What God Has in Store for You
What God Has in Store for You
Sam, aged twenty-three, was a militant atheist. He associated himself with the teachings of fervent opponents of faith and religion. One evening, he went online and discovered that Alpha was about to start within easy access of his home. He turned up to our church thinking, ‘I’m going to take down a few irrational Christians here.’
But his encounter with the teachings and person of Jesus Christ was not what he expected.
On his questionnaire at the end of the course, he wrote, ‘I found the draw of Jesus irresistible and have gone from [being] someone with no faith to someone with an immense hope. To live in a state of non-truth to living in truth is, to me, the difference between being bound to complete freedom.’
Three months later, he was baptised. He told me, ‘I’m free of my previous life. I was a slave to a lot of things. I was a slave to society, a slave to my peers... But now I’m free to live my life. I’m excited to see what God’s got in store for me.’ Salvation means freedom. Sam had an experience of how Jesus Christ sets us free.
Live a life of freedomPsalm 34:11-22
Are you facing major challenges in your life – perhaps to do with your finances, relationships, health, family or some other difficult situation? This psalm is full of guidance and wonderful promises to those who face ‘many troubles’ (v.19).
The apostle Peter quotes this psalm in one of his letters as evidence of the kind of life we should lead – a life that reflects our new freedom as children of God.
Peter introduces David’s call to righteous living with the explanation that it is ‘to this you were called’ (1 Peter 3:9): ‘Whoever among you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears attentive to their cry; the face of the Lord is against those who do evil’ (Psalm 34:12–16a; 1 Peter 3:10–12).
‘The Lord… saves’ (Psalm 34:18). You cannot save yourself. It is the Lord who sets you free.
Our God rescues us. He watches over you, waiting to hear your prayer: ‘His ears are attentive to [your] cry’ (v.15b). When we do cry out, ‘the Lord hears’ (v.17a), and delivers us from all our ‘troubles’ (v.17b). I find it so helpful to look back over the years at various ‘troubles’ I have written in the margins of my Bible and to see how God has delivered me. It encourages me to cry out again.
God does not say that there won’t be any troubles (v.19a), but he does promise to deliver you from them all (v.19b). He is especially close in the tough times, ‘The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit’ (v.18). When you are going through a difficult time, you may not necessarily feel God is close, but he is: ‘God is there every time’ (v.19, MSG).
‘God pays for each slave’s freedom’ (v.22a, MSG). He promises that there is no condemnation for those who take ‘refuge in him’ (v.22b, see Romans 8:1). You have a righteousness from God through Christ, hence, you can include yourself in the category of ‘the righteous’ (Psalm 34:17,19,21).
Lord, thank you for the many times I have cried out to you and you have heard me and set me free. Help me today to keep my tongue from evil, to do good and to seek peace. Help me to live in harmony with others: not to repay anyone evil with evil or insult with insult but rather with blessing. Thank you that it is for a life of freedom that Christ has set me free.
Think about the greatness of your freedomLuke 1:57-80
God’s people at this time were suffering from the oppression of Roman rule. They felt surrounded by darkness and death. They longed for a liberator to set them free from the pain and the sorrow of their situation. They were looking for someone who would come and put things right. They had waited for a long time.
Zechariah was John the Baptist’s father. His nine months of silence may be symbolic of the longer period of prophetic silence that was about to come to an end. As Zechariah’s ‘mouth was opened and his tongue set free’ (v.64), he ‘was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied’ (v.67).
The birth of John the Baptist was an occasion of great celebration, joy and expectation (vv.57–66). When Zechariah (unable to speak) wrote, ‘“His name is to be John” ... it took everybody by surprise. Surprise followed surprise – Zechariah’s mouth was now open, his tongue loose, and he was talking, praising God!’ (vv.63–64, MSG).
Even John’s name was an expression of God’s blessings – it means ‘the Lord is a gracious giver’.
It was said of John the Baptist, ‘The Lord’s hand was with him’ (v.66). That is a good prayer to pray for yourself, your family and your community: that the Lord’s hand will be with you.
Zechariah was filled with the Spirit and prophesied that salvation was coming. He said, ‘He set the power of salvation in the centre of our lives’ (v.69, MSG). John the Baptist was to ‘present the offer of salvation to his people, the forgiveness of their sins’ (v.77, MSG).
Zechariah sees that God is coming to bring salvation to his people. But his prophecy goes well beyond political salvation. Something far deeper and wider is about to happen, fulfilling the great promises of the Old Testament. It will involve ‘redemption’ (v.68b), rescue from enemies (v.74a) and forgiveness of sins (v.77b). Salvation is the ‘path of peace’ (v.79). Zechariah, in this description of salvation, summed up so many of the freedoms that Jesus would bring to us:
Freedom from fear (v.74b)
Freedom to serve God (v.74b)
Freedom to be holy (v.75)
Freedom to be righteous (v.75)
Freedom from death (v.79b)
Praise you, Lord, that you have rescued me from slavery and shown me mercy. Thank you for forgiving my sins. Thank you that you give me freedom from death and fear. Thank you that you set me free to serve you. Help me today to serve you without fear, in holiness and righteousness, and guide my feet into the path of peace. May your hand be with me.
Never take your freedom for grantedNumbers 4:1-5:10
Are you serving in some way in your local church? Are you a contributor or merely a consumer? God has a role and responsibility for you.
We see in this Old Testament passage an anticipation and foreshadowing of the church, with each member having a different part to play (Ephesians 4:7,11–13). As we read of the Kohathites, Gershonites and Merarites, aged between thirty and fifty years old, who came ‘to serve’, we see that God assigned each individual specific tasks (Numbers 4:3–4,24–25,31–32), just as today God has assigned to you specific work to do in the church.
For the Israelites, ministry was centred on the Tent of Meeting – the place of God’s presence. Now, God’s presence is among his people in the body of Christ. The work and ministry to which you are called is to build up the body of Christ. This is one of the ways that you will experience the presence of God today. God’s presence is not confined to a particular place, but rather is experienced wherever his people are.
In this passage, we see that we cannot take our freedom for granted. We are reminded of the holiness of God and the fact that it required something amazing to allow you to have the kind of relationship with God that you are now able to enjoy.
God reminds Moses that any kind of sin is actually an act of unfaithfulness to God: ‘Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the Lord is guilty’ (5:6). The guilty person is required to confess their sin, make restitution for it and offer a sacrifice of atonement (vv.6–8).
We cannot make atonement for ourselves. Atonement had to be made for us. That is what Jesus did on the cross. A simplified definition of atonement is ‘at-one-ment’ – in other words, God enabled you to be at one with him. The barrier of sin was removed through Jesus so that you and I can say, ‘I was a slave. Now I’m free’.
Thank you, Lord, for setting me free to live a life of freedom. May I never take that freedom for granted. Help me to use my freedom to serve you and to serve others. Help me to fulfil my responsibilities in a way that pleases you.
‘The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’
I have seen, many times, the Lord’s love sustaining those going through great difficulties, in remarkable ways: ‘The righteous may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers them from them all’ (Psalm 34:19). I would rather it said that the righteous won’t have many troubles, but it does say ‘may’ have many troubles. I think if we didn’t go through the difficult times then we wouldn’t know that God is a deliverer and that we can trust him in those times.
Verse of the Day
‘The Lord is close to the broken-hearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit’ (Psalm 34:18).
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.