Ordinary People

We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. —2 Corinthians 4:7

Gideon was an ordinary person. His story, recorded in Judges 6, inspires me. He was a farmer, and a timid one at that. When God called him to deliver Israel from the Midianites, Gideon’s initial response was “How can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Judg. 6:15). God promised that He would be with Gideon and that he would be able to accomplish what he had been asked to do (v. 16). Gideon’s obedience brought victory to Israel, and he is listed as one of the great heroes of faith (Heb. 11:32).

Many other individuals played a significant part in this plan to save the Israelites from a strong enemy force. God provided Gideon with 300 men, valiant heroes all, to win the battle. We are not told their names, but their bravery and obedience are recorded in the Scriptures (Judg. 7:5-23).

Today, God is still calling ordinary people to do His work and assuring us that He will be with us as we do. Because we are ordinary people being used by God, it’s obvious that the power comes from God and not from us.

Lord, I am just an ordinary person, but You are an all-powerful God. I want to serve You. Please show me how and give me the strength.

God uses ordinary people to carry out His extraordinary plan.

INSIGHT:Today’s text provides some insight into how we should view situations for which we feel inadequate. Gideon did not feel prepared to go into battle against the Midianites who were oppressing Israel. Responding to Gideon’s understandable concern, God sent the angel of the Lord to encourage him. He said that Gideon should “go in the strength” he had (Judg. 6:14 niv), but he also said, “I will be with you” (v. 16). When God calls us to take on a difficult task, we can rely on His strength and power to help us accomplish it.


The Slow Walk

I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever. —John 14:16

Caleb was sick. Really sick! Diagnosed with a nervous system disease, the 5-year-old suffered from temporary paralysis. His anxious parents prayed. And waited. Slowly, Caleb began to recover. Months later, when doctors cleared him to attend school, all Caleb could manage was a slow, unsteady walk.

One day his dad visited him at school. He watched his son haltingly descend the steps to the playground. And then he saw Caleb’s young friend Tyler come alongside him. For the entire recess, as the other kids raced and romped and played, Tyler slowly walked the playground with his frail friend.

Job must have ached for a friend like Tyler. Instead, he had three friends who were certain he was guilty. “Who ever perished, being innocent?” asked Eliphaz (Job 4:7). Such accusations prompted Job to bitterly declare, “Miserable comforters are you all!” (16:2).

How unlike Jesus. On the eve of His crucifixion He took time to comfort His disciples. He promised them the Holy Spirit, who would be with them forever (John 14:16), and assured them, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (v. 18). Then, just before He returned to His Father, He said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

The One who died for us also walks with us, step by painstaking step.

Father, we tend to say too much to our hurting friends. Help us choose our words wisely. Teach us to walk slowly with those in pain, as You walk patiently with us.

Sometimes the best way to be like Jesus is to sit quietly with a hurting friend.



Darkness and Light

You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, . . . nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness. —Psalm 91:5-6

When I was a boy, I delivered newspapers to about 140 homes on two streets that were connected by a cemetery. Since I delivered a morning newspaper, I had to be out at 3:00 a.m. walking through that cemetery in the darkness. Sometimes I would be so frightened that I would actually run! I was afraid until I was standing safely under a streetlight on the other side. The scary darkness was dispelled by the light.

The psalmist understood the connection between fear and darkness, but he also knew that God is greater than those fears. He wrote, “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness” (Ps. 91:5-6). Neither terrors of night nor evil in the darkness need to drive us to fear. We have a God who sent His Son, the Light of the World (John 8:12).

In the light of God’s love and grace and truth, we can find courage, help, and strength to live for Him.

Lord, I come to You, the Light of the World. I want You to bring Your light into the darkness of my fears.

For help in overcoming worry, read discoveryseries.org/q0711

You need not fear the darkness if you are walking with the Light of the World.

INSIGHT:Psalm 91 celebrates the safety and security of those who trust in God. The psalmist warns of danger from insidious schemes of men, uninvited troubles, physical attacks, sickness, and disasters. But the Lord protects those who trust in Him. This psalm does not promise immunity from danger, but security in the midst of it. Various metaphors are used to describe the safety of the Lord including “the secret place of the Most High,” “the shadow of the Almighty,” a “refuge,” and a “fortress” (vv. 1-2). He will “cover [us] with His feathers,” “under His wings” we take refuge (v. 4), and “His faithful promises are [our] armor and protection” (v. 4 nlt).


Come to Me

I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger. —John 6:35

When Jesus lived on this earth, He invited people to come to Him, and He still does today (John 6:35). But what do He and His Father in heaven have that we need?

Salvation. Jesus is the only way to have forgiveness of sin and the promise of heaven. “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:15).

Purpose. We are to give all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength to following Jesus. “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34).

Comfort. In trial or sorrow, the “God of all comfort . . . comforts us in all our tribulation” (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

Wisdom. We need wisdom beyond our own for making decisions. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, . . . and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

Strength. When we’re weary, “the Lord will give strength to His people” (Ps. 29:11).

Abundant life. The fullest life is found in a relationship with Jesus. “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). Come!

How can I grow closer to God today?

Jesus invites us to come to Him for life.

INSIGHT:The day after Jesus performed the miracle of feeding thousands of people with just five loaves of bread and two fish, the crowd asked Him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’ ” (John 6:30-31 niv). This question is significant because it was the same group of people (or at least part of that group) that Jesus fed the day before who were now asking for a sign. They claimed their ancestors believed because they ate the bread from heaven. They had just seen Jesus miraculously provide bread for them, but they lacked faith to believe Jesus was who He said He was.


The Cyrus Cylinder

The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia. —Ezra 1:1

In 1879, archaeologists discovered a remarkable little item in an area now known as Iraq (biblical Babylon). Just 9 inches long, the Cyrus Cylinder records something that King Cyrus of Persia did 2,500 years ago. It says that Cyrus allowed a group of people to return to their homeland and rebuild their “holy cities.”

It’s the same story told in Ezra 1. There we read that “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia” to make a proclamation (v. 1). And in that proclamation, Cyrus said he was releasing the captives in Babylon to go home to Jerusalem, re-establish their homes, and rebuild their temple (vv. 2-5).

But there’s more to the story. Daniel confessed his sins and his people’s sins and pleaded with God to end the Babylonian captivity (Dan. 9). In response to Daniel’s prayer, God sent an angel to speak to Daniel (v. 21). Later He moved Cyrus to release the Hebrews. (See also Jer. 25:11-12; 39:10.)

Together, the Cyrus Cylinder and God’s Word combine to show us that the king’s heart was changed and he allowed the exiled Hebrews to go home and worship.

This story has great implications for us today. In a world that seems out of control, we can rest assured that God can move the hearts of leaders. We read in Proverbs 21:1 that “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord.” And Romans 13:1 says that “there is no authority except from God.”

The Lord, who is able to change our own hearts as well as the hearts of our leaders, can be trusted for He is in control. Let’s ask Him to work.

Dear Father, the world so often seems out of control. We know You are sovereign over everything. We pray that Your will be done in our homeland and in the hearts of our leaders.

Rather than complain, pray.

INSIGHT:Ezra is one of the Old Testament books that deals with the Israelites’ return to the land of promise after their exile in Babylon. Along with the books of Nehemiah and Haggai, it focuses on rebuilding Jerusalem, the once proud capital of the southern kingdom. Ezra’s role as a scribe was to rebuild the religious life of the Israelites through the law of Moses. In Nehemiah, the focus is on rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem to once again make it a safe haven for the people. Haggai’s focus some years later was on the importance of rebuilding the temple, the center of the Israelites’ national life.


A Letter from the Battlefield

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. —2 Timothy 4:7

For more than two decades, Andrew Carroll has been urging people not to throw away the letters written by family members or friends during a time of war. Carroll, director of the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University in California, considers them an irreplaceable link to tie families together and open a door of understanding. “Younger generations are reading these letters,” Carroll says, “and asking questions and saying, ‘Now I understand what you endured, what you sacrificed.’ ”

When the apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome and knew his life would soon end, he wrote a letter to a young man whom he considered a “son in the faith,” Timothy. Like a soldier on the battlefield, Paul opened his heart to him: “The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).

When we read the letters in the Bible that the heroes of the Christian faith have left for us and grasp what they endured because of their love for Christ, we gain courage to follow their example and to stand strong for those who come after us.

Lord, give us strength for the spiritual battles we face today, knowing that You have won the ultimate victory and that we will one day live eternally with You.

Run the race with eternity in view.

INSIGHT:Titus and 1 Timothy were probably written after the apostle Paul was released from house arrest in Rome (ad 61-62) and during his fourth missionary journey (ad 62–63; see Acts 28:30-31). When persecution broke out under Emperor Nero, Paul was imprisoned again. During this second Roman imprisonment, Paul wrote 2 Timothy (ad 65-67). This time he knew his death was imminent (4:6-7). Paul warns that a time is coming when Christians will not “endure sound doctrine” and will turn away from the truth (vv. 3-7). To counter false teaching, Timothy is to “preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (v. 2).


Fiery Conversation

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt. —Colossians 4:6

Where I come from in northern Ghana, bush fires are regular occurrences in the dry season between December and March. I’ve witnessed many acres of farmland set ablaze when the winds carried tiny embers from fireplaces or from cigarette butts carelessly thrown by the roadside. With the dry grassland vegetation, all that is needed to start a devastating fire is a little spark.

That is how James describes the tongue, calling it “a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6 niv). A false statement made here or backbiting there, a vicious remark somewhere else, and relationships are destroyed. “The words of the reckless pierce like swords,” says Proverbs 12:18, “but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (niv). Just as fire has both destructive and useful elements, so “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (18:21).

For conversation that reflects God’s presence in us and pleases Him, let it “always be with grace” (Col. 4:6). When expressing our opinions during disagreements, let’s ask God to help us choose wholesome language that brings honor to Him.

Guide my conversation today, Lord. May the words I choose bless and encourage others and build them up rather than tear them down. May You be pleased with what You hear.

Anger can make us speak our mind when we should be minding our speech.



Raise Your Hand

God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. —John 3:17

The St. Olaf Choir from Northfield, Minnesota, is renowned for making beautiful music. One reason for its excellence is the selection process. Applicants are chosen based not only on how well they sing but also on how they sound as part of the whole. Another reason is that all members agree to make the choir their first priority and commit to a rigorous rehearsal and performance schedule.

One of the things that intrigues me the most about this choir is what happens during rehearsals. Whenever members make a mistake, they raise their hand. Instead of trying to hide the blunder, they call attention to it! This allows the conductor to help each singer learn the difficult part, and it increases the likelihood of a flawless performance.

I think this is the kind of community Jesus was establishing when He told Nicodemus that God sent His Son into the world to save it, not condemn it (John 3:17). Shortly after this conversation, Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman at the public well. He made it easy for her to admit failure by promising her a better way of life where she could enjoy His forgiveness (John 4).

As members of Christ’s body on Earth, we should not fear admitting our wrongs but welcome it as an opportunity to together experience and rejoice in the forgiveness of God.

Lord, it’s our tendency to hide our sins and flaws. May we come to You in full honesty, understanding that we are loved and forgiven by You.

For further help in understanding the gift of forgiveness, read The Forgiveness of God at discoveryseries.org/q0602

We can’t put our sins behind us until we are ready to face them.



Christ the Redeemer

I know that my Redeemer lives. —Job 19:25

The famous statue Christ the Redeemer overlooks the city of Rio de Janeiro. The statue is a model of Christ with His arms extended so that His body forms the shape of a cross. Brazilian architect Heitor da Silva Costa designed the figure. He imagined that the city’s residents would see it as the first image to emerge from the darkness at dawn. At dusk, he hoped the city dwellers would view the setting sun as a halo behind the statue’s head.

There is value in keeping our eyes on our Redeemer each day, during the good times and the difficult times. As he suffered, Job said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth” (Job 19:25).

The cry of Job’s heart points us to Jesus—our living Savior who will visit the earth again one day (1 Thess. 4:16-18). Keeping our eyes on Jesus means remembering that we have been rescued from our sin. Jesus “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people” (Titus 2:14).

Anyone who has accepted Jesus as Savior has a reason to be glad today. No matter what we endure on earth, we can have hope today and look forward to enjoying eternity with Him.

Dear Jesus, You are my rescuer. Because You died and rose again, I am free from the consequences of my sin forever. Thank You for redeeming my life.

Through His cross and resurrection, Jesus rescues and redeems.



Rescuing the Reluctant

The men took hold of his hand, . . . the Lord being merciful to him, and they . . . set him outside the city. —Genesis 19:16

Many years ago during a water safety class, we were taught how to save a drowning person who is resisting rescue. “Approach the person from behind,” the instructor told us. “Place one arm across the person’s chest and flailing arms, and swim toward safety. If you approach from the front, the person may grab you and pull both of you down.” Panic and fear can paralyze the ability to think and act wisely.

When two angels sent by God came to rescue Lot and his family from the impending destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:12-13), they encountered resistance. Lot’s sons-in-law thought the warning was a joke (v. 14). When the angels told Lot to hurry and leave, he hesitated (v. 15). At that point, the two angels “took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters,” and led them safely out of the city because God was merciful toward them (v. 16).

When we reflect on our journey of faith in Christ, we can see God’s faithfulness in overcoming our reluctance and resistance. When we encounter people lashing out in spiritual desperation and fear, may we have God’s wisdom to show His love to them—and to every person who is reluctant to be rescued by Him.

Father, as I look at my own heart, I know I have resisted You and have been reluctant at times to come to You. Thank You for Your mercy. Help me to share with others who You are.

God’s mercy can overcome our resistance.