Are you facing a severe crisis right now? You may ask, “What am I supposed to do when I’m brought into such a desperate situation? What should I do when everything appears hopeless — when there is no place to turn and no visible escape? What happens when I’m overcome with fear because everything is coming down all around me and I have no answers for my problems, no one to tell me how to get out of my trouble?”
Our Lord is not a hard taskmaster and when He sees us in a frightening, difficult situation, He longs to hear us cry out to Him. He is pleased with a prayer such as, “Lord, I’m afraid! You have always been faithful to deliver me and I know You have the power to deliver me now. Father, I commit my life into Your hands.”
Here is how God answered Israel when they faced a major crisis: “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. . . . The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:13-14).
The Lord was saying to them, “The first matter you must deal with is your fear! I will fight for you and I will save and deliver you. Now, I want you to let that promise be your strength. Let it drive out all your fear!”
We read in Exodus 14 that God told the children of Israel to camp “before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea” (14:2). This location was situated between two mountain passes with the sea bordering a third side. The only possible route of escape was back into the wilderness — and that was blocked by Pharaoh’s approaching army.
The Israelites were horrified at their situation and were equally horrified that God Himself had led them there! There were so many ways God could have rescued His people. He could have prearranged to knock the wheels off the Egyptians’ chariots, stranding them in the wilderness and starving them to death.
Or He could have sent the supernatural cloud down upon the Egyptians’ camp to confuse them, causing the soldiers to run around in chaos and disorder for days. But, instead, He chose to send the cloud behind the Israelites as protection.
Or He could have sent a single angel to slay the entire Egyptian army in the blink of an eye. God could have chosen many ways to destroy them at any point.
However, the Lord chose not to take such actions. Instead, He saw fit to squeeze Israel into a tight, alarming situation that was impossible to escape by human means. How do we know God arranged this frightful situation to test His people? His own Word says so: “You shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep [My] commandments or not” (Deuteronomy 8:2).
The Lord leads His children into difficult situations in order to provide an opportunity for them to put their lives into His hands — to stand still and trust Him to give deliverance and direction.
In times of crisis we want to take action and fix the situation. It is against our nature to stand still and wait; in fact, waiting patiently for God to act is probably the most difficult thing about the Christian walk. Even devoted believers sometimes panic when the Lord doesn’t act quickly, and they often desperately cry out, “Lord, do something!”
God is searching for a people who will trust Him in every crisis, trial and hopeless situation. Indeed, as hard as it is to fathom, God often leads us into situations that are alarming and difficult in order to test us. He wants to see if we are willing to stand still and wait for Him to bring supernatural deliverance. He is producing good fruit in us and molding us into examples of faith to be His testimony to a faithless, ungodly age.
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way” (Psalm 37:23). Ordered means “prearranged, fixed, ordained by God.” This means that it is God, not the devil, who leads us into difficult places. Not only does He allow our trial, but He does so deliberately — and that is hard for us to accept!
I don’t believe God would ever lead us to the brink of a difficult situation and then abandon us. He is absolutely faithful to His children in every crisis. His intervention may not be according to our schedule but He always acts and it is our duty and privilege to stand still and trust Him to see us through to victory.
Have you ever been on a long road trip and after driving hundreds of miles, you see a sign that says your destination is only thirty miles away? You would think those last few miles would pass quickly but they seem to just crawl by. The last portion of a trip can be the hardest.
The same can be said for our faith during tough circumstances. My father once told me, “Son, when you feel like giving up, when you feel like your life is off track and you don’t hear God anymore, hold on! That last part is the hardest.”
“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” (Hebrews 10:36, ESV).
I want to encourage you to hold on just a little bit more. I know you may feel like your dream will never become a reality and you want to give up. But God is saying to you, “Hold on for just a little while longer, dear one. Your victory is just around the corner.”
I have met so many people who are living a life of mediocrity because God’s promises to them were slow in materializing. If they had held on just a little longer, they would have realized the fulfillment they longed for. But they abandoned their faith, withdrew from valor, forsook their dream and purpose. And in so doing, they began living a life of quiet desperation because they no longer really trusted God.
When we no longer believe God for great things, we move in our own strength — completely without His power. So hold on just a little while longer because “after you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”
In order to be able to follow the Spirit and be sensitive to all His detours, we must first have an open, prayerful heart that stays connected with God. Jesus is our greatest example of this.
No aspect of Jesus’ life shines more brightly than His dependence on prayer and communion with His heavenly Father. It is the defining characteristic of His ministry, the strength behind all He said and did. Jesus prayed constantly, at every opportunity. He prayed for sinners, for His disciples, for wisdom and guidance, for His food and water — for everything. And He often went away to be alone so He could listen for the Spirit’s voice without distraction.
Prayer is the portal by which the Holy Spirit is allowed access into our hearts and minds, and any serious inquiry into God’s guidance and direction must begin with this simple act of communication.
When we pray, we can be completely honest. Jesus knows our hearts, our motives, our thoughts, our sins and struggles. He fully understands our pain and temptation: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Jesus understands us much better than we understand ourselves. He made us and lived among us. He knows what we are going through. And part of our being an effective tool for Christ is being willing to open up our hearts and souls to Him — allowing Him to share with us in our successes and failures.
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling bookRun, Baby, Run.
It was the night before the crucifixion of Christ. Jesus had gathered His disciples in an upper room to prepare them for His departure from the earth. After they shared a meal together, the Lord took a towel and proceeded to wash the men’s feet.
That evening, Jesus told these devoted followers He was going to be “lifted up” (meaning crucified) by the hands of wicked men. When He told them this, He was forewarning them about what was to come.
Jesus ended His message to them by saying, “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father” (John 16:28).
To this, the disciples responded, “You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech! Now we are sure that You know all things. . . . By this we believe that You came forth from God” (16:29–30).
The disciples were letting Jesus know that they understood clearly what He had told them. Yet, more importantly, take note of their words in the last verse: “Now we are sure . . . we believe.”
It appeared that a great faith had gripped their souls. These men were declaring to Jesus, “Now we see, Jesus! Now we know. Now we believe.”
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you: not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
At the cross, mercy and peace took on the face of Jesus Christ. Throughout history, whenever a child of God has fully trusted in the cleansing, healing power of Christ’s blood, peace has been promised. It is Christ’s own peace, the very peace that rules paradise.
The apostle Paul’s words on this subject are meant to help every believer apply this truth in his own walk:
“Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15, my italics).
Dear saint, this is our hope in all our battles: Let peace rule your heart by resting in the promises of God. “Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
May the following prayer of Paul become ours, as well, in these days of uncertainty:
“The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
“‘For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.’ If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?” (Hebrews 12:6-7).
You are never more loved than when you are chastened or corrected by the Lord. In fact, the entire process of chastening has everything to do with God’s desire for you. It is all meant to take you into the knowledge and glory of Himself. And remember, God never chastens His children in anger.
Yet, make no mistake. The Bible calls these times of chastening grievous. They are in no way joyful. “No chastening seems to be joyful for the present” (12:11). Nevertheless, we’re told, “Afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (same verse).
Over the years I have had to quench many of Satan’s darts and lies, yet today I proclaim with assurance, “God is not mad at me. And, dear follower of Jesus, He is not mad at you. Therefore, quench everything the devil says to try to convince you otherwise!”
This is the victory of the cross: Peace with God and the very peace of God.
The scene at Calvary did not look like a victory. But that day something was at work that Satan did not know about. It was something he will never understand about our blessed Savior. I’m talking about the unfathomable mercy of God in Christ!
Something incredible happens when a person receives Jesus as Lord. Once they forsake the world and follow Him, they are forever bound to the Lord with unbreakable cords of love. Consider Paul’s description of this deep, unknowable mercy:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? . . . Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 38–39).
Despite the disciples’ shameful failure, God’s mercy was fully at work in them through the Holy Spirit. And that mercy determined their victory after the dark day of the cross. A seed of faith had been implanted in Jesus’ followers, and their houses had been built on a rock. Their houses were shaken, of course, as satanic storms beat upon the walls and powerful waves pounded the foundations. But when the storms passed, it was obvious that those houses had stood the test.
We all have distractions in life, but let’s face it — men are the worst when it comes to sports. I don’t mean playing sports — which would actually be good for a lot of couch potatoes — but keeping up with sports. Smartphones and the ESPN app have turned once-attentive husbands into screen-gazers. All a guy has to do is silently press the refresh button and dozens of game scores are instantly updated. Every date night is at risk from constant under-the-table glances.
Now let me sing the praises of the refresh button in God’s kingdom. With just one touch of His amazing grace, everything old is wiped away — and life is renewed completely. There are times in all our lives when this needs to happen and, of course, the only One who can bring it about is Jesus. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV).
Just like a screen app, nothing in our life changes — everything remains frozen, stuck — until the refresh button is pushed. Are you stuck in patterns of old ways of living, ways that keep you from tasting the freshness of life in Christ?
Jesus has the power to change everything! And just like the woman who was healed by touching His garment, you can be healed and refreshed with just one touch from Him.
"Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25).
What does scripture mean when it says Jesus makes intercession for us? I believe this subject is so deep, majestic and beyond human understanding, I tremble even to address it. Biblical scholars hold various views on its meaning. But no book or commentary has satisfied my search. In fact, the more teaching I’ve read on the matter, the more confusing it all sounds.
Yet, through prayer and trust in the Holy Spirit's guidance, I’ve begun grasping just a little of this incredible subject. Praying very simply, "Lord, how does your intercession in heaven affect my life? Your word says you appear before the father on my behalf. What does this mean in my daily walk with you? I don't need to know what the great scholars have learned. Just show me a simple truth I can grasp and appropriate for my life."
The popular evangelical view of Christ's intercession is that Jesus returned to heaven to act as high priest on our behalf. There is no question about this. The Bible clearly states: "Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself” (Heb. 9:24)
I believe Jesus intercedes today to preserve his people, keeping us from sin and maintaining us in God’s love. He won't allow anything—any fear, any temporary fall, any accusation from Satan—to alienate us from the Father. In short, he prays for us in the same way he prayed for his disciple Peter: "that thy faith fail not" (Luke 22:32).
Our savior is alive in glory right now. And he's both fully God and fully human, with hands, feet, eyes, hair. He also has the nail scars on his hands and feet, the wound in his side. He has never discarded his humanity; he's still a man in glory. And right now, our man in eternity is working to make sure we're never robbed of the peace he gave us when he left. He's ministering as our high priest, actively involved in keeping his body on earth full of his peace. And when he comes again, he wants us to "be found of him in peace'' (2 Peter 3: 14).
May this Easter be a day that you can celebrate that He is risen and the peace poured out on us because of it.
I am reminded of a time years ago when I was driving my middle son home from a hockey game. He had a couple of very hungry hockey players with him, so we stopped at McDonald’s. Standing in line behind them, I watched as the boys proceeded to take out the little bit of money they had. Suddenly I saw my son turn to his two friends and exclaim, “Put your money away, guys. My dad will pay!”
Now in those days, I was a pastor in a small country town and hardly made enough to pay the electricity bill of our house. I watched as the boys placed their orders — it was all “double-double, super-size me!” Yet I didn’t care if I had to dig into my gasoline fund for the next week — there was no way in my heart that I would embarrass my son.
The Scripture tells us, “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask Him?” (see Luke 11:13).
You and I must be willing to boast of our Father’s generosity, just as my son did. But in order to boast of it, we have to know and experience it personally. We must not only open our hearts to Him, but we must also be willing to walk with Him.
The Father’s generosity is not given to those who choose to sit on the couch watching television all day. You must get up and walk with Him, and when you do, the floodgate of heaven opens and all the resources that Christ won for us suddenly become available.
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001.
“[Abraham] did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (Romans 4:20–21, my italics). By his faith, Abraham “gave glory to God.” And like Abraham, we give glory to God when we fully embrace His every promise.
When all of life is going well, it is easy for us to testify, “God can do anything!” We can effortlessly assure others that God will answer their prayers and confidently declare that the Lord always keeps His Word. But when everything around us seems to conspire against God’s promises being fulfilled — when all physical evidence seems more like God’s wrath than His reward — the Holy Spirit rises up in us with true words of comfort: “Hold on. Trust Him! You are not separated from God’s love. He is at work in your situation, so don’t waver. Instead, rise up and fight the good fight of faith.”
I leave you with this powerful passage from the apostle Paul. He reminds us of God’s unending faithfulness in every circumstance, at every moment of our trial:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35–39).
“Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
We all desire to claim God’s promises, not only for our comfort and blessing but so that we may please Him. We want a faith that brings glory to Him, yet there are times many of us struggle to grasp such a faith.
We often become troubled when our prayers aren’t answered and start to question our faith, wondering, “Is my trust in the Lord too weak? Am I slow to believe? Why do the heavens seem closed to my prayers? Have I wavered somehow? Am I not fervent enough? Is there an evil root of unbelief lodged somewhere in my heart?”
We are trying so hard to believe, struggling so hard to please the Lord with a proper kind of faith, that we thwart our own faith with judgment. Now, after many decades of service to God, I want to tell you what proper faith has become to me:
It means holding fast to God’s promises when there is no physical evidence that His promises are being fulfilled.
It means trusting the Holy Spirit to keep my soul at rest, convinced God is working out all things for my good.
It means resting in this declaration from Paul: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
In every age, God stationed intercessors on the very front lines to do battle against Satan’s principalities and powers. Today these spiritual soldiers can be found in every nation — and there is a reason they are called “prayer warriors.” Many who write to our ministry describe the intense spiritual warfare in their own lives.
A 91-year-old intercessor wrote the following: “I feel burned out, having served [the Lord for so long] with everything coming at me. I’m weak in body after years of suffering but I still have all the cares and trials of others constantly before me. . . Since I was four years old, I have loved and prayed for others. I’ve been an intercessor all these years. I take back the ground Satan tries to take from me by praying in the Spirit and I receive new strength.”
For an entire lifetime, this saint has taken seriously Jude’s exhortation: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 20–21). The message to those in spiritual battle is clear: “Build yourself up in faith. Keep yourself in God’s love.” Note that Jude qualifies his words with an admonition to pray in the Holy Spirit.
It is utterly impossible to build ourselves up in faith through human strength or ability. Without the Holy Spirit, we are not able to keep ourselves in the knowledge and assurance of God’s love for us. We are absolutely no match for the powers of darkness! We cannot even take up the shield of faith to quench hell’s fiery darts by simply setting our minds to do so. We need God’s Spirit to empower us in all things.
“I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12, my italics). These are the words of a dying man. The apostle Paul was addressing his pupil, the young minister-in-training, Timothy. Later in the same letter, Paul confides to Timothy these difficult words: “I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (4:6-7).
Although Paul directed these words to Timothy, his message speaks to every servant of Christ who is facing a great affliction. Consider the context: At the height of his own excruciating trials — at the very point of death — Paul was fully persuaded of God’s love for him. Moreover, he was convinced of the Lord’s ability to “keep what I have committed to Him” in spite of all evidence to the contrary.
Beloved, Paul’s counsel here is meant for all who are buffeted daily by satanic forces, engaged in fierce spiritual warfare, enduring great hardships as good soldiers. How was Paul able to speak so confidently of God’s faithfulness through his every trial? What exactly was he persuaded of about the Lord that gave birth to such faith?
Paul never does spell out the things he had “committed to [God] until that Day.” We can only speculate as to what those things were. Yet, like Paul, we too must be fully persuaded of God’s faithfulness to keep those things we have committed to Him. Indeed, to face our trials in these trying days, we must be fully persuaded that Jesus is our Lord and our Savior.
Paul says we have three things to do while we remain here on earth before the return of Christ.
Here is the first: “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9). The word sound here signifies something immovable, inarguable, rock solid. God designed doctrine so that we would have something reliable upon which to base our lives. But it cannot be frivolous or merely exciting to our ears. That kind of doctrine is here one day and blown away by the winds of fleshly whim the next. For some in the church, acquiring sound doctrine may require putting down the latest Christian best-seller and picking up God’s Word, which He provided for our everlasting benefit.
Second, we are to live a holy testimony. “I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people” (3:8).
And third, we are to share the gospel in word and deed: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (2:11).
I ask you: As God’s living lights in a darkening culture — as His salt meant to preserve life — are we practicing these things? Or have we lost our holy flavor? Have we reduced His Word to advice on better living, or do we still believe it has the power of resurrection life?
If we really believe Christ’s gospel is Good News — that He died for sinners — we’ll tell others about it without apology. And they’ll know its power by the testimony we live.
Jesus never baptized anyone with water. Why? Because the baptism He would administer was the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire (see Luke 3:16). Don’t mistake those words as indicating two baptisms, one of the Spirit and another of fire. Instead, Luke was using imagery — fire as a symbol representing the Spirit — to describe one baptism. Jesus baptizes in the consuming fire of the Holy Spirit.
If you light a match and set a piece of wood on fire, the fire will penetrate the wood. That’s what the Holy Spirit does in our lives. He goes beyond surface appearances to the root of our beings. The Spirit doesn’t put Band-Aids on anything — He goes to the core of our problems to provide help. Likewise, preaching that is anointed by the Holy Spirit is fiery preaching. That doesn’t mean beating people down or condemning them; rather, it means ministry that penetrates the heart, reveals sin, and vividly shows the need for Jesus Christ. Without the Holy Spirit’s fire, preaching can descend to mere entertainment or displays of oratory.
When Peter preached the first sermon of the Christian era, those ineloquent but fiery words produced deep conviction and a response of, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Teaching aids that help preachers communicate are useful, but without the Spirit’s fire, hearts will never be humbled and broken before the Lord.
In Jeremiah, God asked, “Is not my word like a fire?” (Jeremiah 23:29, emphasis added). The Word preached with the Spirit’s fire cuts through the clutter and deals with the troubled condition of our hearts. Many people probably have little interest in experiencing God’s fiery word; they prefer entertaining services and sermons that aren’t confrontational. But the Spirit’s fire always cuts to the chase and deals with the hindrances that keep us from the blessing of God.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.
Our faith in troubled times obtains for us the testimony of “a good report.”
“For by [their faith] the elders obtained a good report” (Hebrews 11:2). The Greek word for “obtained” here means “to bear witness.” Our ancestors in the Lord had a settled, anchored faith. And their unwavering faith became a testimony to the world of God’s faithfulness in the midst of troubled times.
Think of what our ancestors endured: floods, mockery, bonds, imprisonment, fire, torture, warfare, lions’ dens. Through it all, their trust in the Lord never wavered. Why? Because they had an inner witness that God was pleased with them. Our forefathers knew God was smiling at them, saying, “Well done! You have believed and trusted in Me.”
“Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Whenever we hold our faith position through hard times, we receive the same affirmation from the Holy Spirit: “Well done! You are God’s beloved testimony.”
As you rest in Him through storms, holding your faith position, you are obtaining a “good report.” And you are serving as a beacon of hope to those around you. Those who watch your life — at home, at work, on your block — are learning that hope is available to them. As they observe you in your hour of crisis, they realize, “There stands someone who hasn’t lost his faith in God. He has no fear whatsoever. What enables him to trust through such upheaval?”
Our God has supplied us with everything needed to sustain our faith, even as calamities increase. We have been given the witness of the Holy Spirit, who abides in us, and God’s fully revealed Word in the Scriptures. These will sustain us, obtaining for us the testimony of a good report even as the world shakes.
When you’re in the midst of a battle, Satan will send accusations at you. He’ll remind you of every past sin, every dark moment, every foolish thing you ever did. It is no wonder Paul calls such accusations fiery darts or “flaming arrows” (see Ephesians 6:16). The translation is “enflamed rage.” Many saints know the pain of mean and hurtful words coming at them from those around them. Such thoughtless accusations are truly flaming arrows of enflamed rage.
At times you may think you are the only one under such severe attack. In such times you feel alone, isolated in your suffering. Even those who care for you most deeply cannot seem to understand all you are going through.
The apostle Peter reminds us: “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12–13).
Finally, Paul instructs: “Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench [extinguish] all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16).
What exactly is the shield of faith? It is an impenetrable armor built from the promises of God and burnished with our faith. This shield is our great protection against every devilish, hurting word spoken against us. To hold it up against the enemy’s onslaught is to extinguish every voice of fear and unbelief. It is a defense that states with confidence, “Devil, I am not ignorant of your devices. Nothing — not blinding pain, not shaky finances, not world chaos — can separate me from the love of God.”
Paul advises, “Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16). Paul elaborates on how we are to do battle with the enemy, who sends tormenting thoughts of fear.
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:11–12).
Beloved, the conflict we are in is not a human struggle that can be fought in an earthly sphere. This battle takes place in a supernatural realm. The truth is, if you are in Christ, then you face the wrath of Satan. Do not mistake this demonic wrath for the judgment of God. The wrath you’re up against is that of a devil gone mad because he knows his time to come against God’s people is short.
Satan’s attacks are aimed especially at those who have devoted themselves to walk faithfully in the Lord. Again and again, the Psalmist boasts, “I take refuge in the Lord.” Here is a picture of a righteous saint who fully trusts in God. Yet, because of this very testimony of trust, he is targeted by Satan. His unswerving faith is the reason for the fiery arrows sent at him from hell. “The wicked [Satan and his minions] bend their bow . . . that they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart” (Psalm 11:2).
So, what are the fiery arrows out of hell that are directed at you and me? They are fearful, disturbing thoughts about our future and about God’s care for us. The devil is a liar and an accuser, and his every assault is aimed directly at our faith.
When you are distressed — when you feel overwhelmed with fear, laid low by great affliction, troubled by concerns for your future — God says there is a secret hiding place. It is a place of comfort where we find composure for our souls.
Where is this secret hiding place? It is a chamber in your mind that Isaiah describes this way: “You [the Lord] will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3, my italics).
When God tells us, “Shut the doors,” this is what He means. He is showing us the need to shut out the many troubling voices in our head. We are to close the door to all thoughts about tomorrow, about world events. Jesus told us, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things” (Matthew 6:34). The Lord who has faithfully brought us this far will not fail us in the days ahead.
Consider these cries of the Psalmist:
“Be merciful to me, O God . . . for my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by. I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me; He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. God shall send forth His mercy and His truth” (Psalm 57:1–3, my italics).
“When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me” (63:6–8).
Here is the definition of the gospel ministry, according to the apostle Paul: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
Paul is very clear with Timothy: “I charge you as a minister of God: reprove, rebuke, exhort. That is fulfilling your ministry!”
I ask you in complete honesty: Is the whole ministry of Christ’s church being fulfilled today? Or have we settled for a church of comfort and pleasure? I can promise you, if pastors are allowed to be pastors — if worship leaders are allowed to spend as much time in prayer as at rehearsal and sound check — if people come seeking biblical truth instead of just fleshly comfort — then our joy will return. Our purpose will return. And our mission will be clear.
When that happens, we will testify with the prophet Jeremiah, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16). Then, when a stranger enters the door of our church, he will fall on his face in holy awe. He will realize he has found the answer he has hungered for his entire life. And he will cry, “Surely God is in this place!” Amen! May it be so, Lord Jesus.
Jesus was traveling by boat with His disciples (Mark 5:1-18), when He took them across the Sea of Galilee to the region of Gerasenes, a land inhabited by Gentiles. When Jesus got out of the boat, a demon-possessed man ran toward Him and fell to his knees. The demons shouted at Jesus, “What do You want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God!” And the demons begged Him to have mercy on them.
Jesus asked the man, “What is your name?” But his answer came again from the demons within him: “My name is Legion, for we are many.”
A herd of pigs was feeding nearby, and the demons begged Jesus to allow them to enter into the animals. The demons knew that they had no authority and power in the presence of God’s glory. Satan loves to taunt and ridicule helpless people, but when Jesus shows up, the devil quickly turns into the weak and pathetic loser he really is.
That is another aspect of life that has not changed. Only today, Satan is forced to cower and hide not just at the sight of Jesus but of any follower of Christ. The name of Jesus in the mouth of a believer has awesome power!
Giving the demons permission to enter into the body of a bunch of nasty pigs was a fitting irony, and Jesus let them do it. At once the pigs plunged off a nearby cliff to their deaths. To me, this has always seemed a perfect foreshadowing of what Satan and his demons have to look forward to on the Day of Judgment.
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.
I have a short message for those who are experiencing a painful, overwhelming situation. I am not speaking to those who now enjoy a time of rest from suffering, who are not in any kind of pain or sorrow. Thank God for those times of quiet rest.
Rather, I receive many letters from precious followers of Jesus who are living with incredible inner sorrow and crisis situations: divorce, children on drugs or in jail, the death of a spouse. A woman deeply in love with the Lord grieves over the death of her children, who suffocated in a fire. A pastor grieves for his wife, who left him and his children for a lesbian lover.
I have a message for you godly people who are suffering. In Psalm 40, David cried, “Innumerable evils have surrounded me. . . Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me!” (Psalm 40:12-13). “Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You. . . But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God” (40:16-17).
I have been so blessed and comforted by this one line in verse 17: “The Lord thinks upon me.” Imagine that! The Lord who created all things, the God of this universe, thinks about me. Even now, in your hour of need, His thoughts are about you.
When Israel was captive in Babylon, mourning over the loss of homes and families, God sent word to them through Jeremiah: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). God said to His people, “Your nightmare is going to end. I have only good, loving thoughts toward you, and if you seek Me with all your heart, you will find Me.”
Pour out your heart to the Lord. He is thinking of you!
The Holy Spirit prompted me to read Exodus 12, which contains the account of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.
On the door of every Israelite home, the blood of a lamb was stricken on the two side-posts and lintel. This was to protect God’s people from the passing angel of death. When the day came, a multitude of Israelites marched out of captivity, including 600,000 men plus women and children. “On that very same day . . . all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:41).
In the next chapter, I stopped at verse 3, which reads: “For by strength of hand the Lord brought you out of this place” (13:3). God’s people were delivered by the Lord’s strength alone, not by human means.
David declares, “God is my strength and power, and He makes my way perfect. . . He sent from above, He took me, He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me; for they were too strong for me. . . He is a shield to all who trust in Him” (2 Samuel 22:33, 17, 18, 31).
Our faith and strength may grow weak, but in our times of weakness God has given us marvelous promises to renew and strengthen us.
Beloved, do you believe our God is strong? If He is strong, no power can stand before Him. Therefore, commit everything into His mighty hand of strength and power. He will make a way. Most of all, believe this word: “In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul” (Psalm 138:3).
Jesus said to His disciples, “The fields are white, ready to harvest.” The harvest is an ingathering of souls in the last days and the law of the harvest is that the darker the days, the whiter the harvest. Right now, many souls are ripe for harvest all over the world.
But there is another harvest in these last days. The Lord was speaking prophetically about what He foresaw coming in our time: a harvest of golden-ripe faith in the hearts of His people. Our Lord wants a tested, suffering people who will rise up in the midst of distress and trouble and proclaim, “I trust my God!”
Jesus does not expect faith from the worldly crowd. When He wondered aloud, “Will I find faith on the earth when I return?” He was not speaking of sinners. But we who love Him are also told, “He who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him” (Psalm 32:10). God promises that His goodness is “laid up . . . for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men” (31:19).
I can say with the Psalmist David, “I have known trouble, much suffering, financial need, the sorrow of the death of loved ones, the slander of those I loved who turned against me. I have known personal pain. There were times I thought things were hopeless. Times of temptation. Times of weeping until no tears were left.”
Some of my suffering was self-imposed, caused by ignorance or foolishness. But now I can boldly testify: God has never failed me. Through all the trouble, pain and sufferings, I have come through with joy and a strong trust in the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord. Here is the testimony He desires to hear from all of His tested children: “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice . . . and shout for joy, all you upright in heart” (32:11).
Growing numbers of Christians are no longer fully satisfied with Christ. The Lord is being dethroned by what He Himself called thorns — which He defined as the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, the lusts of other things entering into the heart. Christ said these are the thorns that choke the Word and cause it to become unfruitful (see Mark 4:7).
Is the Lord more on your mind today than a year ago? Do you spend more time in His presence today than a year ago? Is your passion for Him growing or withering?
Many of those who were once passionately in love with Christ now run about pursuing their own interests. They’re burdened down with stress and problems, chasing after riches and the things of this world. They have grown cold or lukewarm, and they have less and less time for Jesus. The Lord and His church now get only an hour of their time — on Sunday mornings.
Jesus said, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered” (John 15:6). In other words, that person is drying up, no longer drawing life from the true vine. He is deceived by thinking all is well, because he still speaks the language of the intimacy he once enjoyed with Christ.
The Holy Spirit is calling people back to their first love. Back to hungering and thirsting for more of Christ. Back to spending quality time in His presence; loving His Word; casting all cares upon Him; depending on Him for guidance.
Christ yearns for His beloved to return to Him with love and obedience. The Holy Spirit is stirring our hearts to draw us closer to Himself.
God told the prophet Amos, “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. . . Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:21, 23-24). God is saying to every generation, “It’s not the song or the sound that I seek from you. It’s the righteousness that flows from your worship and the deeds it stirs you to do in My name.”
We can no longer measure a song’s power by its entertainment value or any other manmade standard. We measure it by whether it calls forth what the Holy Spirit wants for His Body in that moment. Our worship is to be an everflowing stream of His righteous presence. Thus, we dare not allow on stage those “who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp . . . who . . . anoint themselves with the finest oils” (Amos 6:5-6). This speaks of leaders we anoint based solely on their talent, skill, and cleverness. God is calling us to clear the stage of any standard other than this: “Surely you are in this place, O God!”
I speak to myself when I say to all pastors, “Do we place more confidence in strategies, structures and programs than in God’s leading? If so, we need to clear the stage of such things.”
Churches may have all the makings of a dynamic body. We may make sure every sermon is tightly articulated, every song perfectly tuned, every espresso machine filling people’s cups — but it’s all worthless if God’s presence is nowhere to be found.
It is time to discard surveys that ask people what they want from church rather than asking what God wants. If surveys dictate our direction, we may as well take down our sign that reads CHURCH because we won’t be one. We’ll be a professional organization that seeks success based on market demands. And that’s not the gospel!
Once you are determined to set things in order in your life, don’t be surprised if the enemy comes and tells you that you are not going to make it. Even Jesus had to face these lies, but He knew it was only a fox trying to destroy the fruit of the vineyard that God had given Him.
The Scriptures tell us of a time when “some Pharisees came, saying to [Jesus], ‘Get out and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill You.’ And He said to them, ‘Go, tell that fox, “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected”’” (Luke 13:31-32, NKJV).
“Perfected” means that He will reach His goal. The devil will no doubt attempt to get you off course, saying, “This pathway is too hard for you. Take an easier way. You don’t have to do things God’s way!” Yet notice Jesus’ response, “No! I cast out demons and healing is flowing. And on the third day I am going to attain my goal by the power of God!”
You, too, have the power to speak to the foxes in your life: “I will entertain you in my life no longer! By the grace of God, I will be rid of you. I have been given power to confront evil,and healing is flowing through my life. I am not bringing something to my workplace that calls itself Christianity but stinks as I pass by. No, I am bringing that sweet presence of God with me everywhere I go! I am going to finish my journey, and I am going to reach the full potential of what my life is called to be! No little fox is going to drive me from the plan of God for my life!”
Speak to the foxes and then trust the Lord for His grace and provision!
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001.
During my prayer time the Holy Spirit led me to Psalm 56. This word is meant for those who have been wounded — whether by family, friends, or the words and actions of the ungodly.
It is a word also for those who love the Lord yet who shed tears and carry burdens that seem to grow heavier by the day. Some believers wake up every morning under a cloud of fear and despair. Financial problems can crush and frighten. Others face serious health battles and insufferable pain. Some grieve over family members who are in deep trouble, perhaps in rebellion against the Lord.
Hear the blessed Word of God directed to you in your hour of need:
Psalm 56:3: “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. [I shall not be afraid].”
Psalm 56:4: “I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?”
Psalm 56:8: “You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle: are they not in Your book?”
Psalm 56:9: “When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back: this I know, because God is for me.”
Psalm 56:13: “For You have delivered my soul from death. Have You not kept my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?”
These are anointed words from the Spirit of God. I encourage you to pray over each verse listed and lay claim to it by faith. The Lord knows all about your struggles and pain. He knows every detail of your situation, and He hears even the unspoken cries of your broken heart.
In Acts 3:19 Peter speaks of “times of refreshing” that would come from being in the Lord’s presence. I am convinced that even now, amid times of global turmoil, the Church is experiencing such a time of refreshing. It is an event in which Jesus is manifesting His presence worldwide.
Yes, there is much spiritual deadness and dryness in many churches. Multitudes of believers have compromised their walk with Jesus, while others have gone mad after worldly pleasures.
But something glorious is happening all over the world, even in Islamic nations. There is undeniable evidence that the Holy Spirit is hovering over nations, and the awesome presence of Christ is manifesting powerfully. It is happening throughout Russia, China, South America, Africa, Asia and nearly every nation on earth. God is stirring people in Mongolia and in the former Soviet states. In India the Spirit of God is mightily at work.
I hear of such times of refreshing touching various towns and cities in the United States. Pastors are growing desperate for a true manifestation of God’s presence in their churches.
This refreshing of Christ’s presence is the result of exaltation of Him alone — not signs and wonders, not spiritual gifts, not “revival” that soon fades. This is a last-days revelation of the glory and power of Christ. Many write to me saying they go to church yearning to experience the actual presence of Jesus. They want to hear from a shepherd who has been shut in with the Lord. They don’t want any more entertainment, showmanship or empty methods. Now they are crying, “Give me Christ. Give me the melting, healing, awesome presence of Jesus.”
May this be the heart-cry of all God’s people in these days.
I am deeply blessed by God’s message to His people in Psalms 37. I recommend that you read this Psalm before the day is over. It is one of the richest, most encouraging passages in God’s Word. No matter what you are going through, no matter how trying your situation, this Psalm will be a source of great strength and encouragement to you.
Psalm 37:7 is of special interest to me in light of what is happening in the gay community. States are passing laws that pave the way for gay marriages and hundreds of homosexuals have gotten married. I was so deeply grieved at this lawlessness and mockery of true, God-ordained marriage, that I cried, “Oh, Lord, they are stealing our nation. They are mocking your Holy Word. America is now indulging in a sin not even known in Sodom and Gomorrah. There is no biblical record of homosexuals marrying in those wicked societies.”
Then I read Psalm 37:7: “Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.” In other words, “Do not let it get at your spirit. Do not get worked up about it. God hears the deep inner groanings of His people, and He is very patient.”
Let no evildoer think for a moment that God is going to overlook blatant disobedience and mockery of His Word. All through the Bible, we see the Lord sending judgment when lawlessness envelops a society.
Pray for our nation amid these times. God hears the prayers of His people!
The following word, given to me by the Holy Spirit, is for those who need an answer to prayer, who need help in time of trouble, and who are ready and willing to move God’s heart according to His Word.
Lay hold of the covenant promise in Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
The phrase very present means “always available, immediately accessible.” Faith must rest in the assurance that God’s Spirit abides in us all hours of the day and night, continually. And because He took up a habitation within us, He listens to our every prayerful thought and cry. We can be sure that if He hears us He will grant our petitions. Indeed, the Holy Spirit will move heaven and earth for any child of God who takes time to pour out his heart to the Father.
Read and believe Psalm 62:5-7. This is the prayer of David that touched God’s heart. David said in essence, “Wait on God only! Expect help from no other source. He alone must be your provision, your only hope and defense. Only He can supply you with the strength to keep going until your answer comes.”
Here is the heart of it all, the secret to prevailing prayer that every saint throughout history has learned: the pouring out of the heart before the Lord. “Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8) Hannah is our example in doing this. Desperate for a child, she “poured out” her soul to the Lord (see 1 Samuel 1:15). And Scripture says, “Her face was no longer sad” (1:18).
God wants to bless and favor you. He longs to enrich your life, your marriage, and your spiritual life. He wants to give you wisdom, understanding and discernment so that your decisions will lead to blessing in your life.
Once we receive the blessings of God, we must be careful that we do not turn them into something selfish.
Luke 12:16 tells us about a man who was blessed. “And [Jesus] spoke a parable to them, saying, ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.’”
God is generous and loves to pour out gifts on His children. But this story quickly took a wrong turn, as we see that this man “thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’” (verse 17).
Now, whose crops were they? Everything belongs to God, so this man was revealing his selfish nature. He began to see all his talents, his relationships, his many gifts from God as things to be used for his own benefit. That selfishness began to permeate the very fiber of who he was.
“So he said, ‘I will . . . pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry”’” (verses 18-19).
God loves to bless His children but He is concerned about what you do with those blessings. What is His purpose in blessing you? Is it merely to heap goods upon yourself and create a perfect little cocoon of comfort that you have always wanted? No! As we see from the very beginning of His covenant with mankind, you are blessed to be a blessing to others!
A number of years ago on the opening night of a crusade in London, England, the crowd that gathered was a diverse one — hippies, punk rockers, addicts, Goths, hookers, homeless people, and more. Everywhere I looked were kids with purple, green and orange hair. Most were wearing black clothes emblazoned with satanic symbols, and their bodies were pierced in just about every conceivable place. I had never seen so many confused and broken young people.
My wife, Gloria, had a seat on the front row of the auditorium. As I was preparing to go on stage, I looked over in her direction and saw a young man sit down in the seat next to her. He looked frightening — a Goth with all the trimmings! As he shifted to one side, I noticed something crawling over his lap. I looked intently and realized it was a black rat on a small leash.
Gloria is terrified of rats and at first she didn’t notice; I hoped it would continue that way. But when the young man turned his head away from her, I saw her glance in his direction, just in time to see the rat crawling across his lap.
Gloria knows that I love her and would never allow anything happen to her, but I would not kick a person out of a crusade, especially someone so obviously in need of Jesus. So catching her eye, I motioned for her to stay calm. I’m not sure she got the message but she remained in her seat, stiff as a board throughout the whole service — a real trouper.
Later, during the altar call, this young man was the first to step forward and receive Christ. He stood down front with the rat in his hand and his head bowed. Tears rolled down his face as a volunteer worker laid hands on him and prayed with him to receive Christ.
“And then He told them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone’” (Mark 16:15, NLT).
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.
When Moses heard the voice of God come from the burning bush, he was surprised at what God asked him to do: “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). God tells every Christian today the same thing He told Moses: “There is only one ground upon which you can approach Me and that is holy ground. You can have no confidence in your flesh because no flesh will stand in My presence.”
Why did God focus on shoes in the Exodus passage? What does that have to do with putting off the flesh? Our feet are tender parts of our body and shoes are a protection of our flesh. They protect us from the elements, from stones, from snakes, from filth and dust, from the hot pavement.
So to Moses, God was using an everyday, ordinary thing to teach a spiritual lesson, just as Jesus did later using coins, pearls, camels and mustard seeds. God was saying, “Moses, you wear protective garb to keep your flesh from injury but no amount of fleshly protection will be able to keep you. Where I am about to send you will require a miracle of deliverance.”
Where was God sending Moses? Into Egypt — that den of iniquity — to face a hardened dictator. Moses had to put aside all reliance on his flesh: his meekness, zeal and humility. All his abilities would be worthless unless God sanctified them. Moses had to put his total trust in God’s name and power.
Indeed, Moses faced all kinds of tests and trials. He was about to lead some three million people into the desert where there was no place to buy food or no place to obtain water. He would have to depend wholly on God for everything!
God would ask the same question to us as He asked Moses. Are we willing to put down our own abilities and ambitions and trust wholly in Him? Will we put all our confidence in Him instead of in our own gifts and plans?