“ You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its remotest parts And said to you, `You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.  Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’  Behold, all those who are angered at you will be shamed and dishonored; Those who contend with you will be as nothing and will perish.” Isaiah 41:9-11

Loneliness is a painful emotion that many people fear. Paul knew what it felt like, so his life and letters can offer us encouragement when we’re lonely. Yesterday we saw how the apostle was motivated by the presence of Christ. Now let’s look at what fueled His courage.

First, Paul experienced the strength of God. Often, the Lord allows us to come to the end of our own ability so that we clearly see His hand. Otherwise, we would attribute success to our own doing. For example, the apostle was facing possible death charges in court, and it must have been tempting to water down the truth in order to save his own life. But God enabled him to be forthright in once again proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ—fearlessly, boldly, and effectively.

Second, Paul knew he was fulfilling God’s will. Despite his dire situation, the apostle found satisfaction, energy, and joy because he was obedient to God. The believer’s reality is bigger than what meets the eye in the imminent moment.

Remember, even in painful circumstances, three truths are certain: Jesus stands with us; He strengthens us for whatever task our Father wants us to accomplish; and until our final breath, He will enable us to fulfill God’s purpose. Be comforted and encouraged by these promises of the living Lord.

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“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2

The call to imitate God sounds impossible. Yet, just as a small child imperfectly mimics a parent’s actions, disciples of Jesus copy him. These verses in Ephesians contain a key way to imitate God: walk in love.

Love, by definition, gives time, attention, and compassion. Love spends energy, intellectual resources, and money. Love sacrifices personal interests, wants, and needs for the interests, wants, and needs of others.

Indeed, love requires sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice for us reveals what real love looks like. John explains what “love” is in his first letter. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).

The call to “walk in love” goes far beyond loving nice, similar-to-us, or likeable people. God calls us to love dirty, unattractive, and needy people, too. He commands us to love greedy, ungrateful, and adversarial people. God directs us to love these people because that is who we once were. Paul tells the believers in Rome, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

To walk in love is to daily put others ahead of ourselves. We walk in love, not because others deserve our love, but because Jesus first loved us. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another
(1 John 4:11).

Holy Spirit, fill me with your presence so that I might walk in love as Christ loves me. Amen.