American Christianity is uniquely susceptible to the watering down of doctrine as cunning teachers exploit the basic human desire for things like popularity, excitement, prosperity, and success. One can draw a crowd by offering a seat at the cool kids’ table, stirring up an emotional experience, or promising the worldly success Jesus neither gained nor sought.
When describing a team’s chance of advancing, we sometimes say, “They control their own destiny.” By this we mean a team will succeed if they simply defeat their opponents with no regard for the outcome of any other games. While understood in this limited sense, the idea that we control our own destiny nevertheless smacks of presumption. God controls destiny.
Have you ever paused to thank God for all of the times in your life when the word “No” has been His loving answer to your prayers? Sometimes it is devastating for us to see our hopes and dreams go up in smoke and vanish into thin air. Whenever God refuses our request, we can be certain that He is purposefully channeling our time and energy in another direction.
From a Roman prison in AD 67, Paul gave Timothy practical advice for ministry. It was the last of Paul’s letters included in the Bible. This verse promotes delegation and discipleship in ministry. It’s a three-step process. First, we hear the truth from our teacher. Second, we teach the truth to our followers. Third, our followers teach the truth to their own students.
Although the Lord had commanded Israel to conquer Canaan, the tribes of Reuben and Gad were proposing an alternative. Since the land east of the Jordan River was ideal for livestock raising, they wished to remain there and not cross the Jordan to fight the enemies of Israel.
Referencing Proverbs 3:34, James reminds us that God’s unmerited favor is for the humble and not for the proud. Jesus teaches us precisely the same principle. “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)