Daily Devotion Weekend

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalms 46:10)

This hymn was a fav­o­rite of Er­ic Lid­dell, the ath­lete who be­came fa­mous in the 1924 Olympics for re­fus­ing to run on the Sab­bath (see the 1981 mo­vie Char­i­ots of Fire).

Lid­dell lat­er be­came a mis­sion­a­ry in Ch­ina, and was im­pris­oned dur­ing World War II. He is said to have taught this hymn to oth­ers in the pris­on camp (where he event­u­al­ly died of a brain tu­mor).

Daily Devotion Weekend

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5

One of the most pro­lif­ic hym­nists in his­to­ry, Fan­ny was the wife of or­gan­ist Al­ex­an­der Van Al­styne, who like her, was blind.

Though blind­ed by an in­com­pe­tent doc­tor at six weeks of age, she wrote over 8,000 hymns. About her blind­ness, Fanny said:

It seem­ed in­tend­ed by the bless­ed pro­vi­dence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dis­pen­sa­tion. If per­fect earth­ly sight were of­fered me to­mor­row I would not ac­cept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been dis­trac­ted by the beau­ti­ful and in­ter­est­ing things about me.

In her lifetime, Fan­ny Cros­by was one of the best known wo­men in the Unit­ed States. To this day, the vast ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­can hym­nals con­tain her work.

Daily Devotion

Martyrdom Without Love

Wrong motives rob even the greatest sacrifice of its spiritual benefit.

So far in his denunciation of loveless ministries, Paul has addressed what we say, what we know, what we believe, and how we give. Now he comes to the apex of his argument: how we die. Many Christians have made the ultimate sacrifice of martyrdom, but even that is useless without love.

In Paul’s time, many slaves were branded with a hot iron to identify them as belonging to their master. For that reason, some interpreters believe Paul was referring to becoming a slave when he spoke of delivering his body to be burned (1 Cor. 13:3). Others think he was speaking of burning at the stake—a death that many Christians suffered at the hands of their persecutors.

Although death by burning wasn’t a common form of persecution until after Paul wrote to the Corinthians, I believe that’s what he had in mind in this passage. In verses 1-2 he used extremes to make his point: speaking with the tongues of angels; knowing all mysteries and knowledge; having all faith, and giving all one’s possessions to feed the poor. The horrible, agonizing pain associated with death by fire is consistent with those extremes.

Jesus called martyrdom the highest expression of love (John 15:13). But it isn’t always a godly or loving thing to do. Many people have died for lesser reasons. You may recall stories of the Japanese kamikaze pilots of World War II, or more recently of monks or students who burned themselves in protest of some political or social injustice.

Even Christians aren’t exempt from wrong motives. It is reported that many Christians in the early church developed a martyr complex, wanting to die for the faith so they could become famous like the martyrs before them. Many deeds that look sacrificial on the surface are really the products of pride.

If the ultimate sacrifice is useless without love, so is every lesser sacrifice. But love sanctifies them all. So let God’s love govern everything you do!

Suggestions for Prayer

Memorize Romans 5:8 as a reminder to praise God for the many sacrifices He has made for you.

For Further Study

Read Revelation 2:1-7.

• What strengths did the church in Ephesus have?

• What did the Lord say about its one glaring weakness?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993.

Daily Devotion

Benevolence Without Love

Love is characterized by self-sacrifice, but not all self-sacrifice is an act of love.

If you’ve ever donated to your church or another charitable organization out of obligation, peer pressure, legalism, guilt, a desire for recognition, or simply a tax deduction, you know what it means to give without love. In our society it’s easy to fall prey to that kind of giving because the needs are so great and fund raisers appeal to every conceivable motive. In addition, many cults and false religions encourage the giving up of possessions and other sacrificial gestures as a supposed means of earning God’s favor. But God is more interested in why you give than what you give.

Paul’s hypothetical illustration in 1 Corinthians 13:3 is of someone who sacrificed everything he had to feed the poor. The Greek word translated “to feed” means “to dole out in small quantities.” Apparently this guy didn’t simply write out a check for a food distribution program; he was personally involved in a long-term, systematic program that would eventually consume every resource he had.

Paul doesn’t mention motives—only that this person lacked love. Consequently, the benefits of his benevolence were limited to the physical realm. Any spiritual benefits were forfeited.

Jesus, making a similar point, said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:1). If your motive for giving is to gain the approval of men, their accolades will be your only reward. If you’re motivated by love for God, He will reward you abundantly (vv. 2-4).

When you give to the Lord, what is your motive? Do you want others to think more highly of you? Do you feel obligated? Those are subtle influences, so be sure to guard your motives carefully. Remember, the only acceptable motive is love.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you sensitive to the needs of others, enabling you always to give out of genuine love.

For Further Study

Read Luke 18:9-14.

• How did the Pharisee’s prayer differ from the tax-gatherer’s?

• How did God respond to each prayer?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993

Daily Devotion

Faith Without Love

Loveless faith is useless faith.

In Matthew 17:19 the disciples came to Jesus wanting to know why they couldn’t cast a demonic spirit from a child. Jesus responded, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you” (v. 20). He repeated the same principle in Matthew 21:21: “Truly I say to you, if you have faith, and do not doubt, you shall . . . say to this mountain [the Mount of Olives], ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ [and] it shall happen.”

Those passages have puzzled many people because they’ve never seen anyone move a mountain. But Jesus wasn’t speaking literally. Moving mountains would cause all kinds of ecological problems and would be a pointless miracle. The expression “able to move mountains” was a common figure of speech in that day, meaning “to surmount great obstacles.” Jesus was speaking of those who have the gift of faith—who can move the hand of God through unwavering prayer.

The gift of faith is the ability to believe that God will act according to His will, no matter the circumstances. People with that gift are prayer warriors and tend to stand as rocks when others around them are falling apart. They see God’s power and purposes at work and trust Him even when others doubt.

But, says Paul, even if you have such faith, if you don’t have love, you are nothing. That’s a harsh rebuke, but it places the emphasis where it belongs: on our motives. The Corinthians’ motives were evident in their selfish pursuit of the showy gifts.

What motivates you? Remember, without love it doesn’t matter what gifts you have, how eloquent your speech is, what you know, or what you believe. Only love can validate your service to Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for a greater capacity to trust Him, and the motivation to pray more fervently.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 11, drawing from the examples of the people of great faith mentioned there.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993.

Daily Devotion

Languages Without Love

Love distinguishes true communication from useless chatter and meaningless noises.

Paul begins his discourse on love by stating the futility of languages without love. The Corinthians were enamored with the showy spiritual gifts, apparently to the neglect of those they deemed less spectacular (see 1 Cor. 12:12-31). One of the gifts they prized most highly was tongues, which was the Spirit-given ability to declare God’s truth in a language unknown to the speaker but known to others who heard.

Tongues were a sign to provoke unbelieving Jewish people to consider the gospel (1 Cor. 14:21-22). Its first occurrence was on the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit enabled those assembled in the upper room to proclaim the mighty deeds of God in the native languages of the Jews gathered in Jerusalem at the time (Acts 2:4-11).

The “tongues of angels” Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 13:1 isn’t the gift of tongues, as some suppose. He was simply using an exaggeration to emphasize his point, saying in effect, “If I had the ability to communicate with angels, it wouldn’t do any good without love.”

In Paul’s day, the worship of Cybele and Dionysus, two pagan gods, incorporated speaking in ecstatic languages accompanied by blaring trumpets, smashing gongs, and clanging cymbals. I believe Paul was drawing from that well-known practice to say that whenever Christians attempt to minister apart from the Spirit and His love, it’s no different than a pagan rite. It may look and sound like the real thing, but it’s meaningless and useless for any spiritual benefit.

You should take advantage of every opportunity to minister your spiritual gifts to others. But as you do, be sure it’s with love, in the energy of the Spirit, and in accordance with God’s Word. Then you’ll have a maximum impact as Christ uses your efforts for His glory.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to convict you whenever you attempt to exercise your spiritual gifts without love.

For Further Study

Read Romans 12:1-21.

• What does Paul say about spiritual gifts?

• How are Christians to express brotherly love to one another?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993.

Daily Devotion

The Source Of True Love

True love cannot be generated on the human level. It’s a gift from God.

Scripture often makes seemingly impossible demands of us. For example, Jesus said, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). That’s easy to say, but how is it possible? Our natural tendency is to love our friends and hate our enemies. But Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (vv. 46-47).

Israel viewed tax-gatherers as traitors, and Gentiles as spiritual outcasts. Yet even traitors and outcasts show love and kindness to those who reciprocate. Jesus calls us to a much higher standard of love—one that is impartial, like God demonstrates when He “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (v. 45). As we see from God Himself, it extends even to those who aren’t worthy: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

Despite generations of rebellion and slander against His holy will and name, God sacrificed His beloved Son, thereby providing the means by which sinners can be saved. Out of love, Jesus willingly endured the pain and shame of the cross and paid the price of our redemption. Now that’s divine love in action!

God commands you to love as He loves: impartially and sacrificially. That may sound impossible on the human level but remember that God never requires you to do anything He hasn’t already enabled you to do. At the moment of your salvation, the Holy Spirit took up residence within you and began producing the fruit of love (Gal. 5:22). You don’t have to muster it up on your own. All you have to do is invite the Spirit to take control, allowing Him to govern your thoughts and actions. As you do, His precious fruit will be multiplied in your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

• Thank God for the love of the Spirit He has placed within you.

• Ask Him for opportunities today to learn how to love more perfectly.

For Further Study

Memorize Galatians 5:22-23.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993.