From the Our Daily Bread VOICES Collection In Psalm 46:10, God invites His people to spend time reflecting on His power and majesty—to be still and know that He is God. Our Help: Devotions on Struggle, Victory, and Legacy presents a variety of meditations to encourage you to grow stronger in your relationship with God and to share His message of love with others. Written by a variety of authors and representing perspectives from a range of generations, this collection of short devotions and feature stories also includes questions for reflection, suggested Bible readings, a Scripture index, inspiring poetry, and more. Rediscover the hope you have in Christ and how you can live your life to bring Him glory.
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From the Global Summit, Christian Research & Development, and Our Daily Bread Ministries, featuring Marvin Williams, Patricia Raybon, Linda Washington, Sheila Bailey, Wintley Phipps, Dr. James C. Perkins, and more than 35 other authors.
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DEPEND ON GOD'S POWER
They were registered by families — all the men of Israel who were twenty years old or older and able to go to war. The total number was 603,550.
— Numbers 1:45–46
An Umbundu proverb from Angola says, Unene wongandu uli kovava, meaning "the strength of the crocodile is in the water." This proverb is used to explain that a leader's power is found in the people. At first it seems like this proverb agrees with the Bible. Moses and Aaron recorded the number of warriors in each tribe and assigned leaders to them. The leaders of Israel could not go to battle alone. They needed all the fighting men to be successful — at least that was what is often thought. But the victories of Israel were not in the numerical strength of their army.
A crocodile is only as powerful as long as it is in the water. Removed from the water, it is practically helpless. So it was with Israel: Remove God from their midst and no matter how many men went into battle, they would be defeated.
Israel brought the Tabernacle with them wherever they went because that was where the Lord lived among his people (Numbers 1:50–53). As they conquered Canaan, the Lord would fight for them as long as they obeyed him. As soon as they disobeyed the Lord's commands, they found their power was gone.
Just like Israel made God the centre of their lives, let us make God the centre of ours. What battles are you facing that you need to depend on God's power to help you with today?
— Africa Study Bible commentary on Numbers 1
WE'VE COME THIS FAR
"I have overcome the world."
Faith has brought us this far and we refuse to give up now Although life has threatened to knock us out and flip us upside down Cruel realities of this world snatched our dreams and buried them in the ground Faith has brought us this far and we refuse to give up now.
Distractions, disasters, disruptions nipping at our feet Weighed down by guilt of not doing enough and prayer burdens wearing on our knees Haunted by the negative words that pierce our soul — enough to scream Starting to believe faith has brought us this far and that's enough Until something stopped us in our tracks like a deer enchanted by headlights We were blind but now we see the struggles were merely preparation for the victory.
We've become more than overcomers defeating the monsters in our dreams The seeds they once buried have now become full-grown trees Bearing the fruit of the Spirit that will feed our generations for centuries Distractions strengthened our focus, disasters tested resolve, and disruptions increased our patience Because of them the problems of our future are already solved Faith has brought us this far and that we can see but our faith resides in the future we are yet to see.
"We've Come This Far by Faith" is an historic composition by Albert Goodson
Diane Proctor Reeder
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
I often think about our enslaved ancestors and the genius behind their ability to learn the language of their oppressors, and then learn "their" Bible ... and then, miraculously, take that book meant for their oppression and turn it into a tool for liberation. Let's take a realistic and thoughtful look at how that transformation occurred. For example, they were spoon-fed the verse, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters" (Ephesians 6:5), but then somehow God led them to Exodus and the story of how He told Moses to demand freedom from Egyptian rule for his people, the Hebrews. They were spoon-fed the verse about obeying "authorities" (Hebrews 13:17 NIV), but then they heard the story of how Jesus turned over tables in the Temple because He saw money-grubbing and thievery (see Matthew 21:12–13).
And then it hits me: these people searched the Scriptures for themselves. They often had to do it surreptitiously, as the penalty to slaves for learning to read could be severe beating, even death. Yet, they uncovered the untold stories of the Old and New Testaments.
They heard and read verses about God being just: "And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him?" (Luke 18:7 KJV). About mercy: "Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord, for his mercies are great" (2 Samuel 24:14 KJV). They found themselves drawn to the God who was "touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Hebrews 4:15 KJV). They were obedient to the command to "comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (2 Corinthians 1:4 KJV).
They must have searched diligently. They must have searched faithfully. They must have searched extensively to find those precious verses and make for themselves a protective covering for their spirits, a covering given by God the Holy Spirit who indwelt them as they discovered the gospel message for themselves and then began to "work hard to show the results of [their own] salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear" (Philippians 2:12).
This is a Selah moment for me, a time to pause in awe of God and to think about what it took for these people who were so acted upon, so denigrated, yet were still able to learn, interpret, and apply Scripture to their harsh realities. It is a challenge moment for me to do the same thing, in God's strength.
How does this history inform your own desire to seek out the Scriptures and uncover their relevance for you today?
Suggested Scripture Reading: Exodus 9; Philippians 2:12
THE PATH OF PROMISE
Shirley A. June
"The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm."
Can you remember a time when you felt you were "between a rock and a hard place"? If you have, you know it describes a situation that seems to have few or no possible options for a good outcome; a situation where it seems there is "no way out"!
Such were the nation of Israel's options as they journeyed through the wilderness from bondage in Egypt to the land of promise in Canaan. While camped, at God's direction, beside the sea, trouble came. They were in the will of God. They camped exactly where God instructed (Exodus 14:1, 9). Yet, they found themselves in a situation that threatened their freedom and survival, with Pharaoh's pursuing armies and chariots behind them and the sea before them. There was no safe place to turn.
Their journey had started out with high expectations but they quickly turned to desperation. "Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness," they bitterly complained (Exodus 14:11). "Let us be slaves to the Egyptians!" (v. 12). Returning to Egypt and slavery seemed a better alternative to the death and destruction they seemed to be facing.
How quickly they forgot: God had started them out on this journey, and He would be able to see them through.
We, like they, sometimes get distracted because of difficulties along the path of promise. Sometimes the greatest threats are prelude to the sure victories God has planned. God alone knows the full meaning of our situation, and how it fits with His overall plan and our destiny. We, on the other hand, may misjudge what God is doing in our lives and the reason for our plight or dilemma. We wonder why and voice our complaint, I'm praying. I'm fasting. I'm reading my Word. Why doesn't God hear me? Doesn't He see my situation?
However it may seem, the safest place to be is in the will of God. Wherever our life goes, we have to be clear: we have not traveled this way before, but God knows the way. Even more, He is the way (John 14:6). He moves us from fear to faith. And He will always be our "refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1 NIV).
When you think about turning away from your faith — from your submission to and obedience to God — what instead do you think about turning to? What would be the cost?
Suggested Scripture Reading: Psalm 91
A FATHER'S FORGIVENESS
See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!
1 John 3:1
When a judge's pronouncement of multiple life sentences echoed through the courtroom, "two deaths" were mourned. A college-age son had been murdered; the young man and a friend were gunned down as they innocently played video games at another friend's home. The young man's heavyhearted father was present that day for the sentencing hearing. But the pangs of grief that gnawed at the father were not only for the son he had lost. He was deeply disturbed because another young man — with most of his years before him — was headed to prison for the remainder of his days. The anguished father was left to struggle with loss and hopelessness.
Courtroom confusion and angst eventually yielded to compassionate action as the father found his heart drawn miraculously to the young man who had taken his son's life. He began writing the young convict. He had no way to know that his son's killer had begun to yearn for some sign to assure him that "God is real." Over time, the father mustered up enough courage to request a personal visit with his son's killer, and it was arranged.
The anxiety that attended the anticipated encounter gave way to genuine joy as the two men, who were joined together by horrifying tragedy, embraced each other and wept. The two developed an authentic, loving relationship. The father calls the young man who took his son's life "his son"; and the one who took that life calls the deceased son's father "his dad."
The forgiveness of God is the heartbeat of the Christian message. Titus 3:3–7 packages this good news. God's love and kindness appeared in living color in the person of Jesus Christ (v. 4) whose death was a payment for the forgiveness of sins — spiritual cleansing (v. 5). Because of the overflowing mercy of God, unlovely people (v. 3) can become members of God's eternal family (v. 7).
Each of us who receives the forgiveness of God through Jesus has a "forgiveness story." People who are offensive to God and others because of selfish, sinful rebellion are brought into the family of God through forgiveness. We are no longer under the sentence of condemnation. Rather, we are gripped to the point of wonder and worship because "the forgiveness of God" through the Lord Jesus Christ is the grand theme of our lives.
Father, we are humbled by Your forgiveness that brings those who are far away from You into Your family.
Do you have a story of your own about experiencing or witnessing unbelievable forgiveness?
Suggested Scripture Reading: Titus 3:4–7;
KNOWING YOUR ENEMY
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
The line at the five-and-dime store was quiet but mighty. A picket line. Protesters with signs urged a boycott of the downtown Woolworth's store in my hometown of Denver. I was a preteen then and Woolworth's was a favorite hangout. I went there with friends to splurge our meager allowance money on apple pie, ice cream, popcorn, and sodas. Cheap, bad food. Much worse, however, in this Jim Crow era, were segregation rules across the South that barred "Negroes" like my friends and me from even sitting in Woolworth's at a "whites only" lunch counter.
The insult assaulted Negro dignity, but also national principles. Therefore, young black college students in North Carolina staged a sit-in protest at a Woolworth's store in Greensboro on February 1, 1960. Heroes to some, the students faced ridicule from others who argued their right to be served a snack was "small potatoes" and wouldn't change much.
But the students knew their real enemy: racial discrimination, a scourge fueled by Satan himself. As civil rights leader Ella Baker explained, the sit-ins were "concerned with something more than a hamburger." Added activist Dick Gregory, "This isn't a revolution of black against white; this is a revolution of right against wrong."
Such moral clarity should inspire spiritual warriors today. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood," wrote the apostle Paul, "but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12 NIV).
Fighting such evil, the Greensboro sit-in struck a national nerve. Within three months, sit-ins were staged in more than 55 US cities in 13 states. It was "love in action," declared the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in an interview with Robert Penn Warren. Therefore, it was not about hating storeowners, but "loving them so much" you're "willing to sit in at a lunch counter in order to help them find themselves," King said.
The result? Not only did the F. W. Woolworth Company reverse its racist policies, but lunch-counter protests helped establish the US Civil Rights Movement as an unstoppable force.
Back in Denver, I joined the fight in my own way. I refused to cross that Woolworth's picket line. A friend teased me, urging, "Let's just go inside and eat!"
But I could see what the marchers were battling — Satan's lie that blacks were inferior. To help fight that blight, I pulled on courage and honored the boycott. The lesson learned? Know your enemy. Then God leads His people to win every time.
In your life, if you're facing a struggle, can you name your real enemy?
Suggested Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:21–23; Ephesians 6:11–13
THE WOUNDED HEALER
George Dallas McKinney
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5 KJV
During the turbulent sixties, under the ministry of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we learned that "undeserved suffering is redemptive." Dr. King was saying that in the nonviolent struggle for justice, equality, and community, the truth that Jesus proclaimed centuries before was demonstrated: one person can stand in the place of and take on the suffering of another. And, through the suffering of the righteous, the unrighteous can be made righteous.
We learned then, through the suffering of the young people who were willing to be arrested and to endure cruel beatings and attacks from dogs simply because they stood up for brotherhood and justice, that God moved in a mighty way and turned a whole nation around. God took the suffering of a few to heal the wounds of many.
We have a clear statement in God's Word in the "Suffering Servant" chapter, Isaiah 53, regarding the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In it, we see a picture of Jesus as He suffered, died, and rose again for all of our sickness and disease. He is portrayed as the Sufferer, who was beaten, bruised, falsely arrested, taken from one judgment hall to another, and finally crucified. He died, made His grave with the wicked, and was buried in a wealthy man's tomb, just as the prophet said (vv. 3–9).
He who knew no sin, He in whom was found no guile, He who was faultless, assumed faults, bore our sins, took upon Himself our sickness and disease, that we might be healed (v. 5).
When trials surround us, we should flee to God and confidently expect help from Him who is mighty to save and strong to deliver. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all" (Psalm 34:19 NKJV).
Open the windows of the soul heavenward, and let the light of the Son of Righteousness in. Deliverance can come by letting the peace of God reign in your soul. Then you will have strength to bear all your sufferings, and you will rejoice that you have grace to endure. Praise the Lord; talk of His goodness; tell of His power. Sweeten the atmosphere that surrounds your soul.
Whatever may be your circumstances, the assurance still comes. "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them" (Romans 8:28). "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (2 Timothy 1:12 KJV).
We need to cultivate gratitude. We should frequently contemplate and recount the mercies of God, and laud and glorify His holy name even when we are passing through sorrow and affliction. Being a Christian does not exempt one from affliction, but gives strength to endure.
God delivers in this life, and completely in the life to come.
Suggested Scripture Reading: Isaiah 53; Romans 8
Excerpted from "Our Help"
Copyright © 2018 Matthew Parker.
Excerpted by permission of Discovery House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Foreword Matthew Parker Willie Richardson 8
Part 1 Struggle
Depend on God's Power, Africa Study Bible 12
We've Come This Far Breonna Rostic 14
Genius Diane Proctor Reeder 15
The Path of Promise Shirley A. June 17
A Father's Forgiveness Arthur Jackson 19
Knowing Your Enemy Patricia Raybon 21
The Wounded Healer George Dallas McKinney 23
Learning to Walk in the Dark Victoria Saunders McAfee 25
If I Had My Way David Salmon 27
Questions Diane Proctor Reeder 29
Running in the Wrong Direction Victoria Saunders McAfee 31
Armed and Ready Arthur Jackson 33
Hate-or Pain? Diane Proctor Reeder 35
Straight Outta Nazareth Michael Lyles 37
All Things? Norvella Carter 39
Come and Rest Resna Marie Brunson 41
Second Chance Security Diane Proctor Reeder 43
Defeating Addictions Clarence Shuler 45
In a Box Anita Patterson 47
Overcoming Adversity Cheri Perron 49
The Battle Ahead Barbara Willis 51
A Nature Like Ours Eric Moore 53
Living Single Linda Washington 55
Prelude Shaquille Anthony 57
Double Trouble Juliet E. Cooper Allen 59
Our Lord Lifts Marva Washington 61
Asking the Right Questions Michael Lyles 63
When Momma's Not Enough Michael Lyles 65
Beautiful, Powerful, Hard Renee Bell 67
How to Uncover the Cover-Up Victoria Saunders McAfee 69
Preaching Victory James Perkins 71
Part 2 Victory
Obedience Brings Success, Africa Study Bible 78
What Happens When People Pray…Together Diane Proctor Reeder 80
New Beginnings Diane Proctor Reader 81
Singing into Battle Patricia Raybon 83
My Help! Arthur Jackson 85
God's Surprise Victoria Saunders McAfee 87
All the Single Ladies (and Single Men) Pamela Hudson 89
MY Declaration of In-Dependence Diane Proctor Reeder 91
What's Your Strategic Plan? Henry Allen 93
Who's in the Room? Victoria Saunders McAfee 95
Finding Contentment Cheri Perron 97
Capturing the Caleb Spirit Victoria Saunders McAfee 99
Into the Deep Georgia A. Hill 101
"I Ain't No Junk!" Yulise Waters 103
Spiritual Training Kenneth Perron 105
Listen! Georgia A. Hill 107
Let's Celebrate Unsung Heroes! Henry Allen 109
Legacy of Faithfulness Arthur Jackson 111
How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? Georgia A. Hill 113
Door of Hope Juliet E. Cooper Allen 115
Our Blessed Likeness Diane Proctor Reeder 117
Unexpected Transformation Norvella Carter 119
Moving by Faith Juliet E. Cooper Allen 121
Caring Father Lawrence Darmani 123
Learning to Choose Victoria Saunders McAfee 125
Trust God! Shirley A. June 127
How Can We Sing? Michelle Loyd-Paige 129
A Time to Act David McCasland 131
Brace of Grace Cokiesha B. Robinson 133
Powerful Peacemakers Xochitl E. Dixon 135
Are We There Yet? Diane Proctor Reeder 138
The Whisper Deborah Fox 140
A Cloud of Witnesses B. Williams Waters 143
Part 3 Legacy
Teachers Must Be Humble to Learn, Africa Study Bible 144
Sword and Shield Diane Proctor Reeder 146
Thanks for Waiting Michael T. Westbrook 148
The Last Supper Anita Patterson 150
Passionate Pursuit Lee N. June 152
Grandma's Words Diane Proctor Reeder 154
Good Gifts Juliet E. Cooper Allen 156
Tough and Tender Diane Proctor Reeder 158
Growing Like Jesus Lee N. June 160
The Ultimate Missionary Maria Westbrook 162
Royalty Resna Marie Brunson 164
Passing the Baton Diane Proctor Reeder 166
Walk in the Good Way Patricia Raybon 168
The Secret Place Joyce Dinkins 170
Sister Hagar Diane Proctor Reeder 173
God Opened Another Door Marvin A. McMickle 175
The Practice of Remembering A. C. Cobbs 177
When We Pray Marvin Williams 179
Built on the Solid Rock Tondra L. Loder-Jackson 181
His Hold Joyce Dinkins 183
Just a Dash-A Dash Between Two Dates Otis Moss Jr. 186
Grandma's Influence Sharon Norris Elliott 193
Who Will Be a Witness for My Lord? Marvin A. McMickle 197
God's Timing Is Perfect Sheila Bailey 200
God's Dream Wintley Phipps 205
An Invitation Diane Proctor Reeder 210
Redemption & Memory Diane Proctor Reeder 213
Topical Index 215
Scripture Index 217