of him.
8 Let me say first that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world. 9 God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart[d] by spreading the Good News about his Son.
10 One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you. 11 For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. 12 When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. (Romans 1:8-12)
My small group has recently completed studying the book of Acts which is the account of how the church began and grew. As we read through the book, I could not help but notice how often Paul spoke of his prayers. In particular, he prayed to go to Rome. God answered that prayer after many years but certainly not in the way he expected. He went through so much hardship getting there: shipwrecks, flogging, imprisonment to mention a few. Yet he “counted it all joy” to suffer for Christ. How often do I pray for an opportunity to serve but I am unwilling (or complain) about the path God has chosen to answer that prayer? He was willing to endure whatever God asked in order to spread the Good News.
I love the basic principle he brought out— “I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.” I have noticed how much it encourages me to hear someone else’s testimony of faith. As thankful as I am to have my own testimony to share, it excites me to hear about God working in someone else’s life. Just that act of listening to someone else can be a gift to both of us.
Lord, I pray for the opportunity to encourage others by sharing my story and to be encouraged by listening to theirs. The Good News of Jesus and his love for us is too good to keep to ourselves. I pray to be as focused as Paul to tell as many people as possible of eternal life through belief in Jesus. In his mighty name I pray. Amen