This devotional by best-selling author Paul David Tripp offers daily encouragement through 365 gospel-centered meditations aimed at helping readers trust God and rely on his grace each and every day.
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Here's the bottom line. The Christian life, the church, our faith are not about us, they're about him — his plan, his kingdom, his glory.
It really is the struggle of struggles. It is counterintuitive for us all. It is the thing that makes our lives messy and our relationships conflictual. It is what sidetracks our thoughts and kidnaps our desires. It is the thing below all the other things that you could point to that argues for our need for grace. It is the one battle that one never escapes. It is the one place where ten out of ten of us need rescue. It is the fight that God wages on our behalf to help us to remember that life is simply not about us. It is about God — his plan, his kingdom, and his glory.
This is precisely why the first four words of the Bible may be its most important words: "In the beginning, God ..." These are four thunderously important words. They really do change everything, from the way that you think about your identity, meaning, and purpose to the way that you approach even the most incidental of human duties. Everything that was created was made by God and for God. All the glories of the created world were designed to point to his glory. The universe is his, designed to function according to his purpose and plan. That includes you and me. We were not made to live independent, self-directed lives. We were not meant to exist according to our own little self-oriented plans, living for our own moments of glory. No, we were created to live for him.
Where is this Godward living meant to find expression? It is meant to be expressed not just in the religious dimension of our lives, but in every aspect of our existence. I love how Paul captures this in 1 Corinthians 10:31: "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." When Paul thinks of the call to live for the glory of God, he doesn't first think of the big, life-changing, self-consciously spiritual moments of life. No, he thinks of something as mundane and repetitive as eating and drinking. Even the most regular, seemingly unimportant tasks of my life must be shaped and directed by a heartfelt desire for the glory of God. Now, I don't know about you, but in the busyness of life I lose sight of God's existence, let alone his glory!
Let's start the new year by admitting that there is nothing less natural for us than to live for the glory of another. This admission is the doorway not to despair, but to hope. God knew that in your sin you would never live this way, so he sent his Son to live the life you couldn't, to die on your behalf, and to rise again, conquering sin and death. He did this so that you would not only be forgiven for your allegiance to your own glory, but have every grace you need to live for his. When you admit your need for help, you connect yourself to the rescue he has already provided in his Son, Jesus. Reach out for hope by reaching out for the rescue again today.
For further study and encouragement: Psalm 115
Your rest is not to be found in figuring your life out, but in trusting the One who has it all figured out for your good and his glory.
We were on our way to the local mall with our two young boys when the three-year-old asked out of the blue, "Daddy, if God made everything, did he make light poles?" I had the thought that all parents have, again and again, as they deal with the endless "why" questions that little ones ask: "How do we get from where we are to where we need to be in this conversation?" Or, "Why does he have to ask me 'why' questions all the time?"
Human beings have a deep desire to know and understand. We spend much of our daily mental time trying to figure things out. We don't live by instinct. We don't leave our lives alone. We are all theologians. We are all philosophers. We are all archaeologists who dig into the mounds of our lives to try to make sense of the civilization that is our story. This God-designed mental motivation is accompanied by wonderful and mysterious analytical gifts. This drive and those gifts set us apart from the rest of creation. They are holy, created by God to draw us to him, so that we can know him and understand ourselves in light of his existence and will.
But sin makes this drive and these gifts dangerous. They tempt us to think that we can find our hearts by figuring it all out. It's the "If only I could understand this or that, then I'd be secure" way of living. But it never works. In your most brilliant moment, you will still be left with mystery in your life; sometimes even painful mystery. We all face things that appear to make little sense and don't seem to serve any good purpose. So rest is never found in the quest to understand it all. No, rest is found in trusting the One who understands it all and rules it all for his glory and our good.
Few passages capture that rest better than Psalm 62:5–7: "For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God."
In moments when you wish you knew what you can't know, there is rest to be found. There is One who knows. He loves you and rules what you don't understand with your good in mind.
For further study and encouragement: 2 Corinthians 5:1–10
If eternity is the plan, then it makes no sense to shrink your living down to the needs and wants of this little moment.
There is no doubt about it — the Bible is a big-picture book that calls us to big-picture living. It stretches the elasticity of your mind as it calls you to think about things before the world began and thousands of years into eternity. The Bible simply does not permit you to live for the moment. It doesn't give you room to shrink your thoughts, desires, words, and actions down to whatever spontaneous thought, emotion, or need grips you at any given time. In a moment, your thoughts can seem more important than they actually are. In a moment, your emotions can seem more reliable than they really are. In a moment, your needs can seem more essential than they truly are. We are meant to live lives that are connected to beginnings and to endings. And we are meant to live this way because all that we do is meant to have connection to the God of beginnings and endings, by whom and for whom we were created.
It's hard to live with eternity in view. Life does shrink to the moment again and again. There are moments when it seems that the most important thing in life is getting through this traffic, winning this argument, or satisfying this sexual desire. There are moments when our happiness and contentment shrink to getting those new shoes or to the steak that is just ten minutes away. There are moments when who we are, who God is, and where this whole thing is going shrink into the background of the thoughts, emotions, and needs of the moment. There are moments when we get lost in the middle of God's story. We lose our minds, we lose our sense of direction, and we lose our remembrance of him.
God reminds us that this is not all there is, that we were created and recreated in Christ Jesus for eternity. He reminds us not to live for the treasures of the moment: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (Matt.6:19–20).
Think about this: if God has already granted you a place in eternity, then he has also granted you all the grace you need along the way, or you'd never get there. There is grace for our fickle and easily distracted hearts. There is rescue for our self-absorption and lack of focus. The God of eternity grants you his eternal grace so that you can live with eternity in view.
For further study and encouragement: Luke 12:13–21
The best theology will not remove mystery from your life, so rest is found in trusting the One who rules, is all, and knows no mystery.
Her voice quivered that morning as she told me to get home as quickly as I could. My wife, Luella, is a very emotionally stable woman. She isn't easily rocked. I knew what we were facing was serious because it had rocked her. I was about six hours away; with my assistant, I made the nervous trip home.
Nicole, our daughter, had started her walk home from work late the previous night, as she had done many nights before. A car driven by a drunk and unlicensed driver careered up on the sidewalk and crushed Nicole against a wall. She had devastating injuries, including eleven breaks of her pelvis and massive internal bleeding. When I finally got to the hospital and walked into Nicole's intensive-care room, I did what any father with a drop of parental blood in him would do. I fell apart. I crawled up on Nicole's bed, not sure if she could hear me, and said, "It's Dad, you're not alone, and God is with you, too."
When I walked into that room, it was as if the whole world went dark. My heart cried, "Why, why, why?" If I could choose, I wouldn't have any of my children go through such a thing. And if I had had to choose one of my children, I wouldn't have chosen Nicole at that moment in her life; she seemed so vulnerable. In an instant, we were cast into life-changing mystery, and our theological non-negotiables didn't take that mystery away. Nicole did recover well, but we lived through four years of travail.
I held onto the thought that our lives were not out of control. We were comforted again and again with the thought that when it came to Nicole's accident, God was neither surprised nor afraid. You see, there is no mystery with God. He is never caught off guard. He never wonders how he is going to deal with the unexpected thing. I love the words of Daniel 2:22: "He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with him."
God is with you in your moments of darkness because he will never leave you. But your darkness isn't dark to him. Your mysteries aren't mysterious to him. Your surprises don't surprise him. He understands all the things that confuse you the most. Not only are your mysteries not mysterious to him, but he is in complete charge of all that is mysterious to you and me.
Remember today that there is One who looks at what you see as dark and sees light. And as you remember that, remember, too, that he is the ultimate definition of everything that is wise, good, true, loving, and faithful. He holds both you and your mysteries in his gracious hands, and because he does, you can find rest even when the darkness of mystery has entered your door.
For further study and encouragement: Isaiah 40:12–31
If you obey for a thousand years, you're no more accepted than when you first believed; your acceptance is based on Christ's righteousness and not yours.
The fact is that sin is a bigger disaster than we think it is and grace is more amazing than we seem to be able to grasp that it is. No one who really understands what Scripture has to say about the comprehensive, every-aspect-of-your-personhood-altering nature of sin would ever think that anyone could muster enough motivation and strength to rise to God's standard of perfection. The thought that any fallen human being would be able to perform his or her way into acceptance with God has to be the most insane of all delusions. Yet we all tend to think that we are more righteous than we are, and when we think this, we have taken the first step to embracing the delusion that maybe we're not so bad in God's eyes after all.
This is why the reality check of Romans 3:20 is so important. Paul writes, "For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight." If you prayed every moment of your life, you could not pray enough prayers to earn acceptance with God. If you gave every penny of every dollar that you ever earned in every job you ever had, you could not give enough to deserve acceptance with God. If every word you ever spoke was uttered with the purest of conscientious motivations, you would never be able to speak your way into reconciliation with God. If you gave yourself to an unbroken, moment-by-moment life of ministry, you could never minister enough to achieve God's favor. Sin is too big. God's bar is too high. It is beyond the reach of every human being who has ever taken his or her first breath.
This is why God, in love, sent his Son: "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). You see, there was and is no other way. There is only one portal to acceptance with God — the righteousness of Christ. His righteousness is given over to our account; sinners are welcomed into the presence of a holy God based on the perfect obedience of another. Christ is our hope, Christ is our rest, Christ is our peace. He perfectly fulfilled God's requirement so that in our sin, weakness, and failure we would never again have to fear God's anger. This is what grace does! So as the children of grace, we obey as a service of worship, not in a desperate attempt to do what is impossible — independently earn God's favor.
For further study and encouragement: Galatians 3:1–14
Contentment celebrates grace. The contented heart is satisfied with the Giver and is therefore freed from craving the next gift.
Sin does two very significant things to us all. First, it causes us all to insert ourselves into the center of our worlds, making life all about us. In our self-focus, we are all too motivated by our wants, our needs, and our feelings, and because we are, we tend to be more aware of what we don't have than of the many wonderful blessings that we have been given. But there is more; because we are self-focused, we tend to be scorekeepers, constantly comparing our piles of stuff to the piles of others. It's a life of discontentment and envy. Envy is always selfish.
There is a second thing of equal significance that sin does to us. It causes us to look horizontally for what can only ever be found vertically. So we look to creation for life, hope, peace, rest, contentment, identity, meaning and purpose, inner peace, and motivation to continue. The problem is that nothing in creation can give you these things. Creation was never designed to satisfy your heart. Creation was made to be one big finger pointing you to the One who alone has the ability to satisfy your heart. Many people will get up today and in some way will ask creation to be their savior, that is, to give them what only God is able to give.
"Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Ps. 73:25–26). These are the words of a man who learned the secret to contentment. When you are satisfied with the Giver, because you have found in him the life you were looking for, you are freed from the ravenous quest for satisfaction that is the discouraging existence of so many people. Yes, it is true that your heart will rest only ever when it has found its rest in him.
Here is one of the most beautiful fruits of grace — a heart that is content, more given to worship than demand and more given to the joy of gratitude than the anxiety of want. It is grace and grace alone that can make this kind of peaceful living possible for each of us. Won't you reach out today for that grace?
For further study and encouragement: 1 Timothy 6:6–10
Every day you need it. You and I simply can't live without it. What is it? The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
I don't know where I was when the memo went out. I'm not sure why I missed the discussion. I can't explain why I had this miserable gap in my understanding of the gospel. I can't tell you why this item was missing in my theological outline, but it was, and the fact that it was missing made my Christian life pretty miserable.
Here was my functional theology of my life as a child of God: I knew that by grace I had been granted God's forgiveness and I knew that I had been graced with an all-inclusive pass into eternity, but I thought that between now and then, my job was to just gut it out. It was my responsibility to identify sin, to cut it out of my life, and to give myself to living in a much better, more biblical way. I tried this, trust me; I tried it and found it didn't work. I messed up again and again. It seemed that I failed more times than I succeeded. I became more and more frustrated and discouraged. It felt as if I had been drafted into a game that I had no ability to play by someone who kept perfect score. I can remember the moment in college when it all came to a head. It was six o'clock in the morning, as I was having the devotions that I really didn't want to have, when I finally put my head down on my desk and cried, "I can't do what you're asking me to do!" Then I read the next chapter in my daily Bible reading, and by God's grace it was Romans 8.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "New Morning Mercies"
Copyright © 2014 Paul David Tripp.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This
“We have always resonated with Robert Robinson’s hymn ‘Come Thou Fount,’ especially the line, ‘Prone to wander—Lord, I feel it—prone to leave the God I love.’ We feel the pull daily away from God’s goodness and toward a pursuit of our own, away from God’s gracious acceptance and toward the exhausting, impossible weight of trying to tip the scales in our favor. We are grateful to God that Paul has written this devotional to help, in Robinson’s words, seal our hearts for God’s courts above. If you’re prone to wander, this book is for you.”—Matt and Lauren Chandler, Lead Pastor, The Village Church, Dallas, Texas; President, Acts 29 Church Planting Network; and his wife, Lauren, writer; speaker; singer
“Each morning for years, Paul Tripp has served fresh-brewed wisdom and encouragement through his pithy, thought-provoking tweets, reminding us again and again of the all-sufficiency of Christ and his grace. New Morning Mercies offers more of the same (without the limitation of 140 characters)! These devotional readings will strengthen, nourish, and recalibrate your heart, and open your eyes to behold God’s fresh mercies at the dawn of each new day.”—Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author; Founder, Revive Our Hearts and True Woman
"Over the last year, New Morning Mercies has been a great source of life to me. Paul's writing encourages those who have grown weary of the struggle, living under the weight of the world."—TobyMac, hip-hop recording artist; music producer; songwriter
“Paul Tripp beautifully blends wisdom that has been gained through years of counseling, insight into the biblical story of redemption, and his strong grasp of Christ as our substitute to produce a series of daily devotions that both warm the heart of the hurting and challenge the complacent. You will find this book to be both deeply rooted in scriptural truths and yet eminently readable. I highly recommend it!”—Elyse Fitzpatrick, coauthor, Worthy: Celebrating the Value of Women