Category Archives: Sickness

The Resurrection Promise: Dead Men Will Walk Again! (John 11)

Scripture reading – John 11

John 11:1-45 – A Wondrous Miracle

John introduces us to the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and finds them in a crisis: “Lazarus was sick” (11:2), and his sisters had sent for Jesus “saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick” (11:3). No doubt Martha and Mary were certain Jesus would come quickly, and heal Lazarus of his illness, and one they believed was terminal.

Jesus, however, expressed with certainty; “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (11:4b).

John 11:5 reminds us how “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus;” however, His love had not spared Lazarus of his illness, nor had it moved Him to leave with haste where He was residing. Two days passed, when Jesus suddenly announced to His disciples, “Let us go into Judaea” (11:6).

The mention of going to Judaea raised alarm with the disciples. Knowing the village of Bethany would place Jesus within the reach of His enemies who had threatened to stone Him (John 10:31; 11:8), the disciples desired to dissuade Jesus from going (11:8). Jesus announced, “Lazarus is dead. 15And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him” (11:14).

After a day’s journey, Jesus and His disciples arrived on the outskirts of Bethany, about “fifteen furlongs off” (11:18), about two miles out, and were met by some who informed Him that Lazarus was dead and had been “lain in the grave four days already” (11:17).

Martha, hearing Jesus was close by, came to Him and complained, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (11:21). Nevertheless, Martha expressed faith that, with God’s power, Jesus could perform a miracle. Jesus answered her faith, “Thy brother shall rise again” (11:23).

Martha expressed her faith in the “resurrection at the last day” (11:24); however, Jesus encouraged her weak faith saying, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (11:25-26)

Confessing her faith that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of God” (11:27), Martha rushed back to the house, and finding Mary, whispered to her secretly, “The Master is come, and calleth for thee” (11:28). Mary immediately rushed out of the house, and coming to Jesus was overcome with sorrow and through tears said to Jesus, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (11:32). Moved by the tears and sorrow of those who wept, Jesus asked, “Where have ye laid him?” (11:34), and wept (11:35).

Martha protested when Jesus commanded the removal of the stone that sealed the cave where Lazarus was entombed (11:39), saying, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (11:39). Jesus lovingly rebuked Martha saying, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” (11:40).

Lifting His eyes up to heaven, Jesus prayed, and with a loud voice cried, “Lazarus, come forth” (11:43). Miraculously, Lazarus came from the tomb, his hands and feet bound “with graveclothes: and his face…bound with a napkin” (11:44a). Jesus then said to the people, “Loose him, and let him go” (11:44b).

John 11:45-57 – An Intolerable Crisis

Looking back, the apostle John realizes that raising Lazarus from the dead after he had been dead for four days was the zenith of Jesus’ miracles, and gave cause for many Jews to believe He was the Christ, the Son of God (11:45).  For His enemies, the miracle was intolerable and they determined that Jesus must be put to death, or else their power and position among the people would be lost (11:46-53).

Jesus, knowing the hearts of His enemies were set against Him, and knowing His appointment with the Cross as the Passover Lamb was at hand, withdrew from Jerusalem until it was time for Him to boldly, and publicly present Himself as the Christ, the Son of David, and heir to the throne of Israel (11:54-57).

I close reminding all believers that God has appointed a day when Christ will return, and on that day: “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout…and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Are You Ready for His Coming?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Calling All Sinners (Matthew 9; Luke 7)

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Scripture reading – Matthew 9; Luke 7

Christ’s authority as the Messiah King was demonstrated throughout Matthew 8.

He healed the leper (Matthew 8:3), and the paralytic servant of a Roman Centurion (Matthew 8:5-13), and established His authority over physical illness. When He stilled a storm, and the winds and waves bowed to His will, Jesus demonstrated His authority over nature (Matthew 8:23-27). He had cast out demons with a command to “Go,” and the devils departed, proving Christ has authority over Satan and his evil minions (Matthew 8:16, 28-33).

Today’s devotional study reveals Christ has authority to forgive sin.

Matthew 9 – Consider what a difference faith came make!

In Matthew 9 we see once again that it was the faith of some friends, and their compassion for one who was “sick of the palsy [paralyzed], lying on a bed,” that moved Jesus to heal the man (9:2).

Jesus had returned to Capernaum, his home base of ministry in Galilee, and a man who was “sick of the palsy [paralyzed], lying on a bed” was brought to Jesus (9:2). We are not told how this man came to be paralyzed, but it is revealed why he was the victim of paralysis, his sin. Jesus observed the faith of his friends and said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee” (9:2).

Matthew records that there were scribes present, men who were experts in the Law of Moses. Hearing Jesus pardon the sins of the paralytic, the scribes whispered among themselves, “This man blasphemeth” (9:3).

Once again evidencing divine omniscience, we read, “4And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” (9:4) What a powerful rebuke of proud, unbelieving experts in the Law!

Jesus, confronting their murmuring and evil thoughts, said, “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” (9:4b) and then proposed, a question: Is it easier to say to a man his sins are forgiven, or command a paralytic to, “Arise, and walk?” (9:5)

To prove He had divine authority to forgive a man’s sins, Jesus commanded the paralytic to do what no other man could; “Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house” (9:6). His sins forgiven and body made whole, the paralytic man rose from his bed and walked home (9:7). What an incredible moment, not only for the man who had been healed, but for those who “marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men” (9:8)!

The LORD proved He was a friend of sinners when he called Matthew, a despised publican (i.e. tax collector) to be His disciple (9:9-10). Revealing divine grace, Jesus said to Matthew, “Follow me,” and that evening dined in his home with “many publicans (tax collectors) and sinners” (9:10). We read, “11And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” (9:11)

Publicans were among the most despised men of Jewish ancestry in the first century. They were the ones who exacted taxes for Rome on their own, and were often guilty of skimming money off the top to enrich themselves. In the estimation of the Pharisees, Jesus eating with publicans was a brazen act of compromise. For Jesus; however, it was a demonstration of abundant grace.

Why eat with publicans and sinners? (9:11)

For the same reason the sick, not the strong and healthy, seek a physician (9:12). Men who are too proud to see their sin, are too blind to see their need of a Savior. Jesus did not come into the world to persuade self-righteous scribes and Pharisees to repent (after all, they are unwilling to confess their sin). His burden was for sinners, humbled under the weight of their sin, and ready and willing to repent (9:13).

I close with the words of the apostle Paul, who once boasted of his self-righteousness until he was confronted by Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus:

1 Timothy 1:15 – “15This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Two Things God Hates: A Covetous Heart and Lying Lips (2 Kings 5-8)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 5-8

Our Scripture reading covers four chapters; however, today’s devotional will focus only on 2 Kings 5.

2 Kings 5

With Elijah’s dramatic departure into the presence of the LORD (2 Kings 2), Elisha became the principal prophet in Israel. Several miracles, including those recorded in 2 Kings 4, validated that Elisha was Elijah’s successor and proved the power of God rested upon him.

The news of God’s anointing upon Elisha reached the household of a man named Naaman, “captain of the host of the king of Syria” (5:1). We read that Naaman “was a great man [noble; but perhaps great in size as well] with his master, and honourable [exalted; respected]…a mighty [heroic; valiant; champion] man in valour [virtuous; strong], but he was a leper” (5:1).

Every man has his flaws and challenges; however, for Naaman his was a physical affliction…leprosy. Apart from a miracle, there was no cure. A leper would eventually face exclusion from the living, as the dreaded disease slowly ate away his face, limbs, and extremities of his body.

Providentially, a slave girl from Israel shared with Naaman’s wife that there was a great prophet in Samaria who could heal her husband (5:2-3).  Hearing there was hope for the captain of his armies to be healed, the king of Syria sent Naaman to Israel with gifts and a letter to the king requesting that his servant might be healed of leprosy (5:4-6).  Knowing the request was an impossible one for him to fulfill, the king of Israel “rent his clothes” fearing the king of Syria was provoking a conflict with Israel (5:7).

When Elisha understood the king of Israel’s distress, he requested that Naaman be sent to his household, assuring the king, “let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (5:8). Imagine the drama as Naaman, the great captain of Syria, arrives at Elisha’s house. His plight with leprosy was no doubt visible and this great warrior found his body plagued with a curse that not only stole his dignity, but would inevitably rob him of life.

Rather than the dramatic miracle healing he had hoped, Elisha sent a messenger and commanded Naaman to take a path of humiliation and “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (5:10). Naaman’s response brings to light the fact that Naaman not only had an affliction of the flesh, his soul was also cursed and blinded with another disease…pride.

Naaman was enraged (5:11-12). Instead of some great, ceremonial act of healing, the prophet’s demand that he wash himself in Israel’s small Jordan River (5:9-10) was an affront to the man of Syria. Fortunately, Naaman’s servants prevailed upon him and persuaded their master to obey the prophet.  When Naaman came forth from the Jordan “his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (5:13-14).

Miraculously healed, Naaman offered to reward Elisha for his service; however, the prophet refused his gifts (5:15-16).  Naaman then responded with a moving statement of his faith in the LORD, Jehovah, the Self-existent, Eternal God of Israel, and swore that he would never again offer sacrifices to other gods (5:17-18).

The closing verses of 2 Kings 5 turns the spiritual lens of this passage from Naaman’s dramatic statement of faith to the petty, covetousness of “Gehazi, the servant of Elisha” (5:20). Knowing Elisha had refused Naaman’s reward for healing him of leprosy, Gehazi determined he would not allow the moment to pass without seeking opportunity to enrich himself (5:20-22).

Without Elisha’s knowledge, Gehazi followed after Naaman and when the captain of Syria saw him he halted. Stepping down from his chariot, Naaman greeted Elisha’s servant with a question of shalom, “Is all well?” (5:21). Gehazi responded with shalom, “All is well” (5:22), but then lied by suggesting Elisha had sent him for a portion of the reward. Naaman granted Gehazi’s request who then took and hid the gifts (5:23-24) before returning to Elisha (5:25).

With the keen discernment of a spiritual man, Elisha questioned his servant “whence comest thou” (5:25). Gehazi lied, answering, his master, “Thy servant went no whither” (5:25). Knowing the covetous, disingenuous spirit of Gehazi, Elisha pronounced God’s judgment on his unfaithful servant who was immediately smitten with the leprosy that had plagued Naaman (5:26-27).

There are many spiritual lessons we might take from 2 Kings 5. One is that Naaman’s sinful pride nearly robbed him of not only the physical healing of his body from leprosy, but also the spiritual healing that came to his soul when he believed and confessed, he would only offer sacrifices to the LORD hereafter (5:17).

Another spiritual lesson is the reminder that God hates covetousness and lying lips: Gehazi coveted Naaman’s reward and then lied to Elisha. The consequences of his sins was not only that leprosy would plague him the rest of his life, but his children would also bear the curse of their father’s sins (5:27).

I close being reminded there are seven things the LORD despises and that will invite His judgment (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Proverbs 6:16-19 – “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17  A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18  An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19  A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Clock is Running Down…Are You Ready? (Job 14-16)

Daily reading assignment: Job 14-16

Reflecting on the temporal nature of this earthly life, Job declared man’s life is “of few days, and full of trouble” (14:1). Like the bloom of a flower that is soon cut down, the bloom and strength of one’s youth fades and we are no more (14:2).  Job reminds us that God has numbered the days, months, and years of man (Job 14:5)!   

No wonder anxiety and depression are epidemic today!

While our world is dominated by amusements (things that divert our thoughts), reminders life is temporal abound.  The sound of a siren racing to an accident; the presence of a roadside cross memorializing the site where a loved one perished; a procession of mourners behind a hearse…all remind us our days are numbered (Psalm 90:12and our lives are like a vapor (James 4:14).  

Job pondered that a tree that is cut down will often spring forth into life and new growth (14:7-9). What about man?  Is there life for man beyond the grave (14:10-12)?   

While we have the privilege of the written words of God’s revelation, death and the resurrection were mysteries to Job. In spite of his limited knowledge, he believed God was merciful and gracious and would remember him in death (14:14-15).

Although they purported to comfort him, Job’s friends have served as his prosecutors, judges, and jury…condemning the man though he was already stricken by his losses and wretchedness.  One of Job’s three “friends”, Eliphaz the Temanite, once again takes up his dispute with Job accusing him of pride (Job 15:5-6), hypocrisy (15:34-35) and warning him all he had suffered was a consequence of sin (15:17-35).  

Job’s response to Eliphaz is recorded in three pleas in chapters 16-17. 

The first plea is for mercy. Rather than comfort him; Job’s friends were unsympathetic to his plight and their words only added to his misery (16:1-14).  Reproving them, he postulated if they had suffered the sorrows and losses that had befallen him their words would be tempered with sympathy  and understanding (16:4-5).  

An old adage asserts, “Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes.”  

It is tempting to be an insensitive, callous critic when we have not borne the pain, sorrow and disappointments of another. For example, I have known some who supposed themselves parenting experts and in their rush to judgment failed to moderate their criticisms; that is…until they grappled with their own teenagers. 

It is easy to dole out self-righteous opinions until we suffer pains and disappointments. Christ taught in His Sermon on the Mount:  “Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2).  

The knowledge we will face the judgment of a just God should incite caution when we are tempted to judge others.  How much better to heed Paul’s exhortation: Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16  Be of the same mind one toward another…” (Romans 12:15-16a).   

In the words of Job, “my witness [recorded testimony] is in heaven, and my record [Advocate; i.e. Jesus Christ] is on high” (Job 16:19b1 John 2:1-2).

Copyright 2020 by Travis D. Smith

Ever Wonder Why God Allows His People to Suffer? (Job 10-13)

Daily reading assignment: Job 10-13

In Job 10 we find Job attempting to make sense out of all he has suffered.  While he declares his confidence that God is just; he is nevertheless left wondering why calamity has come upon him.

Some reading this devotional can identify with Job’s sorrows.  You find yourself wrestling with some of the same questions, trying to make sense out of the trials that have befallen you. While you are confident God is sovereign and good, you wonder, “Why [God] ‘contendest [strive] with me?’” (10:2).

Job wondered, why are destroying me? “Wherefore then hast thou brought me forth out of the womb?” (10:18).  In essence, “Why was I born?”

Had Job known all he was suffering was in response to Satan assailing his character, he might not have agonized so; however, that was not for Job to know.  God had purposed for him to pass through fiery trials to the end he would one day say, “But He [God] knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

With friends like these, who needs enemies? (Job 11)

Having heard the judgment and condemnation of two “friends”, Eliphaz and Bildad, Job finds himself suffering the observations and criticisms of yet another, the Naamathite named Zophar (11:1).

Rather than pity and compassion, Zophar “goes for the kill” with cutting words, accusing poor Job of being a mocker and scoffer (11:3).  Filled with pride, Zophar indicted Job suggesting he was spiritually shallow, ignorant of God (11:5-12), and too stubborn to repent (11:13-20).

Job’s response to his accusers, specifically Zophar’s judgments, is recorded in chapters 12-14.

Job 12:2 seems to imply that Job’s friends were older than he and therefore presumed themselves to be wiser by the course of years.  Job, however, reminded his friends that the source of wisdom is God (12:12-13), not man. In other words, youth does not have the market on foolishness.  Indeed, one might just as easily be an old fool as a young fool.

While not knowing why so much suffering had befallen him, Job nevertheless declared the sovereignty of God over nature and man (12:14-25).

Job’s defense continues in chapter 13 as he asserts his innocence and reproves his “friends” for their hypocrisy (13:1-12).  Job rebukes them for daring to speak for God apart from His revelations (13:7-11).

His sons and daughters are dead; his home, servants, possessions, and flocks lost; his body is afflicted with sores; his wife taunts him to “curse God”, and his “friends” condemn him…yet, Job declares an amazing statement of faith:

“Though He [the LORD] slay me [kill; put to death], yet will I trust [hope; wait] in Him” (13:15).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Word of Encouragement Can Go A Long Way! (Job 6-9)

Daily reading assignment: Job 6-9

His friend having suggested his sorrows had come upon him because of unconfessed sin, Job answers the insinuation in chapter 6.  While his friends sympathize with his losses, Job realized they did not feel the weight of the griefs that have befallen him. Rather than identify with his distresses, his friends sat in judgment of his despair only adding to his discouragements (Job 6:1-13).

Job courageously rebuked the despicable judgments of his friends (Job 6:14-30).  They had come, not to pity and commiserate with him in an act of love.  No; they had not taken time or opportunity to identify with his sorrows or minister to his heavy-soul.

Is that not the way we too often find ourselves when it comes to relating to others? We enter into the sanctuary of their sorrows with little time for prayer or understanding.  We rush out bearing neither the burden or sympathy that is required of those who bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

Job continues his soliloquy in chapter 7. So low is his spirit, he despairs of life and reasons that death alone might give him relief from his sorrows.

Comparing his life to laborers, Job reasons that workers bear the hardships of their labor with the promise they will receive their wages at the close of the day (7:1-2).  Job, however, finds no end or relief to his sorrows apart from the respite death might promise (7:3-5).  Pondering his days, Job grieves his life is filled with sorrow (7:6-10).

Turning his thoughts from himself, Job acknowledges God’s omniscience (7:12-19) and confesses the LORD has watched over him day and night (7:12-14).  Assuming all he has suffered is a consequence of sin (7:20), Job calls upon the LORD seeking His forgiveness before death should claim his life (7:21).

Job 8 opens with the rebuke of another of Job’s friends, Bildad the Shuhite (8:1). Bildad challenged Job’s plea of innocence (8:2-4), reasoning God is just and advising him if he was “pure and upright” God would deliver him out of trouble and bless him (8:5-7). Reflecting on the testimonies of generations that had gone before (8:8-10), Bildad encouraged Job to ponder the judgments of God upon the wicked.

Job asks, “how should man be just [righteous] with God?” (9:2)

Believing God is wise, mighty, able to remove mountains, cause the earth to tremble (9:4-6) and is the Sustainer of His creation (9:7-8); Job ponders, what man dares ask God, “What doest thou?” (Job 9:12).

Indeed, what is man that we should think we are capable of reasoning with God (9:14-35) or asserting our innocence (9:20-24)?

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – 3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Riches to Rags…The Life of Job (Job 1-5)

Daily reading assignment: Job 1-5

The Book of Job is believed to be the oldest book in the Bible.  It is the ancient story of a man of God that was wealthy beyond our imagination.  A father of seven sons and three daughters whose possessions are tallied as 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 oxen, 500 donkeys, and a large household of servants (Job 1:3).

It is not Job’s wealth, but his godly character and walk with God that is the central focus of today’s devotional reading.  We read of Job that he was “perfect [blameless; a man of integrity] and upright [righteous; pleasing to God], and one that feared [revered] God, and eschewed evil [refused sin and wickedness] (Job 1:1, 8).

Although a godly man, it appears the same was not true of Job’s adult sons and daughters who are portrayed enjoying feasts, eating and drinking (Job 1:4).  Fearing his children had sinned, Job “offered burnt offerings” reasoning, “It may be that my sons have sinned” (Job 1:5).

Job 1:6 begins the narrative of a heavenly drama between Satan [the fallen angel Lucifer] and the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent God] that was witnessed by the angels of heaven [i.e. sons of God].

Job is the subject of the LORD’s discourse with Satan whom He sets forth as an example of godliness and virtue among the men of the earth (1:8).  Satan, the adversary of God and His people, questioned Job’s spiritual character asking, “Doth Job fear God for nought [lit. for nothing; without cause] ?  (1:9).

Satan proceeded to assail Job’s virtues and religious piety, suggesting the man only worshipped God because he was blessed with great wealth and possessions (1:10).  Satan asserted, take away his possessions, wealth and health and Job will curse God (1:11; 2:4-6).

Knowing the heart of His servant, the LORD permitted a series of trials and troubles to fall upon Job that ultimately took from him his children (1:18-21), possessions (1:13-17), and his health (2:7).  Remarkably, we read of the man, “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (1:22).  When his wife turned against him (having likewise lost everything), we read of Job, “…In all this did not Job sin with his lips” (2:10).

Chapter 2 concludes with the arrival of “three friends” who, upon seeing Job, did not recognize the man due to the physical toll of his sufferings and sorrows (2:12a).  Stunned by the losses their friend had suffered, the men wept and then sat in silence commiserating with Job’s sorrows (2:11-13).

The silence is broken when Job begins to express the sentiment it would have been better had he never been born (Job 3:2-12).  Lamenting his misery (3:20-23), Job questioned why God gives “light” (i.e. life) to a soul that longs to be free from sorrows (Job 3:20-23).

Any who have suffered sorrows and disappointments can relate to the despondency that took hold on Job’s soul.  Such thoughts of death are not unique to young or old, rich or poor, famous or infamous. Pain, sorrows, sufferings, and disappointments can drive a soul to entertain dark and ominous thoughts.

“Eliphaz the Temanite” (4:1), one of Job’s friends, questioned if Job would accept his counsel (Job 4:2-6).  Rather than comfort, Eliphaz proposed a question that haunts any given the privilege of ministering to others:

Will you accept spiritual counsel in a time of sorrow and loss or falter in the throes of self-pity?  (4:5-6)

Continuing his argument in Job 5, Eliphaz suggested Job’s losses must be the result of some wickedness he has concealed (the word “foolish” in this chapter is indicative of wickedness). While his reason reflects some truth, Eliphaz’s argument that Job’s losses were God’s judgment was presumptuous.

Spiritual Truth: The wicked do suffer loss as a result of God’s punitive judgment; however, He also chastens the righteous with the love of a Father (Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 3:19).  God allows His children to suffer, not because of sin, but as a means of deepening a believer’s walk of grace and dependence on the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:32; Jeremiah 29:11; Matthew 5:11).

You and I cannot understand all that is in the mind of God; however, we must accept He is Sovereign.  Sickness and sorrows are temporal; however, the way of the LORD is perfect (Psalm 18:30).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Life Got You Down? (Psalm 43)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 27, Psalm 43, and Mark 15. Our devotional is from Psalm 43.

Heavy heart, cast down soul, melancholy, and depression are terms men employ to define what the Scriptures describe as a “weary” soul (Job 10:1) and a broken spirit (Proverbs 17:22). 

While words defining depression have evolved, no one denies it afflicts men’s souls.  Robert Burton, the 17th century Oxford scholar and author of The Anatomy of Melancholy, wrote: “If there be a hell upon earth, it is to be found in the melancholy [of] man’s heart.”

Let’s take a page out of King David’s life and learn how he not only identified the loneliness of depression, but also the one place he could turn for deliverance. David writes.

Psalm 43:1-2– “1Judge [vindicate] me, O God, and plead [argue] my cause against an ungodly [unmerciful] nation: O deliver [preserve] me from the deceitful [dishonest; deceptive] and unjust [wicked; unrighteous] man.  2For thou art the God of my strength [place of safety]: why dost thou cast me off [forsake]? why go I mourning because of the oppression [distress; affliction] of the enemy [adversary]?”

David does not name his enemy; however, the tactics of his enemy were the same as those you and I face in our day.  Lies, libel, slander, threats, and attacks on one’s integrity are the modus operandi of the enemies of God, His Church and His people.

Rallying his heart, David states what he knows, “God is my strength”(43:2); literally, my fortress, stronghold and refuge.  David struggled that his knowledge of the LORD and His promises was at odds with his feelings and state of mind.  The king knew God was faithful; however, he confessed he felt forsaken, alone and overcome by adversaries (43:2).

Psalm 43:3-4– “O send out [stretch forth] thy light [illumination] and thy truth: let them lead [guide] me; let them [God’s light and truth] bring me unto thy holy [sacred] hill [mount], and to thy tabernacles [place representing the presence of God]4 Then will I go unto the altar [place of sacrifice] of God, unto God my exceeding joy [gladness]: yea, upon the harp [string instrument] will I praise [give thanks; worship] thee, O God my God.”

Turning his heart and thoughts from his despair, David looked to the LORD in the same manner the captain of a ship peers through the fog and darkness for the piercing beam of a lighthouse.  David appealed to God to illuminate his way and guide him with His Truth to the safe haven of God’s “holy hill” and the “tabernacles” where the saints of God gather to worship (43:3).

Though despairing, the king rallied his heart to look past his sorrows and set his heart upon the joy of once again offering sacrifices to the LORD and singing His praises (43:4).

Psalm 43:5– “Why art thou cast down [depressed], O my soul [life; heart]? and why art thou disquieted [troubled] within me? hope [wait; trust ] in God: for I shall yet praise [give thanks; worship] him, who is the health [deliverer; salvation] of my countenance [face], and my God.”

David counseled his soul with two questions (43:5a): Why are you depressed?  Why are you so troubled?

Realizing the error of his fear, David counseled his heart, “hope in God” (43:5b)! 

Resetting his spiritual compass from the delusion of self-pity to trust and faith in the LORD, David took courage and declared, “I shall yet praise Him [the LORD], who is the health of my countenance [face], and my God” (43:5c).

My friend, I do not know what fears and doubts haunt your soul, but I challenge you to pass through this time of trouble by turning your thoughts from self-pity to trust in the LORD!

1 Corinthians 10:13 –   “There hath no temptation [trial] taken you but such as is common to man [i.e. your trouble is not unique]: but God is faithful [true], who will not suffer [allow] you to be tempted [tried or tested] above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [lit. to pass through the trial], that ye may be able to bear it [endure].”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Failure to Thrive

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalm 119

Today’s scripture reading is Psalm 119.  With the exception of Psalm 23, Psalm 119 may be the favorite psalm of saints down through the centuries.  Its celebration of the Word and Law of God might seem out of step with many 21st century believers’ emphasis on grace [which is in danger of becoming “lawless grace” that knows little of the holiness of God]; however, its truths are eternal and its lessons regarding what manner of people the saints ought to be timeless.

I preached a series of messages on Psalm 119 in January 2016 and authored a brief series of devotions on the chapter during that time.  Today’s devotional commentary was first posted on this blog, January 25, 2016.

Psalm 119:129 – “Thy testimonies [witness; admonitions; ordinances] are wonderful [marvelous]: therefore doth my soul [life; person] keep [preserve; guard] them.”

“Failure to thrive” is an ominous term I have heard doctors use for both the very young and elderly patients.  The terminology is not a disease, but a description of a patient who is failing; failing to gain weight, failing to grow and failing to mature.  It is a state of being undernourished despite heroic actions taken to encourage physical weight gain and well-being.

The term, “failure to thrive”, is a fitting diagnosis for many church members.  They come to church faithfully and sit in pews year after year with no visible signs of spiritual life, health or growth.  

American Christians are hardly undernourished when it comes to physical weight; however, there are too many who are spiritually undernourished…failing to grow and mature.

The writer of Hebrews observed the same malady in the 1st century church when he wrote:

Hebrews 5:12-14 – “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers [Instructors], ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God [Old Testament sayings]; and are become [having degenerated] such as have need of milk [unable to chew solid food], and not of strong meat [solid food; advance doctrines].
13  For every one that useth [drink] milk is unskilful [ignorant; inexperienced] in the word [doctrine; preaching] of righteousness: for he is a babe [spiritually immature].
14  But strong meat [solid food] belongeth to them that are of full age [mature], even those who by reason of use [exercised in the Word and Law of God] have their senses [discernment] exercised [train; workout; disciplined exercise] to discern both good and evil [moral and immoral].”

anorexic ChristiansFailure to thrive” is the malady of the 21st century church.   Although we live in a day of mass communication and modern technology has put within our reach opportunities of studying and hearing God’s Word taught 24\7; the reality is there is a gross ignorance of the scriptures.  Like the 1st century, there are Christians who should be faithful students and teachers of the Bible, but are content with being spoon-fed the puree of elementary truths in churches more focused on entertaining the masses than the faithful exposition of God’s Word.

A spiritually anorexic Christian is the portrait of 21st century Christianity in America!  No wonder sin and lawless liberty abounds within our churches; we have fostered a generation of carnal Christians who demand pandering because they are spiritual babies desensitized to sin by their ignorance of the Truth!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Second Appeal From Outside the Bubble (part 2)

* Unlike my first appeal “From Outside the Bubble” that I addressed primarily to Bible fundamental churches and graduates of Bob Jones University living in Greenville, SC, this article goes well-beyond the borders of Greenville to the breadth of Bible fundamental pastors, churches, and administrators of fundamental Bible colleges and institutions.

I have pondered the root cause for a lack of vitality in Bible fundamentalism that is contributing not only to the failings of our institutions, but also more importantly, the weakening of our churches (understanding the weaknesses observed in fundamental institutions once hailed as citadels of the faith are symptomatic of compromises within our local churches).   As much as it pains me to state it, I have observed a near universal characteristic in the senior leadership of our churches, schools, Bible colleges and seminaries that is the catalyst to compromise:

God’s Men Have Failed to Stand on Immutable Principles

Twenty-first century Bible fundamentalism is facing a moral crisis in leadership giving rise to a tolerance of sin and pervasive carnality in our churches, Bible colleges and seminaries.  Taking a lesson from the life of King David, I suggest the failures and shortcomings of historical flagship ministries in fundamentalism reveal a pattern of compromise among Christian leaders who, facing the duress of their children’s sinful choices, have become pragmatic and weak.  A tolerance of sin has emerged in our homes, pulpits and chapel platforms that is leading our youth, churches, and schools down a path of ruin.

Consider the consequences of David’s failed leadership after his moral failures left him enfeebled and unwilling to address the sins and moral failures of his adult children.

David’s adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, was a scandalous sin that forever damaged his reign as king (2 Samuel 11).  His notorious sins gave cause for his enemies and members of his own household to disdain him.  Confronting David with the words, “Thou art the man” (2 Samuel 12:7), the prophet Nathan warned, “the sword shall never depart from thine house” (2 Samuel 12:10).  The sins David had committed in secret eventually bore the bitter fruit of public humiliation “before all Israel” (2 Samuel 12:11-12).  Weakened by his own failures, David’s leadership faltered and he failed to address the sins of his sons.

When Amnon, a son of David, raped his half-sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-19), we read the morally compromised king’s response was merely, “he was very angry” (2 Samuel 13:21).  David’s failure to confront Amnon’s sin gave cause to Absalom to revenge his sister’s disgrace and plot the murder of his half-brother (2 Samuel 13:20-29).   Fearing the consequences for murdering his half-brother Amnon, Absalom fled Israel and dwelt as an exile in Geshur for three years (2 Samuel 13:34, 37).

In spite of Amnon’s death, we read, “king David longed to go forth unto Absalom” (2 Samuel 13:30).   Every loving parent understands David’s longing for his prodigal son; however, there were issues greater than paternal affections in question.  Would the king be a man of integrity?  Would he rule his kingdom judiciously, knowing his own son was a fugitive from justice and guilty of murder?

Such is the dilemma of spiritual leadership: When our sons and daughters turn from the LORD and the instructions of their youth, we may long for peace and their love and affection, but we should not compromise our principles and convictions.

Among the qualifications of a pastor is he is to “ruleth [preside over] well his own house, having his children in subjection [under control] with all gravity [dignity; respect]” (1 Timothy 3:4).   Why is it important for Christian leaders to evidence an ability to manage the children in their households? Paul’s answer: “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:5).

Pastor’s with children “in their households” is the topic of 1 Timothy 3:4; however, the principle found in 1 Timothy 3:5 serves as a warning to churches and Christian institutions:  Be wary of spiritual leaders who fail to rule their households for they will invariably fail to “take care of the church”.   Adult sons and daughters are no longer children under the management or rule of their parents, and as much as we are pained to accept it, they bear their choices and associated consequences.   As it was for David, so it is for all who are spiritually minded parents:

Will we be men and women of integrity if our adult children walk contrary to the Word of the LORD and spiritual principles?

For those in spiritual leadership, the cost of compromise extends far beyond our family relationships and affects our churches, schools and institutions.   I need not enumerate the tragedy that followed David’s failure to be a man of integrity and conviction.  His weak response to his son’s sins incited Absalom to lead a rebellion against David (2 Samuel 14:23-24, 33; 15:1-6), fulfilling Nathan’s prophecy and humiliating his father in front of the nation (2 Samuel 15:7-16:23). Twenty thousand men perished in battle before David took back his throne; however, even then David’s heart was such toward his son he commanded his men to, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom” (2 Samuel 18:5).

Such is the way of spiritual leaders when they promote paternal affections over eternal principles.  My generation, my peers who are pastors, administrators, and professors in Bible fundamental colleges and seminaries have, under duress, compromised immutable spiritual principles because our children and grandchildren have rejected the guiding principles of God’s Word.

Make no mistake, our compromises have become mortal wounds for our churches and institutions, and if pastors, churches, and the spiritual leaders and boards of our Bible colleges and seminaries do not soon repent, the demise of Bible fundamentalism is sure.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith