A Promised Hope

If you are in a season of waiting, don’t become discouraged—the Lord always delivers.

Isaiah 11:1-6

Sometimes it can be hard to grasp how much time passed between events in the Bible. After the Old Testament’s completion, for instance, 400 years passed before God’s next direct revelation.

Let’s put that span in terms we can better comprehend. In 1620, the Pilgrims landed on the shores of what would become Massachusetts. That was 404 years ago. Think of all that has happened since then—everything from the American Revolution to man walking on the moon to the creation of artificial intelligence. God’s people waited that long without a word from the Lord! While many grew despondent, others clung to hope.

Anna, for example, was a widow and prophetess who served at the temple in Jerusalem, waiting for Israel’s redemption. She trusted that “A shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse … and the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him” (Isa. 11:1-2). This promised Messiah would bring order, strength, counsel, and wisdom as He delighted in the Lord, and He would make everything right.

Then, at the appointed time, Anna witnessed the miracle of fulfilled prophecy as she gazed into the face of the tiny baby Jesus. In response, she praised and thanked God for being faithful to His promise (Luke 2:38). Like her, we can praise God, secure in the knowledge that God will do all He says He will do.

The Impact of Forgiveness

God’s grace and kindness to us should naturally flow to others.

Matthew 18:21-35

When Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness, he probably thought he was being generous by asking if seven times was enough. In a place and time where grace and mercy were in short supply, the disciple likely felt himself incredibly charitable. So imagine his surprise when Jesus replied, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy-seven times” (Matt. 18:22).

Jesus then shared the parable of a slave who owed the king a great debt. The king felt compassion, released him, and forgave the debt. But later, the man found someone who owed him a smaller amount. Rather than extend a portion of the grace he’d received, the slave demanded payment and punished the other man until he could pay it all. Hearing of this wickedness, the king called back the slave who had shown no mercy to a fellow worker. Then the king withdrew his generous offer and handed the slave over to jailors to work off every single denarius he owed.

May an unmerciful mindset never be true of us. When we truly grasp the depth of what Jesus did on the cross (Colossians 2:14), we should be eager to grant and freely share that gift with others. Forgiveness becomes a natural outpouring of the indwelling power of God within us, allowing us to forgive to the extreme—just as we are forgiven.

Word Made Flesh

Jesus paid the ultimate price so that we can have peace with God.

Isaiah 40:1-5

Isaiah 40 reveals a shift in God’s communication with His people. In the previous 39 chapters, He spoke through the prophet about their sin and called them to repentance. But as chapter 40 begins, God’s emphasis moves from judgment to the hope of restoration.

Imagine the surprise the Israelites felt as they heard His words to the prophet: “Comfort, comfort My people … Speak kindly to Jerusalem” (Isa. 40:1-2). They no longer heard words of condemnation for their disobedience. God, in His mercy, declared their sins removed.

But that wasn’t all He had to say. Verses 3 and 5 point to a more profound truth that deserved a triumphant procession: “Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness … Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together.”

What glory would be revealed for all to see? Those words told of Jesus—God’s Word made flesh (John 1:14), who paid the ultimate price to fully restore us to God. Jesus, the One the angels announced as they filled the sky in worship, declaring, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased” (Luke 2:14 NLT).

On Glorious Display

Our Creator lovingly crafted each of us into a masterpiece to reveal His glorious love.

Psalm 139:14

Did you ever study Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting “The Starry Night”? It’s a captivating blend of circles and swirls that form a dreamlike sky. On one level, it’s intriguing to picture yourself in the scene and imagine the vivid sights and gentle breeze implied by the curling forms. But if you look more closely, you’ll begin to see nothing about the painting is haphazard. Every stroke of blue, yellow, green, white, and purple is unique and intentional, creating contrast between sky and stars. The combination of colors brings depth and richness to the composition, and each hue is enriched because it exists in harmony with those around it.

As beautiful as van Gogh’s masterwork might be, it pales in comparison to what the Creator has accomplished in us, His beloved children. We believers are each a unique blend of personality, gifts, and experiences that God has mixed together and continually applies so we simultaneously enhance and are enhanced by those around us.

What an honor it is to be God’s handiwork! While every Christian is a small piece of the whole of creation, we never lose our distinctiveness or get lost in the grandeur of the big picture. Quite the contrary—God knows exactly where we are and keeps us in mind as He adds others to His magnum opus.

Finding True Rest

God is faithful to deliver those who trust Him for help.

Psalm 62:1-2

Have you ever carried a heavy object for so long that your arms start to burn from its weight? You count the steps until you can finally set it down, and when you do, relief floods your body as the pain subsides. We can feel something similar in our spirit when we surrender our burdens to the Lord.

David understood this kind of relief well. With his enemies in relentless pursuit, he was forced to hide to save his life. The weight he carried was evident as he cried out in distress, “How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever?” (Psalm 13:1). Yet, through his extended season of challenges, David experienced God’s faithfulness as well as His consolation in the anguish.

Remembering that God is faithful will bring release from the weight of our worries. So let’s hold to the perspective that God is at work and keep our eyes fixed on the solution rather than the problems. Then, like David, we will be able to say, “I will not be greatly shaken” (62:2).

While you are learning to release your burdens, be sure to talk to God in prayer (Psalm 62:8) and wait in hope for Him (Psalm 62:5). And never forget that He is your rock and salvation (Psalm 62:2). That is true relief.

From Emptiness to Fulfillment

Jesus came to give us abundant life; ask Him to help you experience it.

John 4:3-22

As we saw in yesterday’s devotion, everyone feels a sense of emptiness, a yearning for something—for someone. That someone is God Himself. Today’s passage about the Samaritan woman teaches several important points about fulfillment.

Filling our emptiness is important to God. Jewish people didn’t travel through Samaria because of their disdain for its inhabitants. Yet Jesus, a Jew, chose to travel there because He knew a hurting Samaritan was ready to hear about the Father’s love.

Our attempts at happiness often leave us feeling hopeless. The woman at the well had been wed five times, but all her marriages had ended. Each one likely left her feeling lonelier than before.

God knows our pain. When the woman admitted she didn’t currently have a husband, Jesus showed that He already knew her situation. He demonstrated an awareness of her hurt and longing.

Jesus can satisfy our yearnings. Once the woman realized what was missing, Jesus revealed how to live a full life: “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty” (John 4:13-14).

Do you ever feel like the Samaritan woman—dissatisfied with life and thirsty for love and fulfillment? Surrender to God and allow His love to flow through you. Only then will you experience truly abundant life.

Empty No More

Are you restless and yearning for something you can’t identify? Spend time with God.

Psalm 16:11

In a posthumously published work called Pensées (the French word for “thoughts”), religious philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal discussed the hunger mankind feels that can’t be satisfied by human effort. The passage is well worth reading, so let’s take a look at it together.

Pascal wrote: “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him … though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words, by God himself.”

There’s a reason why life feels empty: God created us with a yearning—one that He alone can satisfy. We can’t be fulfilled until we experience the Lord’s transforming and unconditional love. Jesus said, “I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). In other words, God wants us to feel complete, but that can happen only through a relationship with Him.

We can know joy and contentment when we seek God above all else. Pray for His guidance, and ask Him to fill your life as only He can (Psalm 63:1-5).

Why God Closes Doors

We may not always understand what God allows, but we can always trust who He is.

Jeremiah 10:23-24

Yesterday we discussed closed doors. Now let’s look at some reasons why God might block our way. Closed doors …

Prevent mistakes. Just because a path is clear doesn’t mean it’s the one God wants us to follow. Sometimes we won’t have the information we need to make a wise decision, so He bars the way either spiritually or physically. The Holy Spirit can see the whole road map for our life, which is why we are to follow His guidance.

Redirect our walk. Sometimes God has a different opportunity in mind—one that will yield bigger fruit, more contentment, and greater impact for the kingdom.

Test faith and build perseverance. Waiting for the Lord to speak or act is hard. But we’ll learn wisdom, patience, and trust by pausing prayerfully until He reveals His will.

Buy us time. God may temporarily hold shut an opportunity for service until a believer is properly equipped for kingdom work.

Despite the repeated references to “closed doors” in this devotion, the real message is that God opens doors. He has created a perfect pathway for us to follow. Keep your feet on it, and you will walk over thresholds leading to service, satisfaction, and glory for the Lord.

Confronting a Closed Door

When God closes a door, He will always open a better one.

Acts 16:5-10

Have you ever faced a closed door? It’s extremely frustrating, right? The apostle Paul knew exactly how that felt. On his second missionary journey, he repeatedly found the way blocked by the Holy Spirit. Eventually the apostle arrived in Troas with nothing but the sea in front of him and closed doors behind.

It must have seemed strange to Paul that God would prevent him from spreading the gospel. But instead of getting angry or trying to force his way into new territory, Paul waited for the Lord’s direction. The Bible doesn’t tell us how long he and Timothy lingered in Troas, but the apostle didn’t move until the Lord revealed the entrance to a new mission field.

If you’re in a period of waiting, try doing what Paul did. Look at your situation as a chance to seek God’s purpose and guidance. Ask the Lord why He has barred the way forward—perhaps the timing is wrong or there’s some unconfessed sin to deal with. Whatever the reason, it’s important to be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading—and to be ready for the door that will open.

When an opportunity is blocked, God has a reason. He is providing love and protection, even when we don’t see it. And He’s keeping His promise to work everything for our good (Romans 8:28).

Seek Bravely; Knock Boldly

Those who actively pursue God are never disappointed.

Matthew 7:7-14

Yesterday, we looked at what it means to ask something of God and what we gain by doing so. But we are also told to do two additional things in our pursuit of God: “seek” and “knock.”

All three of the commands come with rock-solid promises: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7, emphasis added). Notice the Lord doesn’t say “maybe it will be given,” “perhaps you will find,” or “hopefully it’ll be opened.” He wants us to know that those who seek after Him will never be disappointed. The journey—however long or challenging it might be—will always be worth it.

But what kind of door does Jesus have in mind? It is Himself. In John 10:9 Jesus says, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Jesus is the door through which we find abundant, eternal life. When we knock, we trust that there is always more goodness in store for those who are in Christ. And when we walk through this open door, it is through faith in Christ on the path of salvation that He alone provides.

When you ask, ask for more of Jesus. When you seek, seek the path of Jesus. And when you knock, knock boldly in the certainty that Jesus will open Himself to you and welcome you home.