Paul clearly evidences God’s power. Sometimes when I read his letters, I picture myself next to him, chained to the stone wall of a small, dark cell. I can feel despair closing in through the moist walls, the frightening silence interrupted only by the distant din of life on the outside. Then I read Paul’s words, and that image transforms into a vision of strength in which the power of God enables me to stand up and walk, unfettered, into the sunlit streets.
As I boldly step into the world with a newfound courage, I feel in my soul the truth I have just read: “The word of God is not chained.” I can breathe deeply, knowing that through Christ, I am not chained. I am wonderfully free and whole.
Yet with each step, I exert a little energy. I exhale some of that deep breath. I engage in the tasks of everyday life, and I begin to run out of steam. Before I realize it—and sooner than I like to admit—I find myself back in those chains. The house needs attention; the children need attention; my tasks require attention. Suddenly I look at my to-do list, which I never seem to complete, and I feel burdened by my inability to keep up. I am out of breath and out of energy. I am empty.
The good news is that I am never out of God’s love. I wear myself out doing “my best to present [myself] to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed,” but in that very effort I forget that it is not my effort that warrants God’s approval. The unbounded word of God has already granted me that. God’s grace is sufficient.
When do you feel the most free? When do you feel empty?
God, thank you for being faithful when I am faithless. Forgive my tendency to attempt to earn your approval, and help me to surrender to you so that I can live in your freedom. Amen.
One might have expected Jeremiah to advise the exiles to maintain their independence and be ready to return to Judah. Instead, he tells them to settle in, to build and plant, to seek the welfare of Babylon, even to pray for its prosperity. The judging purposes of God call for extended exile and not impa- tient rebellion. In the story of the ten lepers in Luke, one returns to praise and thank Jesus for giving him health. Only then do we learn that he is a Samaritan. The ultimate outsider becomes the model of faith. Second Timothy bears witness to the awe- some character of God that always honors divine commitments, thereby appearing to humans full of surprises. For the psalmist, God merits the worship of all the earth.
• Read Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7. When have you found yourself in exile? How did you cope with the situation? What reminded you that God had not abandoned you?
• Read Psalm 66:1-12. When has the testing of God brought you out to “a spacious place”?
• Read 2 Timothy 2:8-15. How do you ready yourself to pres- ent yourself as one approved by God?
• Read Luke 17:11-19. The writer states that Jesus’ question, “Where are the other nine?,” invites us to receive God’s healing of illness and inner wounds. What in your life needs God’s healing touch?
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