31 JUL: TRUE FAITH

Without faith it is impossible to please God. Hebrews 11:6

READ HEBREWS 10:32–11:6

It’s tempting to think of faith as a kind of magic formula. If you muster up enough of it, you’ll get rich, stay healthy, and live a contented life with automatic answers to all your prayers. But life does not work according to such neat formulas.

As proof, the author of Hebrews presents a stirring reminder of what constitutes “true faith” by reviewing the lives of some Old Testament giants of faith (Hebrews 11). “Without faith,” the author says bluntly, “it is impossible to please God” (11:6). In describing faith he uses the word persevered (verse 27). As a result of their faith, some heroes triumphed: They routed armies, escaped the sword, survived lions. But others met less happy ends: They were flogged, stoned, sawed in two. The chapter concludes, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised” (verse 39).

The picture of faith that emerges does not fit into an easy formula. Sometimes it leads to victory and triumph. Sometimes it requires a gritty determination to “hang on at any cost.” Of such people, “God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (verse 16).

What our faith rests on is the belief that God is in ultimate control and will indeed keep His promises—whether that happens in this life or the next. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Give me a faith that trusts You wholeheartedly, Lord.

Our greatest comfort in sorrow is to know that God is in control.

30 JUL: LOVE FOR ANOTHER

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

READ ROMANS 13:8–11

An anthropologist was winding up several months of research in a small village, the story is told. While waiting for a ride to the airport for his return flight home, he decided to pass the time by making up a game for some children. His idea was to create a race for a basket of fruit and candy that he placed near a tree. But when he gave the signal to run, no one made a dash for the finish line. Instead the children joined hands and ran together to the tree.

When asked why they chose to run as a group rather than each racing for the prize, a little girl spoke up and said: “How could one of us be happy when all of the others are sad?” Because these children cared about each other, they wanted all to share the basket of fruit and candy.

After years of studying the law of Moses, the apostle Paul found that all of God’s laws could be summed up in one: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14; see also Romans 13:9). In Christ, Paul saw not only the reason to encourage, comfort, and care for one another but also the spiritual enablement to do it.

Because He cares for us, we care for each other. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Father, thank You for the love You shower on us day by day. Teach us, in turn, to care for others. Open our eyes to see their need and respond as You want us to.

We show our love for God when we love one another.

29 JUL: GOOD FRIEND

“Abraham believed God . . . ,” and he was called God’s friend. James 2:23

READ JAMES 2:18–26

“Good friends are one of life’s greatest treasures.” How true! With good friends, you are never alone. They’re attentive to your needs and gladly share life’s joys and burdens.

Before Jesus came to earth, only two individuals were called friends of God. The Lord spoke to Moses “as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11), and Abraham “was called God’s friend” (James 2:23; see 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8).

Jesus calls those of us who belong to Him friends: “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). And His friendship is so deep that He laid down His life for us. John says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (verse 13).

What a privilege and blessing to have Jesus as our friend! He is a friend who will never leave us or forsake us. He intercedes for us before the Father and supplies all our needs. He forgives all our sins, understands all our sorrows, and gives us sufficient grace in times of trouble. He is indeed our best friend! 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Lord, I am thankful that You have called me Your friend. May I ever be grateful for the privilege!

What a friend we have in Jesus.

28 JUL: FAMILY RESEMBLANCE

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. — 1 John 4:7

READ 1 JOHN 4:7-16

The Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland, are known for their beautiful sweaters. Patterns are woven into the fabric using sheep’s wool to craft the garments. Many of them relate to the culture and folklore of these small islands, but some are more personal. Each family on the islands has its own trademark pattern, which is so distinctive that if a fisherman were to drown it is said that he could be identified simply by examining his sweater for the family trademark. In John’s first letter, the apostle describes things that are to be trademarks of those who are members of God’s family.

In 1 John 3:1, John affirms that we are indeed part of God’s family by saying, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” He then describes the trademarks of those who are the children of God, including, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (4:7).

Because “love is of God,” the chief way to reflect the heart of the Father is by displaying the love that characterizes Him. May we allow His love to reach out to others through us—for love is one of our family trademarks. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Father, teach me to love with the love of Christ that others might see Your love reflected in my care and concern for them. May Your love drive and dominate my responses to life and to others.

Love is the family resemblance the world should see in followers of Christ.

27 JUL: CONFIDENT ACCESS

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. — Hebrews 4:16

READ HEBREWS 4:14-16

Mont Saint-Michel is a tidal island located about a half-mile off the coast of Normandy, France. For centuries it has been the site of an abbey and monastery that has attracted religious pilgrims. Until the construction of a causeway, it was notorious for its dangerous access that resulted in the death of some pilgrims. At low tide it is encompassed by sand banks, and at high tide it is surrounded by water. Accessing the island was a cause for fear.

Access to God for Old Testament Jews was also a cause for fear. When God thundered on Mt. Sinai, the people feared approaching Him (Exodus 19:10-16). And when access to God was granted through the high priest, specific instructions had to be followed (Leviticus 16:1-34). Accidentally touching the ark of the covenant, which represented the holy presence of God, would result in death (see 2 Samuel 6:7-8).

But because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can now approach God without fear. God’s penalty for sin has been satisfied, and we are invited into God’s presence: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace” (Hebrews 4:16).

Because of Jesus we can come to God through prayer anywhere, anytime. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Then boldly let our faith address God’s throne of grace and power, There to obtain delivering grace In every needy hour. —Watts

Through prayer, we have instant access to our Father.

26 JUL: IN SEASONS OF TESTING

How long, Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their ravages, my precious life from these lions. Psalm 35:17

READ PSALM 35:17–28

A test match in the game of cricket can be grueling. Competitors play from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. with lunch and tea breaks, but the games can last up to five days. It’s a test of endurance as well as skill.

The tests we face in life are sometimes intensified for a similar reason—they feel unending. The long search for a job, an unbroken season of loneliness, or a lengthy battle with cancer is made even more difficult by the fact that you wonder if it will ever end.

Perhaps that is why the psalmist cried out, “How long, Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their ravages, my precious life from these lions” (Psalm 35:17). Bible commentaries say that this was speaking of the long period in David’s life when he was pursued by Saul and slandered by the king’s advisors—a time of trial that lasted for years.

Yet, in the end, David sang, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant” (verse 27). His testing drove him to deeper trust in God—a trust that we can also experience in our own long seasons of testing, hardship, or loss. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

As time drags on and answers seem faraway, teach me, Father, to find my help in You and Your presence. Enable me to endure, and empower me to trust in You.

When your burdens overwhelm you, remember that God has His arms underneath you.

25 JUL: THE WRONG HORSES SHOE

Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil. Psalm 34:12–13

READ PSALM 34:11–18

Napoleon’s defeat in Russia 200 years ago was attributed to the harsh Russian winter. One specific problem was that his horses were wearing summer horseshoes. When winter came, these horses died because they slipped on icy roads as they pulled the supply wagons. The failure of Napoleon’s supply chain reduced his 400,000-strong army to just 10,000. A small slip; a disastrous result!

James described how a slip of the tongue can do great damage. One wrong word can change the careers or destinies of people. So toxic is the tongue that James wrote, “No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). The problem has increased in our modern world as a careless email or a posting on a social media site can cause great harm. It quickly goes viral and can’t always be retracted. King

David tied respect for the Lord with the way we use our words. He wrote, “I will teach you the fear of the Lord. . . . Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies” (Psalm 34:11, 13). He resolved, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth(39:1). Lord, help us to do the same. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

What do James 3:1–12 and Proverbs 18:1–8 teach you about a slip of the tongue?

Our words have the power to build up or tear down.