14 But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. — 2 Cor. 2:14 NLT
When we realize the height, width and depth of God’s love for us, it should make us want to obey Him from a heart of love. Our compassion for sinners should be such that we want them to feel the joy of salvation just as we do. Our testimonies will be a sweet sound in God’s ear and a sweet smelling fragrance in His nostrils. It will be the same for those who accept Jesus as their Savior. But those who refuse to accept the free gift of salvation will find our lifestyles unattractive, perhaps even to the point of being obnoxious. So, how are we to treat these people? Just as Christ continued to love us until we came to Him, we should continue to show love to them. How can we do that? We certainly are not adequate to do it in our flesh, so we have to allow God to do it through us.
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. — Philippians 2:4
If we have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, we will always show the love that we have for others. We must always put Jesus first, then others next. The only way the world will know that we love Jesus is if we show that love to them and to each other. Jesus loved us to the point of laying down His life for us, even while we were still sinners. How much of your life are you willing to lay down to witness to your neighbors? Laying down our lives for others is about more than just taking time to talk to them, it is also about living a Holy life before them. Jesus has commanded us and He has also given us the power to speak words of life to those that He puts in our paths. But they won’t listen to us, if our walk doesn’t reflect our talk. As the saying goes, people don’t care what we know until they know that we care. Let each of us show how much we care by showing compassion in every situation.
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. — 2 Cor. 1:3 NLT
God, in His great love for us, wants to relieve us of all of our grief and distress. It is not His desire that we should suffer. No parent wants to see his or her child suffer. We want to reach out and comfort our children even when they may have caused their discomfort by a bad decision that they made. Love says help them, but Godly compassion says that there are times when they and we must endure those times of distress and grief so that we learn not to repeat our mistakes. As parents, we want to deliver our kids from the storm. The lesson that we need to learn and that we need to teach our children is that God doesn’t always need to deliver us from the storm, He is able to comfort us in the storm. Rough seas may come and destructive winds may blow but nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. When God doesn’t immediately deliver us from the storm we must seek His comfort in the storm. Then we will be able to pass that comfort, peace and joy on to those around us.
15 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, repeatedly sent his prophets to warn them, for he had compassion on his people and his Temple. — 2 Chronicles 36:15
Because of His great love and compassion, God had warned the Israelites again and again. The people and the leaders would repent and be faithful for a while. Then they would go back to their wicked ways and worship the idols of the nations around them. God would bring up armies against them, but He had never allowed them to completely destroy Jerusalem. This time, they had gone too far. Just as the prophets had told Josiah, God would allow the city to be destroyed and the people taken captive. He brought the Egyptains against the city and the Judahites had to pay tribute to the king of Egypt. Then, God brought the Babylonians against Judah to completely lay waste to Jerusalem and the land of Judah. They took the people to Babylon where they would remain in captivity until Cyrus of Persia became king. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemened to repeat it.” is a statement attributed to George Santayana in 1863. Our nation can learn and remember what God did to His chosen people, the Israelites or we will be condemned to repeat their failures as well. God has repeatedly sent His modern day prophets and preachers to warn our country to repent, turn from our wicked ways and return unto the God of our Fathers. Let us join together in prayer that we and our leaders will learn from history so that God can continue to bless us and not allow our great country to be destroyed.
12 Because Rehoboam humbled himself, the Lord’s anger was turned away, and he did not destroy him completely. There were still some good things in the land of Judah.
— 2 Chronicles 12:12 NLT
God is so good and merciful. He gives us opportunity after opportunity to repent and return to worshipping Him and Him alone. He had blessed all of Israel with forty years of peace and wealth beyond measure. Yet, here they were, back to worshipping idols. God had split the kingdom into Israel, the northern kingdom and Judah, the southern kingdom because of the iniquities of the people. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon was the king of the southern kingdom and reigned in Judah from Jerusalem. For a while, he was faithful to God, but then, he returned to idol worship and God sent Shishak and the Egyptian army to destroy Judah. After Shishak had taken the fortified towns in Judah, he advanced on Jerusalem. The king and the leaders of the people in Jerusalem humbled themselves so God did not allow Shishak to destroy Jerusalem, but He did allow Shishak to take all the wealth from Jerusalem and made the inhabitants his servants. God saw that there were still some good things in the land of Judah, so He relented. We need to pray that God will see that there are still some good things in our country and not destroy us yet. We need to pray that we and our leaders will humble ourselves under the mighty hand of the one true and Almighty God. We have had our warnings, let us pray fervently that God continues to show His great mercy and compassion on this nation.
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. — Luke 2:36-38 NIV
What faithfulness and perserverance was shown by Anna. We don’t know how many years she was at the temple, but if she married at the normal age for that time, it could have been sixty years or more. She “worshipped night and day, fasting and praying”. Anna had given up everything to fast, pray and worship God Her faithfulness led to her being allowed to speak to the parents and others telling them that Jesus was the long awaited Redeemer of Israel. It also led to her being one of the first few people to see Jesus and to her becoming one of the characters in the story of the greatest birth ever recorded. What a reward for her faithfulness. These three verses are probably the least known of the verses in the story in Luke, yet, they announce the fulfillment of the prophecy that a Redeemer would come to Israel and His name would be Emmanuel. Anna’s words became part of the basis for one of the most well-known Advent carols ever written. This short passage is a great encouragement for us to remain faithful to God through the good times and the bad times. God is always faithful and He always rewards faithfulness.
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.” — Lamentations 3:22-24 NIV
Let us use these two passages of scripture to remind us to be faithful throughout the year, through the good times and the rough times. In the fullness of time, our Redeemer will come again to ransom us and our reward will be an eternity spent with Him.
10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. — James 5:10, 11 NIV
God changed Abram’s name to Abraham which means “the Father of a multitude”. With that name change came a covenant promise that he would be exactly that. He and his wife Sarah waited many years for this to happen. God gave Joseph a dream that he would be a great leader and his family would bow down before him. He was thrown into a pit, sold into slavery and put into prison before that dream came to fruition. Job had it “all”, but God allowed satan to take it all from him and even allowed him to attack Job’s body as well. Job stood firm in refusing to blame or curse God and in the end, God gave him twice as much as he had before. Just as God had a plan for Abraham, Joseph, Job and the others, He has a plan for each of us. Today, we live in a world of “it’s all about me” and “I want all of this and I want it now”. We need to understand that none of us will wait as long as any of these people did to receive what God has promised us. We need to persevere in what we are now and where God has us now if we want to receive the blessings God wants to give each of us. We should do this with praise and joy because what God has in store for us is beyond our imagination.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — James 1:2-4 NIV