Day 46

The Highs and Lows of Life

Wisdom Psalm 22:1-11
New Testament Mark 1:1-28
Old Testament Exodus 17:1-18:27


As I look back on my almost fifty years as a Christian, there have been times of great spiritual highs – experiences of the Holy Spirit, God’s love, the joy of seeing people encounter Jesus for the first time, amazing answers to prayer and seeing the kingdom of God advancing. On the other hand, there have also been spiritual lows – desert experiences, bereavements, disappointments, failures, temptations, opposition, health issues and exhaustion. In the passages for today we see how spiritual highs and lows are closely connected.


Psalm 22:1-11

For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David.

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
   Why are you so far from saving me,
   so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
   by night, but I find no rest.

3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
   you are the one Israel praises.
4 In you our ancestors put their trust;
   they trusted and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried out and were saved;
   in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

6 But I am a worm and not a man,
   scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
   they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8 “He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
   “let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
   since he delights in him.”

9 Yet you brought me out of the womb;
   you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
   from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me,
   for trouble is near
   and there is no one to help.


Trust that ultimately suffering will end in victory

This psalm forms the background to Jesus’ cry on the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (v.1a). It is not a coincidence that Jesus quoted this psalm (Matthew 27:46).

Psalm 22 lays out a prophetic background to the cross and resurrection, which we see fulfilled in Jesus. He was ‘scorned by everyone, and despised by the people’ (v.6); mocked and insulted (v.7). They hurled insults at him, shaking their heads (v.7b). ‘He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him’ (v.8a).

This accurately describes the suffering of Jesus (see Matthew 27:31–46) and yet it ends in victory.

The message of the psalm is about the importance of trust at our very low points (Psalm 22:4–5,9). Jesus, at the very lowest point of his life – crucified and God forsaken – trusted in God to deliver him. The apparent defeat of the cross turned out to be the greatest victory of all time.

If you are at a low point, remember that suffering does not have the last word. In Jesus, the resurrection and the victory of God have the last word. Keep trusting him.


Lord, thank you so much for the times when I have cried out to you and been saved; trusted in you and not been disappointed. Help me in times of suffering to keep trusting in you.

New Testament

Mark 1:1-28

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way” —
3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The Baptism and Testing of Jesus

9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Jesus Announces the Good News

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Jesus Drives Out an Impure Spirit

21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.


Grow in authority through the battles and blessings

Pippa and I watched a video of Billy Graham preaching in Los Angeles in 1963. The film is in black and white. He preaches from the Authorised Version of the Bible. But even after over half a century, there is power in the message. What is most striking of all is the authority with which he spoke. This kind of authority is a reflection of the supreme authority of Jesus.

In this passage, we see that God prepared Jesus through the spiritual highs and lows in the blessings and battles he experienced.

Mark is the shortest Gospel. It covers three weeks of Jesus’ actions and twenty minutes of his words. It is the liveliest Gospel; it races from event to event with an air of breathless excitement. It is the urgent announcement of the good news of Jesus Christ.

Mark’s favourite word is ‘immediately’. Jesus knew all about a pressurised life. He experienced both spiritual highs and lows. At his baptism Jesus experienced a great spiritual high. He saw a vision: ‘He saw heaven being torn open’ (v.10b). He experienced the Holy Spirit: ‘The Spirit descending on him like a dove’ (v.10b). He heard God’s voice: ‘A voice came from heaven’ (v.11a). He received an assurance of sonship: ‘You are my Son’ (v.11b). He knew deep down God’s love for him: ‘… whom I love’ (v.11c). He enjoyed God’s pleasure: ‘With you I am well pleased’ (v.11d).

From there he went straight into a spiritual low out in the desert where he was tempted by Satan for forty days (v.12).

Do not be surprised by the spiritual attack that follows great spiritual experiences. We always try to warn people about this. If, for example, on the Alpha Weekend¹, you have been filled with the Holy Spirit, receiving a deep assurance of God’s love for you and knowing that you are a child of God, do not be surprised by the attacks – in the form of doubts and temptations – that often follow.

As I look back on my own life, I can see that, although these times of testing seemed very painful at the time, I now recognise how significant they were in preparing me for what lay ahead.

This is all part of God’s economy – it was ‘the Spirit’ who led Jesus into the desert (v.12) to ‘be tempted by Satan’ (v.13). In some ways, the ‘desert’ times and fierce temptations give an assurance that it really is true. The experience of the Holy Spirit is real but at the same time the spiritual battle and testing may be intense.

Jesus emerged from this period of testing with an extraordinary authority:

  1. Authority to evangelise

Jesus preached the gospel and called people to follow him. Your number one priority is to cultivate a relationship with Jesus.

  1. Authority to lead

When Jesus wanted someone to leave their job and work directly for the kingdom, he went up to them and asked (vv.17,20). The earliest disciples’ lives were changed completely from being centred on fish to being centred on people.

  1. Authority to teach

People were amazed at Jesus’ teaching because ‘he taught them as one who had authority’ (v.22). All the people were so astonished that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching – and with authority!’ (v.27).

  1. Authority to heal

Jesus heals the man possessed by an evil spirit. He has authority to say to the evil spirit, ‘Come out of him!’ (v.25). People are amazed not only at his teaching, but also at the way in which he ‘gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him’ (v.27).

Whatever you are going through, believe that God is preparing you and giving you an increasing authority for whatever it is that he is calling you to do.

Ask him to fill you again with the Holy Spirit. Know that God looks at you with pleasure. Listen to his voice saying to you, ‘You are my [child], whom I love; with you I am well pleased’ (v.11).


Lord, fill me again with your Holy Spirit… Help me to grow in authority in my words and actions.

Old Testament

Exodus 17:1-18:27

Water From the Rock

17 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”

3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

5 The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

The Amalekites Defeated

8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”

10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”

15 Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. 16 He said, “Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

Jethro Visits Moses

18 Now Jethro, the priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, heard of everything God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, and how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt.

2 After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro received her 3 and her two sons. One son was named Gershom, for Moses said, “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land”; 4 and the other was named Eliezer, for he said, “My father’s God was my helper; he saved me from the sword of Pharaoh.”

5 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, together with Moses’ sons and wife, came to him in the wilderness, where he was camped near the mountain of God. 6 Jethro had sent word to him, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons.”

7 So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent. 8 Moses told his father-in-law about everything the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the Lord had saved them.

9 Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. 10 He said, “Praise be to the Lord, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.” 12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God.

13 The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. 14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”

15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. 16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”

17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20 Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. 21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain —and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

24 Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. 25 He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 26 They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.

27 Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country.


Pray and act to turn the lows into highs

Moses had moments of great spiritual lows. The people ‘quarrelled with Moses’ (17:2); they ‘grumbled’ (v.3); they were ‘almost ready to stone [him]’ (v.4); the ‘Amalekites came and attacked’ them (v.8). Yet God turned the lows into highs. How?

  1. Support and encourage one another

    First, Moses prayed for himself. He ‘cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do…?”[and] the Lord answered’ (vv.4–5). Second, he interceded for Joshua and the people: ‘As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning’ (v.11).

    ‘When Moses’ hands grew tired… Aaron and Hur held up his hands – one on one side and one on the other… So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword… “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord”’ (vv.12–13,16).

    This passage reminds us of the power and necessity of intercessory prayer. It also reminds us of the importance of the loving support and encouragement that we can give to one another when we are weary.

  2. Learn how to delegate

    Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, gave Moses some excellent advice (18:19). He pointed out that if he didn’t delegate, he would wear himself out: ‘The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone’ (v.18b). Moses was humble and wise enough to listen to his father-in-law.

    Trying to do everything yourself is ‘not good’ (v.17). It is a bad form of leadership and leads to exhaustion: ‘You’ll burn out’ (v.18, MSG). It also results in the underutilisation of other people’s gifts, time and ability. They are likely to get frustrated and so are you.

    However, delegation in itself will not solve the problem. We need the right leaders. If you delegate to the wrong people, no amount of micromanaging will solve the problems. If you get the right leaders you can trust them, release them and empower them.

    Follow Jethro’s advice. Use, at least, these three criteria when selecting and appointing leaders. First, choose capable people (v.21a). You need people of ability in order to have confidence as you delegate. Second, choose leaders on the basis of their spirituality – those who ‘fear God’ (v.21b). The third criterion was character. You need people who are ‘trustworthy’ (v.21c) – loyal, discreet and reliable.

Moses gave leaders a variety of responsibilities (‘thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens’, v.21c), presumably depending on their ability. He delegated a certain amount of the decision making but not all. The simple decisions were delegated but not the difficult ones (v.26). The result was that Moses was able ‘to stand the strain’ and the people went home ‘satisfied’ (v.23).


Lord, help me to make my relationship with you my number one priority and, through the highs and lows of life, to stay close to you.

Pippa adds

Exodus 18:9-19

In Exodus 18, we see what a good father-in-law Jethro was. He rejoices over Moses’ successes and he offers advice where he sees there are problems.



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¹ Alpha is a series of sessions exploring the Christian faith in a relaxed and informal environment. Each talk looks at a different question around faith and is designed to inspire conversation. Alpha typically runs over ten weeks, with a weekend away. For more information or to find an Alpha near you, visit

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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