How You Can Make a Difference
How You Can Make a Difference
In an interview in Time Magazine, the great Swiss theologian Karl Barth recounted that he advised young theologians to ‘take your Bible and take your newspaper and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.’
When we read, watch or listen to the news it could be easy to get depressed. It sometimes seems that evil is triumphing over good. The plans of ‘the wicked’ seem to succeed, while others are subject to the ravages of terrorism, war, poverty and injustice.
This is why we desperately need to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and listen to the word of God. As we study the Scriptures, we see the triumph of good over evil. In each of the passages for today we see that evil will not ultimately triumph. At the end of the day, good wins. Furthermore, in this struggle between good and evil, you can make a difference.
Cry out to God for good to triumphPsalm 140:6–13
In a world with so much injustice towards the poor and needy, God will secure justice for the poor and uphold the cause of the needy. We know ultimately that the righteous will praise God’s name and the upright will live before him forever (vv.12–13).
David is surrounded by ‘trouble makers’ (v.9, MSG). They are ‘slanderers’ and people of violence (v.11). Some deal in physical blows, others deal in words. Both can be equally damaging. In the midst of this David cries out, ‘O Lord; do not let their plans succeed’ (v.8).
He ends this psalm on a note of trust: ‘I know that you, God, are on the side of victims, that you care for the rights of the poor. And I know that the righteous personally thank you, that good people are secure in your presence’ (vv.12–13, MSG).
Lord, I cry out: ‘“You are my God.” Hear, O Lord, my cry for mercy’ (v.6). Do not let those who slander your name succeed. Thank you that you are our strong deliverer and our shield (v.7).
Be someone who overcomes evil with goodRevelation 2:18–3:6
As we continue today to read Jesus’ words to the seven churches, we see that the battle between good and evil is not only something that occurs between the church and the world, but also inside the church itself. Jesus makes extraordinary and wonderful promises to those who overcome evil.
Live a holy life
The church in Thyatira is praised for its love, faith, service, perseverance and personal growth: ‘I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first’ (2:19).
However, Jesus challenges the church about its so-called ‘tolerance’. Today, the word ‘tolerance’ is regarded as one of the great virtues and only seen in a positive light. Tolerance is an extremely important quality. But, there are limits to tolerance and some forms of tolerance are not good.
Jesus criticises the church in Thyatira for their tolerance of sexual immorality in the church: ‘You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling’ (vv.20–21).
We live in a sex-saturated culture in which we are encouraged and expected to be sexually active and seek personal ‘sexual fulfilment’. The Bible has an extremely high view of sex, delighting in and encouraging it in the right context – that of a loving marriage. But anything beyond this, such as promiscuity or pornography, is exposed as destructive and unhelpful. We do not know what Jezebel’s sexual immorality was – but these verses are a reminder of the importance of sexual purity.
Jesus warns that unless they repent of Jezebel’s ways, disaster will follow (v.22b). The Son of God, ‘whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze’ (v.18), ‘searches hearts and minds’, and will repay each according to their deeds (v.23).
These aren’t simply words of condemnation, as they are accompanied by a call to ‘repentance’. In fact, even ‘Jezebel’ has been given a chance to repent (v.21). Where we have sinned sexually, it is so important to remember that we can be forgiven – our response to passages like this should not be despair, but repentance and gratitude.
The church is called to holiness. Jesus promises, ‘To those who overcome and do my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations… just as I have received authority from my Father' (vv.26–27). Jesus will share his authority with his faithful overcoming people.
You will also share his glory: ‘I will also give them the morning star’ (v.28). If you turn your back on the darkness of sin, you will see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. However great your current struggles in your battle for holiness, one day with this star, Jesus, you will remain absolutely and eternally content.
Holiness does not mean being perfect. It means living a life of integrity. It’s the opposite of hypocrisy. It means being real, honest and authentic.
The church in Sardis had the reputation for being alive, but was in fact dead (3:1). It looked active. It sounded like a good church to go to. Yet it had become complacent. Jesus calls them to repent: ‘Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent’ (v.3). They had heard the gospel and received the Holy Spirit. Remember what extraordinary and wonderful privileges these are, and do not take them for granted and become complacent.
The charge against Sardis is hypocrisy and inauthenticity. The call is to reality and authenticity. There were a few in the church ‘who have not soiled their clothes’ (v.4a). ‘They will walk with [Jesus], dressed in white, for they are worthy’ (v.4b).
Again, Jesus makes amazing promises to those who overcome: ‘Those who overcome will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out their names from the book of life, but will acknowledge their names before my Father and his angels’ (v.5).
Lord, give me wisdom to know the limits of toleration. Help me to overcome sin in my own life. May I never become complacent about your great love. Help me to obey you and overcome evil with good. May my name be indelibly inscribed in the ‘book of life’ (v.5).
Watch God turn the tables on evilEsther 1:1–2:18
One person can make a difference. Esther was one of the saviours of the Jewish nation. She was an orphan (2:7). She was beautiful (v.7) and charming: ‘Esther won the favour of everyone who saw her’ (v.15). She was obedient to her adopted parents: ‘She continued to follow Mordecai's instruction as she had done when he was bringing her up’ (v.20). Her call was so significant that it needed a long period of preparation.
Esther is one of the two books in the Old Testament named after a woman (the other being Ruth). It is also one of two books in the Old Testament that does not mention God by name (the other being Song of Songs). It contains the account of the origin of the annual Jewish holiday and feast of Purim. It is set during the reign of Xerxes, King of Persia (486–465 BC).
At about the age of thirty-five, Xerxes inherited a massive empire, which included modern-day Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Ethiopia, as well as parts of India (1:1).
The book of Esther is the account of a moment in the history of the Jewish people when they were able to turn the tables on those who wanted to destroy them.
As Eugene Peterson writes, ‘No matter how many of them you kill, you can’t get rid of the communities of God-honouring, God-serving, God-worshipping people scattered all over the earth. This is still the final and definitive word.’
In the next few days we will read more about Esther’s extraordinary qualities. However, in today’s passage we see how God’s hand was upon her. He was preparing the ground to use her to turn the tables and bring about the triumph of good over evil.
Joyce Meyer writes, ‘I believe that God has a great call and purpose for your life as he did for Esther’s. Your assignment may not be the deliverance of a nation, but whatever God has called you to is extremely significant. Whatever it is, be diligent to embrace the preparation process it requires so that you will be well-equipped when the time comes for you to act.’
Sovereign Lord, thank you that you are in ultimate control of my life and of history. Thank you that through Jesus, I am assured of the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Help me to make a difference in your plans to overcome evil with good.
Esther 1:1 – 2:18
The story of Esther is a fascinating story. I’ve often wondered why Queen Vashti refused to go to her husband, the king. Whatever her reasons, good or bad, it didn’t go well, and then all the men became nervous about losing control of their wives. There must have been a better way of winning respect than issuing decrees. Perhaps modelling some fruit of the Spirit might have been more effective!
Verse of the Day
‘Hear, O LORD, my cry for mercy’ (Psalm 140:6b).
Karl Barth in Time Magazine, Friday 31 May 1963.
Joyce Meyer, Everyday Life Bible (Hodder & Stoughton, 2006) p.752.
Eugene Peterson, The Message, 'Introduction to Esther', (NavPress, 2006) p.618.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. Unless otherwise stated,