God gives us resources to use and invest for Him. Paul uses the illustration of seed to explain that the resources God gives us are not to be hidden, foolishly devoured, or squandered. Instead, they should be cultivated in order to produce more crops. When we invest what God has given us in His work, He will provide us with even more to give in His service.
1. How have you seen generosity produce blessing in your life?
2. If money, time, or resources were no object, who or what would be the object of your generosity? What are the obstacles preventing that from happening?
Challenge: Going into this season of giving, dream big on how you could be generous to those around you. Put a plan into action and see it through.
In today’s passage, James is describing the miraculous gift of wisdom that is given generously to all who ask in faith. He is describing not only knowledge, but the ability to make wise decisions in difficult circumstances. Whenever we need wisdom, we can pray to God and He will generously supply what we need. Christians do not have to grope around in the dark hoping to stumble upon the answers. We can ask for God’s wisdom to guide our choices.
1. In what ways have you experienced the provision of God’s wisdom in your life?
2. Do you believe wisdom is a learned trait? Why or why not?
Challenge: Think about the times in your life when you made a decision depending on your own understanding. How did that work out? Now compare that to the times in which you offered up these things to God in prayer. Did you notice a difference?
The word redemption means recovery of something or someone upon payment of a ransom. The redemption here pictures the rescue by God of the Israelites from Egypt and the future return from Babylonian captivity. However, it also alludes to something more profound in that all people were being held in slavery to sin until Jesus paid the price to set us free. Before Jesus’ sacrifice for sin, people could not come into God’s presence. Now, all believers can freely approach God’s throne through prayer and have the power of God in their lives through the Holy Spirit. What a gracious God we serve!
1. In what way(s) do you see the fear or reverence of God demonstrated in your life?
2. Why is this so hard to live out in the “real” world?
Challenge: Take an inventory of your life experiences and how God provided wisdom and understanding. Say a prayer of thanksgiving for all His rich provision.
Sacrifice by definition is difficult, but imagine being asked to sacrifice your firstborn child. That is exactly what God asks Abraham to do to Isaac in today’s passage. Of course, we know that God did not want Isaac to die, but He wanted Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in his heart in order that he would demonstrate his love for God was greater than that for his son. God tested Abraham and He tests us. The purpose of this testing is to strengthen our character and deepen our commitment to God and His purposes. Through this difficult experience, Abraham strengthened his commitment to obey God and learned about God’s enormous ability to provide.
1. In what ways have you withheld your love, your children, or your time from the Lord?
2. How has your relationship with God been impacted by these decisions?
Challenge: Notice the parallel between the ram offered on the altar as a substitute for Isaac and Christ offered on the cross as a substitute for us. Pray and thank the Lord for His awesome gift of sacrifice and provision!
Provision is defined as “the act of providing or supplying something” or “a preparatory step taken to meet a possible or expected need.” Doesn’t this sound like a characteristic of our God? We can trust that He will always meet our “needs.” But what about our wants? We must be careful to delineate the difference between our wants and needs. Most people want to feel good and avoid discomfort or pain. However, we are unlikely to receive all our wants. By trusting Christ, our attitudes and appetites can change from wanting everything to joyfully accepting His provision and the power to live for Him.
1. On a scale from 1-10, how would you rate your gratitude meter?
2. Give an explanation for the answer you gave to question #1.
Challenge: Start today by offering a prayer of thanksgiving to God for all He has provided (even if you don’t feel like it). Wait and see as He transforms your attitudes and desires to be more like Christ.
In this day and age, it can be a struggle for some to distinguish between a true need and a want. The basic needs include food, clothing, and a roof over our head. Anything above that should be considered a want. Does God give us some of our wants? Sure—He does. He also says “no” sometimes and we need to recognize and accept His answer.
1. What are your current needs?
2. Would God classify those as a need or as a want?
Challenge: Not everyone has the basic needs. If possible, take action to help someone with a basic need (e.g. give a new coat to someone who doesn’t have one or take a Thanksgiving meal to someone who otherwise wouldn’t have one).
I know God has a plan and that He values me above the birds and the lilies mentioned in this passage. Worrying about tomorrow or what will happen in the future is not beneficial. You need to live in the now and wait to handle what tomorrow brings tomorrow.
1. What are some things that you worry or dwell on?
2. How hard is it for you not to worry or dwell on something?
Challenge: Take time to pray and lay one of the somethings you worry about at God’s feet. Then, leave it there—have faith in God’s plan.
In the book of Ruth, Naomi lost her husband and her sons—true tragedy. However, through that sadness, God’s plan was set in motion. Ruth and Naomi returned to Bethlehem. Ruth met Boaz, married, and eventually through that line, God’s ultimate plan and salvation would be born—Jesus.
1. What difficulties/pain in your life might God have used to further “His” plan for your life?
2. How hard is it to recognize or accept “His” plan is part of the pain?
Challenge: Look back to a particular painful moment in your life and look for the ways that pain furthered God’s plan for your life.
The Lord had promised Abraham that his descendants will be like the dust of the Earth (Genesis 13:16—a large number). Yet, he was 100 years old before Isaac was born. God has a plan for us; we just need to be patient as the plan unfolds.
1. What is something you have prayed for and remains unresolved?
2. Have you been patient while waiting?
Challenge: Pray about that something and ask God for the patience to wait on His timing.
The Israelites were witnesses to God’s awesome power during the plagues of Egypt and yet showed fear when the Pharaoh and his armies pursued them. Yet again even though they had fear, God saved His people. All that was asked of them was to be still.
1. When something troubles you, what are your go-to methods for dealing with it?
2. What about “being still” could help you?
Challenge: Ask God to help you with one of your troubles and simply “be still” allowing Him the opportunity to work, or talk to you.
This devotional is written every week by Hillcrest members.
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