John the Baptist spent several decades—in fact, most of his life—waiting for God to tell him that now was the moment to declare the Messiah had arrived. The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about John’s growing up years. We see him as a tiny baby in his father’s arms and then quite suddenly he is a thundering voice in the wilderness, urging repentance and proclaiming the Lamb of God. But all the time he was aware that his role would end when the Messiah took center stage.
This is the assigned moment for him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines. (John 3:30 Message)
He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.
(John 3:30 NLT)
John’s single-hearted focused life is a beautiful illustration of the spiritual discipline of discernment. Discernment is recognizing God and following his direction. This sounds like a grand and glorious goal—and possibly out of reach!—when our daily goals include buying tape, mailing packages and searching for that box of crocheted snowflakes from Grandma. And yet it is right here and now in the midst of the most mundane activities that God is present, guiding and directing us and producing his character in our lives.
I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.(Philippians 1:10-11 NLT)
This is a wonderful prayer for Advent and all year: praying to discern what really matters right here in our current situation (not the situation we wish we had somehow arranged for ourselves).
As you read today’s scriptures, look for treasure and use it as you pray. The scriptures are all here.
Isaiah 35:1-6, 10
Psalm 146: This psalm begins and ends with a call to praise the Lord. In between, it tells us that the Creator is very personally involved with his people.
Isaiah 35: Isaiah is giving his people a message of hope. After a time of judgment when their land will be devastated by enemy forces, there will come a time of restoration, healing and rejoicing.
James 5: James, the brother of Jesus, wrote to the early church to urge them to live out their faith in times of great trial. “Take courage!” he says, reminding them that Jesus will return. This is such an encouragement as we look at our broken world. These circumstances will not last forever.
What is your treasure today?
Today my treasure phrase is “take courage” from James 5:8.
Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return.
They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy.
Sorrow and mourning will disappear,
and they will be filled with joy and gladness… (Isaiah 35:10 NLT)
…Joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them.
He keeps every promise forever. (Psalm 146:5-6 NLT)
The Lord frees the prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down. (Psalm 146:7-8 NLT)
…Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. (James 5:8 NLT)
For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. (James 5:10 NLT)
Some day — some glorious day! — you will remove all sorrow and grief. Until then, remind me that you are my hope. You are the one who frees prisoners, opens blind eyes, and lifts up those who are weighed down with burdens and troubles. You have mercy on those who, like John, have doubts in dark seasons. You call me to take courage and follow the examples of your prophets, who endured such hardships as they spoke your word.
It may be at morn, when the day is awaking,
When sunlight through darkness and shadow is breaking
That Jesus will come in the fullness of glory
To receive from the world His own.
O Lord Jesus, how long, how long
Ere we shout the glad song,
Christ returneth! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Amen. Hallelujah! Amen.
It may be at midday, it may be at twilight,
It may be, perchance, that the blackness of midnight
Will burst into light in the blaze of His glory,
When Jesus receives His own.
Oh, joy! oh, delight! should we go without dying,
No sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying.
Caught up through the clouds with our Lord into glory,
When Jesus receives His own.
–H. L. Turner, quoted at cyberhymnal.org