If anyone purifies himself from anything dishonorable, he will be a special instrument, set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 2 Timothy 2:21 CSB
The Bible makes it clear that God has a plan for each life, and He wants to use us to accomplish His purposes. At the same time, as Paul expressed to Timothy, some are “special instruments,” particularly prepared and “useful to the Master.” What makes these people so special?
The distinguishing feature is a deeper level of personal commitment, not being passive but proactive by evaluating our choices and priorities and how we spend our time and resources. Do what is necessary to be available for God and more sensitive to His leading. Be more committed to His Word.
We demonstrate this commitment by purifying ourselves, making a conscious decision to cleanse our minds and hearts, and eliminating “anything dishonorable.”
No one magically becomes a special vessel. This requires preparation. Paul talked about being cleansed. He described how we have choices regarding the ideas we think about, the things we do, and the words we speak.
If we want to be vessels prepared for every good work, we will cleanse ourselves. We will make every effort to do and say things that are pleasing to God, avoid the wrong people and situations, monitor our words, always seek to honor God, and be serious about the faith.
Today, seek to do your part in the decisions you make and the things you do. Demonstrate that you want to be one of God’s special instruments.
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” Romans 8:15
Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis has a beautiful, stately auditorium. I’ll never forget the time I preached there. I was taken with the beauty of it all—the chimes of the carillon, the poetry of the liturgy, and even the majestic robes that the pastor Dr. Sandy Willson and I were wearing. It was all very ornate and regal.
I was soaking in the experience as I climbed the steps up to the platform, when I noticed something surprising—something that seemed strangely out of place. Perched on Dr. Willson’s robed lap was his four-year-old daughter! In the midst of all this majesty, my friend had welcomed his little girl to sit on the platform with him, right there in public. Incredible!
That wonderful picture is still etched in my mind.
I think about it when I read through our passage in Romans 8: 1-15. The apostle Paul has just reminded us that we are free from condemnation—that sin and death no longer have a claim on us if we have surrendered to Jesus (Rom. 8:1-2). Our minds are no longer held captive by sin and we are free to set them on what God desires (Rom. 8:5-8). And with the Holy Spirit now living within us, we are truly alive, able to live a life that better reflects Christ (Rom. 8:9-11). Then we get to the picture Paul paints in Rom. 8:15.
We no longer have to be slaves to fear, Paul says. Look at your world. People all around us are gripped by fear—fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of loss, fear of the future, and the fear of death. But in Jesus it’s all gone. Paul says that the Holy Spirit, living within the followers of Jesus, sets us free from our bondage to that fear.
And if that weren’t good enough, there’s more.
Paul then makes the staggering claim that we have the “Spirit of sonship.” We’ve been adopted into the family of God! He makes the claim explicit by giving us permission to call God—the Creator of the Universe—“Abba, Father.” In the language of Paul’s day, “Abba” was really the equivalent of “Daddy.” Imagine that! God says to you and to me, “You know what? Now that you’re my son (or daughter), I want you to call me Daddy!” Or, if you want a slightly more masculine metaphor, picture a father affectionately calling his son over and saying, “Give me a high five!” It’s intimate, close access with the Father because you’re a privileged child. He loves to be close to you. His own Son, Jesus, died to give you the privilege of being able to call the most important Person in the universe “Abba, Father”!
That’s why the picture of Dr. Willson with his daughter on his lap was so moving to me. Dr. Willson’s position hadn’t changed. He had a position of authority, of respect, and of honor. Nothing about that moment changed his position. But this little girl had immediate access to her father, and she felt safe with him. She was welcomed to his lap, and he was proud to be her daddy.
God’s position doesn’t change when we obey Scripture and call him our “Dad.” He is the ultimate authority, infinitely worthy of our honor and our respect. That never changes. But it makes the privilege of intimacy with the Father all the more incredible and all the more wonderful. Don’t waste another minute sensing that you are too small and insignificant to merit a special relationship with God. Jesus died to make you God’s child. Climb up on His lap and feel safe with Him.
In 1955, an African-American Christian woman in her 40s refused to surrender her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. As a result, many now view Rosa Parks as the mother of the civil rights movement and consider her act one of courage. But Rosa called her decision an act of faith. She said, “I felt the Lord would give me strength to endure whatever I had to face. It was time for someone to stand up—or in my case, to sit down. I refused to move.”
As followers of Jesus, we must be willing to stand, or sit, for what is right and just. Sadly, when life is good inside the “believer’s bubble,” very few voices cry out in protest against injustice.
Take a glance back through history with me for just a moment. Remember the Christians who lived in ancient Rome? They were tortured and killed for entertainment in the coliseums of Rome. Centuries later, generations of Africans were forced into slavery in America and kept in bondage until they were legally set free in 1865. But it didn’t end there. Sadly, our world has witnessed countless other atrocities, resulting in the tragic loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.
Something should go “tilt” deep down inside us when we think about these detestable actions against the dignity of fellow humans. And if it doesn’t, we need to check our spiritual pulse! God hates injustice and has a special place in His heart for the oppressed. In Psalm 146:7, the text tells us, “He upholds the cause of the oppressed.” It moves me to think about how His heart must break when He sees people who are precious to Him victimized by corrupt thinking and twisted morality.
God hates injustice so much that He gave us a living model for raising the standard of justice against oppression. That model is Jesus Christ!
Take, for instance, the time when He “cleaned house” in the temple where the merchants and moneychangers were in cahoots. They were requiring poor pilgrims who had come to worship to change their money for temple currency at exorbitantly unjust rates and, on top of that, they were forced to pay several times the market value for the cow, lamb, or dove that was to be used as an atonement for their sin!
Obviously, Jesus despised this unjust practice so much that He used a whip to drive the money changers from the temple, overthrowing their money tables and calling them thieves! He reacted so strongly because the merchants were taking advantage of people’s desire to serve and obey God. Injustice in the name of a just God is a serious offense to our God, who is perfectly just. In fact, throughout the Gospels Jesus took it upon Himself, at great risk, to be an advocate for the maligned and the oppressed.
One of history’s most tragic offenses to justice was the Holocaust. In Washington D.C., at the Holocaust Museum, there is a plaque with these words, “Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”
Although the silence from the Christian community is often deafening when it comes to helping the oppressed, it is never too late to start. You and I need to link arms with the people who are taking justice to our unjust world by rescuing those who are victims of injustice.
The Old Testament prophet Micah said that when it comes to pleasing God, we must “act justly and love mercy” (Micah 6:8). Maybe, that’s why I would like to see the eleventh commandment be: “Thou shalt not be a bystander.”
HEBREWS 4:13-16 NLT 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. 14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
You should talk to God just as you would to a very respected friend. Don’t worry about using any special form of words. Just talk openly, honestly, and sincerely from your heart. (This is what “prayer” is supposed to be.)
God knows what you are thinking anyway. You can’t fool God or hide anything from Him. God knows you better than you know yourself. And the wonderful thing is that God still loves you!
Nothing that concerns you is unimportant to God. Remember, He even keeps count of how many hairs you have!
God is not too busy to hear about every detail of your life. I have no idea how God can listen to all of us, but He can. God is not bound by time like we are. However He does it, we don’t have to be concerned but can just trust Him.
JEREMIAH 33:3 NKJ 33 ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’
What a privilege to have the input and counsel of God who knows everything! Don’t fail to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity.
We are called into fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ! That means we should share everything with Him.
1 CORINTHIANS 1:9 NKJ 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
God invites us to fellowship with Him. That would include just discussing things. Just visiting. Just “hanging out” together. This is what God desires. So don’t disappoint Him!
Don’t talk at God, talk directly to God. Prayer should not be a spiritual exercise you have to get through. It’s a conversation with Someone who loves you, and is very smart.
“But what can I say to God?”
“Thank You!” would be a good start. What would you say to any friend who was with you? You wouldn’t have any trouble figuring out what to talk about with them would you?
“But,” you say, “God doesn’t talk back.”
Yes, that is a difference you have to get used to. True, God does not usually speak back to us in the normal human fashion. The main way He “speaks” to us is through inward impressions or ideas, all of which will line up with His written Word, the Bible. We have to learn His way of communicating.
SAY THIS: God wants me to talk with Him about everything, so I will.
We, as Christians, are in a continual battle against our adversary, the devil, a spirit being whose sole intent is to cause havoc for each of us. His goal is to get us off track of God’s plan for our lives. He waits until we’re at a vulnerable place before bringing forth his attack. This is why we have to be on our guard every single day.
1 Peter 5:8-9 commands us,
“Be on your guard and stay awake. Your enemy, the devil, is like a roaring lion, sneaking around to find someone to attack. But you must resist the devil and stay strong in your faith.” (CEV)
There are times when we may feel like our backs are against the wall with no way out. The thought of having to fight the giants of life in order to move forward can be intimidating. This is when the enemy comes alongside us to speak words of fear and doubt.
Satan is always trying to discourage us from believing we will ever walk in triumph. He is a liar and the king of all lies. We can either stand and fight or run and hide, the choice is ours to make. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances look like and what the devil says. The most important thing is what God’s Word says about our particular situation.
“So let us seize and hold fast and retain without wavering the hope we cherish and confess and our acknowledgment of it, for He Who promised is reliable (sure) and faithful to His word” (Hebrews 10:23 AMP).
In her book, The Secret Power of Speaking God’s Word, Joyce Meyer says,
“2 Corinthians 10:4-5 teaches us that our weapons are not carnal, but are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds in our mind. Casting down imaginations, thoughts, reasonings, and theories that don’t agree with God’s Word requires us to use our offensive weapon-the Word of God coming out of our mouth. When we speak, it becomes a two-edged sword that defeats the enemy with one edge and opens the blessings of heaven with the other. There are many other weapons that are defensive, but the Word is offensive-it chases the enemy, driving him back.”
We should never be the ones who back down from Satan in defeat. No! We must be bold in our faith and continue to push back the powers of darkness by using God’s Word as our weapon. Satan fears those who truly grasp hold of God’s Word and begin using it to their advantage. He knows the power the Word carries, and that he is no match against it.
“Jesus said to him, Away from me, Satan! For it is written…” (Matthew 4:10 NIV).
God sent forth His Son, Jesus, to die for us so we could have victory over the evil one. Our victory was bought with the price of Jesus’ blood. We, therefore, are protected by the blood of Christ and because of this protection, Satan cannot have dominion over us.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:10-17 NIV).
Do you ever wonder if anybody knows what you are going through, or if anybody cares? Sometimes that thought crosses my mind, but then I am reminded by the whispering of the Still Small Voice (the Holy Ghost) that the Lord knows exactly what I am going through and that He does care. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the “Mormon Church” by friends of other faiths), I am a firm believer that Jesus Christ suffered all things, and because of that He knows how to “succor His people” (see the Book of Mormon, Alma 7:11-12). In a book titled, Be Not Afraid—Only Believe, written by Ted L. Gibbons, and published in 2009 by Cedar Fort, Inc. Ted shares examples of how the Lord is aware of individuals:
Our lives, difficult though they often are, must be grounded in the reality that He knows what is happening to us. He is aware of every problem, need, pain, sorrow, and sickness. He hears our prayers. In His own time and way, He answers them.
Listen to the Lord’s testimony of His awareness: “Behold and hearken, o ye elders of my church, who have assembled yourselves together, whose prayers I have heard, and whose hearts I know, and whose desires have come up before me. Behold and lo, mine eyes are upon you” (D&C 67:1–2).
Because the Lord hears our prayers, knows our hearts, and understands our desires, He is able to interact with us in ways that can help us…
When the Lord entered into Jericho on His way to Jerusalem and the final days of His mortal ministry, He met a man “little of stature” (Luke 19:3) and the “chief among the publicans” (Luke 19:2). Publicans were tax collectors in the service of either Rome or Herod. They were despised by the Jews, and anyone who per- formed this work was excommunicated from the congregation of faithful Israelites (Bible Dictionary, “Publicans,” 755).
This man’s name was Zacchæus.
Zacchæus wanted to see the Savior, but the crowd and his small size made this impossible, so he raced ahead of the throng and climbed a sycamore tree from where he hoped to get a glimpse of this remarkable man (Luke 19:1–4).
“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchæus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house” (Luke 19:5).
The Savior knew his name, and, as subsequent verses indicate (Luke 19:6–9), He knew his heart as well. Here was a man who was despised, rejected, and cast out. But the Savior knew him. He knew his heart, and He loved him.
What was true then is true now. He is aware of us and knows our hearts. The following story comes from the journal of Joseph Millett, from an entry written in 1871.
One of my children came in and said that Brother Newton Hall’s folks was out of bread, had none that day.
I divided our flour in a sack to send up to Brother Hall. Just then Brother Hall came.
Says I, “Brother Hall, are you out of flour?”
“Brother Millett, we have none.”
“Well, Brother Hall, there is some in that sack. I have divided and was going to send it to you. Your children told mine that you was out.”
Brother Hall began to cry. He said he had tried others, but could not get any. He went to the cedars and prayed to the Lord, and the Lord told him to go to Joseph Millett.
“Well Brother Hall, you needn’t bring this back. If the Lord sent you for it you don’t owe me for it.”3
The reaction of Brother Millett to this experience is deeply moving. He wrote the following sentence in his personal journal. “you can’t tell me how good it made me feel to know that the Lord knew there was such a person as Joseph Millett.” He knows our names. He is aware when we are out of flour, or hope, or love. Our perception of that comprehensive awareness ought to bring us to our knees frequently with an outpouring of gratitude. That witness ought also to encourage us to “come boldly before the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). He knows us. He knows all about us. He will help us. We need not fear. James taught this: “Known unto God are all [the works of men] from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). Ammon told Lamoni that God “looketh down upon all the children of men; and he knows all the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Alma 18:32).
Solomon, in his dedicatory prayer of the temple, said of God, “For thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men” (1 Kings 8:39).
David taught Solomon that “the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9). (pages 58-61)
My heart goes soft as I read the stories of Zacchæus and of Joseph Millet. I know and believe that the Lord is just as aware of you and me as He was of them. And I testify that as we try to live in accordance to God’s law we will be able to stand back, in awe, recognizing that the Lord is not only watching out for mankind, but for every man and woman. I invite you to feel the power from the words of Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who said, “The Lord knows who we really are, what we really think, what we really do, and who we really are becoming” (“Things as They Really Are,” CES fireside for young adults, May 3, 2009). I also invite you to learn more about Jesus Christ and His role in our individual lives by meeting with Mormon missionaries—whose mission is to help bring others closer to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. And please always remember that you are a child of God, and He loves you.