The Lord led me to read chapter two of Nehemiah and I saw something I had never seen before. This chapter contains an encouraging story for all who come to the Lord with a heavy heart.
Nehemiah was a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia. This meant he tasted the wines before they were brought to the king’s table to be sure they weren’t poisoned. Over time, Nehemiah became a trusted servant to the king.
Nehemiah received a report from his brother that Jerusalem was in ruins. The population had been decimated, the people were in terrible shape, and conditions were worsening daily. This tore at Nehemiah’s heart. He loved Judah and Jerusalem and a sorrow began to grip him.
“And it came to pass . . . I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? This is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid” (Nehemiah 2:1-2).
Understand, people were forbidden to come into the king’s presence with sadness, especially the court employees. Nehemiah knew this could cost him his life and he was very fearful. But the king was filled with compassion then he saw Nehemiah’s grief. Scripture tells us he gave his downcast servant a letter of credit, opening the royal treasury to him. And then the king granted Nehemiah the desire of his heart: permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the city walls.
Here is the point the Lord made real to me: If it were possible for Nehemiah to enter the presence of a pagan king with a sad, heavy countenance and yet find favour, compassion and blessings beyond imagination, how much more will King Jesus show compassion and bestow blessings on each of us, His children, in our sadness? Would a pagan king show more mercy to a downcast servant than our all-merciful King? Certainly not! The Father’s heart is always moved with compassion toward His children.
Elisha inherited from Elijah the role of prophet in the land. In 2 Kings 4, we see where he encountered one of his first big tests. The son of a Shunammite couple had died and in desperation, the wife cried out to Elisha, “I’ve prayed and fasted, but I’ve received nothing from the Lord. I don’t understand what God is doing and this is more than I can bear. I have no strength to go on.”
Elisha responded by doing something rather unusual. “He said to Gehazi (his servant), ‘Tie up your garment’” (2 Kings 4:29). In other words, “Gird up your loins.” Then he said, “Take my staff in your hand and go. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not reply. And lay my staff on the face of the child.”
Gehazi obeyed Elisha but when he laid the staff on the face of the dead child, nothing happened. There was still no sign of life so Gehazi returned to Elisha and told him, “The child has not awakened.”
I ask you, what do you do when everything you’ve tried brings no visible result? Where do you turn when all your effort does not accomplish what you hoped?
There comes a time when our only resource is Jesus! He alone is our solution. In this story, Elisha is a type of Christ. He went to that Shunammite family and literally stretched himself out over the boy’s body. When he was face to face, foot to foot, hand to hand with the dead child, he breathed into him.
And then? Scripture says the boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. He was alive!
What brought about this miracle? Jesus Himself breathed into the situation. When we have no hope, no resources, no ability, Jesus breathes His supernatural life into our circumstances.
Make this your prayer: “Lord, I have nothing — You have everything. Nothing in this world can compare to You and Your power and I need You now. I cannot breathe life into my situation but You can, Lord.”
“Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” I deeply believe that the sin of unbelief is among the most devastating in modern Christianity. Unbelief spiritually cuts our throats and blinds us. It puts us to sleep and binds us little by little, inexorably, year after year, until we accept the unacceptable.
The kingdom of God worldwide is presently experiencing the greatest spiritual revival in the history of mankind. However, in the same period of time, more than 90 percent of evangelical churches throughout North America and Europe are showing no significant growth. They are reduced to recalling their past awakenings, or desperately clinging to the latest fad promising some breathtaking and instantaneous breakthrough somewhere in the unknown future.
Please understand me. I am deeply grateful for what God did yesterday, as well as what He is doing around the world. I praise Him for it. But I am here — today! I must repent (to repent essentially means to change direction) for the unbelief and dullness in my faith that has caused me to tolerate the intolerable.
Unbelief is immensely more serious and devastating than we can understand or fathom. Surrounded by a world filled with immorality, decadence, idolatry and demonic religious rituals — disgusting in their cruelty and totally empty of any spiritual life or true spiritual significance — Jesus stood firm and stayed strong. But He wept at unbelief. Unbelief literally tore Him up.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever and there is no favoritism with our God. He is immutable — never changing; omnipotent — all powerful; absolutely just; and totally committed to doing in your city, your church, your country what He is majestically and supernaturally doing all around the world even as you read these words.
Between us and the limitless greatness of His power stands the gulf of unbelief. That is why we cannot live another day without crying out, “Lord, increase our faith!”
Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes, but its leaf will be green; and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).
We see in verse eight that the one who trusts God during hard times is “planted.” He is deeply rooted, stabile and fruitful, always green with fresh life. When things in his life get dry and troublesome, he will not be afraid.
This person says, “Jesus, I give up looking to any person to bring me out of this trial. I turn to You alone! You are my only keeper, my only hope and I look to You to keep me strong and bring me through in victory.”
The Lord desires this kind of faith from us in our everyday lives. You may say, “But, Brother Dave, I’m still unemployed and things are really tight.” Yet I have to believe what we read in God’s Word: “Trust Me and you will be blessed.”
You may answer, “But I don’t know what I’m going to do. The storm is raging all around me and it looks totally hopeless. I don’t see any sign of help or deliverance.” And to all this God still says, “Trust Me, My child, and you will be blessed.”
Your trial may be with your family, your business, or your provision. But if you continue to put your total trust in His Word and His faithfulness, God promises to bless you. And He cannot lie!
When the heat comes, you will not be bothered. When the wind blows, you will stand strong. Why? Because you will have learned to trust Him in spite of all your unnerving circumstances. You will be a green tree bearing the abundant fruit of confidence, and everyone around you will be given hope and encouragement as they observe your quiet trust.
“When he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not” (1 Peter 2:23).
An amazing truth connected with Christ’s suffering is that He never once defended Himself against those who mistreated Him. He punished no one and never retaliated in any way.
How unlike us! When our suffering becomes unbearable, we defend ourselves, protecting our rights and reputation. Sometimes we even threaten God without even knowing what we are doing. But when our prayers go unanswered or disaster strikes and it seems like the Lord has let us down, we pull back from Him. When we are in pain or feel lonely and sad, we begin to drift. We slack up on our Bible reading and prayer and our faith becomes dull and inactive.
Every time we back off from seeking the Lord with a whole heart, we are threatening Him. In a way we are saying, “Lord, I did my best and You let me down.” He loves us so much and He has infinite patience with us when we hurt. He lovingly waits until we return to His tender care.
We must be careful that we do not allow our attitudes to lead us away from Him. If we refuse to wake up and renew our faith and hope in Him, we can become so disillusioned that we give in to our lusts and passions. We say, “What’s the use? I try so hard but I can’t seem to stay in victory. I call out to God for help and deliverance but nothing ever happens.”
When we indulge ourselves in this way, we are threatening God. It’s our way of “getting even” with Him for not answering prayer on our schedule.
The Lord alone is our keeper and He will not allow His children to fall. Let us do as Christ did when He “committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). To commit means to place your life completely in His hands.
Dearly beloved, there is hope! Give up your struggle to accomplish anything in your own strength and commit the keeping of your body and soul to the Lord of hosts!
“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:27).
God still chooses the weak to show forth His strength. Have you ever felt insignificant, frail and useless to God? Have you ever looked at others who seem so strong, so perfect, and thought of yourself as being too sinful, too dull to be used of God? Don’t compare! God is not looking for spiritual giants but, rather, he’s looking for ordinary saints with childlike faith who have lost all confidence in the flesh.
God will confound the strong and wise by anointing as His instruments those who are considered frail and foolish. The Lord will bypass those who lean on the arm of flesh — who trust in their talents, their knowledge, their background, their family reputation. He will raise up the brokenhearted, the weak, and the weary. He will pour on them a spirit of praise and a baptism of love. He will show them His greatness, His faithfulness, His covenants, and they will become strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
Do you feel a drawing to a renewed faith and trust in God? If so, be thankful! That is the call of Jesus Christ the Lord. Look at some of God’s great and precious promises to us:
“Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men! Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues” (Psalm 31:19-20).
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).
When Moses came down from the mountain holding the Ten Commandments in his hands, he heard the people shouting and saw them dancing and carousing.
“Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies) . . .” (Exodus 32:25). The Hebrew word used here for naked is para, which means to “loosen up, expose, dismiss all restraint.” It also implies “a new beginning.”
The Israelites were saying, “Things are not happening as they should. We’re tired of this battle, tired of waiting on God. So now we’re going to enjoy ourselves. Out with the old! We want new freedom, a new start — and we want it now.”
Nakedness in the Bible also has to do with not having on one’s shield for battle. Every man who did not have his shield was considered naked. True, these Israelites were literally naked —stripped down and dancing before the golden calf — but they also had let down their guard.
Can you imagine their enemies, the Amalekites, looking down on this wild scene from the surrounding mountains? The Amalekites once trembled at the very sight of Israel. God had put a dread in their hearts toward His people, but now they saw Israel taking off their armor and stripping off their garments.
The Amalekites began to laugh and mock, “Look at them. They’re just like us! Their God has no power and they obviously do not trust Him. See? They’re throwing off all their stict ways. They want to lust and party and play just like the rest of us. Some holiness! Such hypocrisy.”
In that one act of nakedness, Israel belittled their God in the eyes of the ungodly. They made the Lord seem heartless, cruel, uncaring, helpless. They besmirched His honor, His majesty, His omnipotence. They were no longer an example to the world.
That is exactly what we do when we strip off our robes of faith and let go of our confidence in God. Without childlike trust in God, a Christian stands naked before the world — exposed to all doubts, fears and unbelief.
If you feel God speaking to your heart about something He has prepared for you — perhaps a walk you’ve never known before or the fulfillment of a longstanding promise — I can tell you with authority, “Get ready to examine your heart.”
Perhaps you have experienced great blessings and you have faith that no matter how good things are, the best is yet to come. This is your faith talking — the kind of faith that says God’s vision is always bigger than our dreams. When God called us to begin the church I now pastor, we had no idea how He would use us. But not a week has gone without someone giving his or her life to Jesus. Whenever we distribute food to the poor, we are often asked, “Why are you doing this?” We answer, “It’s because of Jesus,” and many give their lives to Him.
This is all happening miraculously. People are finding Him and then quickly maturing into faithful disciples, growing in their knowledge of God. It is amazing to see! And I believe greater things are yet to come. I am convinced that God will reveal Himself even more powerfully — not just in salvations but also in outreach, in helping the poor, in impacting the city.
But here is the hard part: Often just when we are poised on the brink of God’s greatest work in our lives, He asks us to examine our hearts and reflect on what He wants to do in us. We become even more aware that our righteousness is as filthy rages, that we need His grace.
I want nothing in my life to hinder what He desires for me and I am sure you feel the same. Examine your heart today and let Him shine His spotlight of conviction on any area that is displeasing to Him. Repent and receive His grace and then rejoice as you see the wonders He will do in you and for you!
My first book, Run Baby Run, is the story of how God saved me from a life of hate and violence in the street gangs of New York. The book continues to sell well, ministering consistently to the most helpless and hurting in our society.
After Run Baby Run I wrote a number of other books attempting to expose the anger, violence, and hopelessness of life in the inner city. Each one offered concrete solutions to solving these problems, and the Lord has graciously blessed those efforts. We have been able to reach millions with our message of hope.
In the last several months, God has planted in my heart a new message of hope as well as a deep burden to share it. This message is about freedom and spiritual abundance; about living a life in complete communion with Jesus; about breaking through our earthly limitations and making a powerful impact on the world around us. It’s about you and me finally finding our place within God’s magnificent kingdom on earth. It’s about seeing people the way God sees them. And most of all, it’s about learning once and for all to embrace the supernatural strength of the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to release His wisdom and power within us. What a transformation we will experience as we discover and embrace God’s unmatchable, unmistakable power in our lives.
“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
The world today no longer accepts a belief system rooted in tradition and complacency — doing church as we’ve always done it. The next generation will either see the power of God working in their lives in real, tangible ways, or they will have no use for our message and no interest in following our Savior. They need to see a consistency between our life and our faith. If they don’t, they will reject us as well as our Lord.
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.
The Bible addresses our efforts to please Him in our flesh: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3). Trying to establish our own righteousness is actually our flesh at work!
Trying to please God in our human power robs us of our joy and peace with Him. Any victories will be short-lived and we will fall into temptation again. The enemy will keep harassing us and a conversation with him might go something like this:
Satan whispers, “What about the sin you indulged in just yesterday? You are guilty!”
“No,” you answer, “I’ve already asked forgiveness for that. It’s all under the blood and I’ve asked God to make me hate that sin to keep me from doing it again.”
“But you are still tempted.”
“True, but Jesus made a way of escape for me. His Word says I will be able to bear the temptation and He will deliver me” (see 1 Corinthians 10:13).
Satan persists, “There are still unsettled issues in your life.”
When the accuser brings up “unsettled issues” — some war that still rages within you — you can answer with this passage of Scripture: “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight” (Colossians 1:21-22).
Even when we fail Him, God loves us; He seeks us out and reconciles us to Himself. He loves us even when we struggle and through Christ He makes us to be at peace with Him.
We can all say, “I am redeemed by the blood of my Savior, but I have not yet fully attained.” We sing and shout praises to our God and yet many of us still continue to strive to please Him.
You may win an occasional victory and feel so good about it. You tell yourself, “I did it. I knew if I put my mind and heart to the matter, I would get the victory.” Your tendency is to feel proud about what you’ve done and then go around judging others who aren’t victorious.
When I was younger, if I needed victory over something, I would convince myself, “I’m going to do this if it kills me.” And it seemed like it almost would kill me! A month or two might go by and I would think, “Those covetous thoughts are gone now. I’m free!” But it always proved to be a partial victory and discouragement would set in.
“Oh, God,” I would cry, “I’ve begged You to deliver me but You haven’t. These feelings are still in me.” And then I would blame God.
What was happening? I was so busy striving in the flesh to be righteous that I lost my understanding of true righteousness — the only righteousness acceptable to the Father — that of His Son, Jesus. When we stand before the Father, He accepts us only through Christ, through His righteousness and victory.
You may wonder, “What must I do?” First, refuse to listen to the devil’s lies. Second, stand on your spiritual feet and start declaring, “By faith in the blood of Jesus, I receive the righteousness of Christ.” Then rejoice!
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14). Redemption simply means “set free” and we have been set free by Jesus’ precious blood. We can stand against every accusation and say, “Satan, you’ve accused me for the last time. My Bible says I am redeemed because I believe in what Jesus did for me at the cross.”
When Satan tries to convince you that you are unworthy to walk with the Lord and serve Him, you know it is not true. However, you may have a hard time being fully assured that He has made you clean and fit to stand before Him and faithfully serve Him. But the Word of God says that He has!
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:10-14, KJV).
The Greek rendering of Colossians 1:10-14 is: “The Father has made us fit, worthy, qualified in character, good enough to be partakers in the inheritance of the saints of light.”
What Jesus did on the cross qualified you for eternal inheritance, and if God has qualified you for eternal life, then He has made you fit in character, as well. You could take a leave from ministry or service for a time, trying to make yourself fit for Him, but you could never do so. God will not accept anyone’s righteousness — except that of His own Son, Jesus Christ.
You will never be able to obtain the righteousness of Christ by working for it, so just believe and trust God for it. It comes to you by faith. You see, not only are you saved by faith but you are also sanctified by faith, justified by faith, healed by faith, kept by faith.
All this happens by believing in what Jesus has done for you.
Who tells you that you are unworthy, no good, useless, unusable to God? Who keeps reminding you that you’re weak, helpless, a total failure? And who tells you that you’ll never measure up to God’s standard?
Who tells worship team members they’re not worthy to sing praises in God’s house or musicians they’re not worthy to play instruments of worship? Who tells ushers, elders, Sunday school teachers, volunteers, people in the pew that they are unworthy?
That’s no mystery. We all know where this voice comes from — the devil himself. He wants to keep you convinced that God is angry with you.
The devil, the accuser of the brethren, reminds you of your every sin and failure. He tells you, “God can’t use you until you get this figured out and make yourself worthy.” Do not fall for this lie from the pit of hell.
Many people reading this message have been convinced by the devil that they are unworthy ever to be used of God. Does this describe you? Perhaps you feel unworthy even to be called a child of the Lord. You look at your life and see inconsistency and failure.
Let me confess something to you: I have never once felt worthy of my high calling as a preacher. Throughout my years of service to the Lord, I have been barraged by accusations that I am unworthy to speak for God, to preach, to teach others, to be a leader.
So, the truth is, I am not worthy to write this message and you are not worthy to raise your hands in praise to God. You see, nobody is worthy — not in our human strength and power! But Jesus told us, “I have made you worthy.”
“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).
God said to Moses when the children of Israel were in Egypt, “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea” (Exodus 14:1-2, ESV). God was announcing that He was going to take them to a new place.
God guided them through very rocky areas and as He led them, they could see the Red Sea in the distance. But when they arrived on the beach, they realized they were jammed into a very small space with rocks on one side and water on the other.
Pharoah looked at their location and said with glee, “They are hemmed in with their backs to the wall.” God had led them there but the Israelites certainly were not happy about it.
Has God ever called you to a place that you consider the last place on earth you want to be? Moses, who was not a strong military leader up to this point and had been in only a few battles, was smart enough to recognize their precarious position: “I’m not certain we’re in a good place for a military defense. In fact, we’re trapped!”
Yes, Moses and the Israelites were in a tough place but God was about to get glory out of their situation. God often allows us to get into challenging places because He has a great plan for us. When we think we are trapped with our back to the wall, God is saying, “This is going to work out for My glory.”
Do you feel hemmed in, overwhelmed, hopeless? In this difficult place, take a step of faith and say, “God, I will obey You regardless of the cost.” When that happens, you stand on the edge of seeing God move mightily on your behalf.
You know the rest of the story of Moses and the Israelites: God caused the Red Sea to part and His children marched through on dry land. It was a tremendous victory!
In the Old Testament, where there was no water, there was no life. People died during droughts. Likewise, unless the living water of the Spirit is flowing in us, we and our churches will have an absence of spiritual life and little vitality. Just as in the Mojave Desert, no water equals no life, no growth, and no fruit. We can attend church regularly and have perfect doctrine, but without the Holy Spirit to water us, we will wither and die.
Jesus talked openly about the life-giving properties of the Spirit. “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them’” (John 7:37-38). By “rivers of living water,” Jesus was referring to the Spirit that believers would later receive.
When the Spirit of God comes, we have new life. Without the Spirit of God, we’re left to struggle with our self-effort, which is riddled by moral weakness and sinful tendencies. But when the Spirit comes, we have joy, hope, and power. Notice that Jesus doesn’t refer to a drop of water but to “rivers of living water.” Like a river, the Spirit flows — a force of power that comes into us and then flows out so we can be a blessing to others.
God uses water as a symbol of the Holy Spirit in a slightly different way when He says, “I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily” (Hosea 14:5). We all have witnessed the grass and flowers glistening with tiny drops of refreshing water. By using this metaphor, God is saying He will be like the dew, which settles quietly in the night and coats the ground by morning. Dew can’t form when conditions are too hot or the wind is too strong. Likewise, we can’t be refreshed by God when we’re too busy running around.
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.
God describes Himself this way: “I taught Ephraim [Israel] to walk, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them” (Hosea 11:3).
In the original language, this verse reads: “I came to them in their despair and tenderly nursed them through foul, rugged places. I held them in My arms as a nurse!” But verse 7 reads, “My people are bent on backsliding from Me.” The word bent here means “hanging in suspense, hanging in doubt.”
Israel was not sure of the Lord’s love and tenderness and God was saying to Hosea, “My people are doubting My love for them because they don’t really know Me.”
It was true! Israel could not believe God still loved them. They were idolaters, backsliders, and doubters who were probably thinking, “We brought God’s displeasure on ourselves by willfully sinning and He will surely judge us.” But God said, “How can I give you up? My heart churns within Me and My sympathy is stirred” (see verse 8).
You may be going through deep waters right now. I don’t mean trials or temptations necessarily, but overwhelming events that you can’t understand. Winds and waves of all kinds are flooding you, things beyond your comprehension, and He wants to carry you through it all and restore you to spiritual health. If all you can believe right now is that He loves you in spite of all your stubborn ways — that is enough!
Listen to His word of comfort and healing for you: “For I will not contend forever, neither will I always be angry; for the spirit would fail before Me, and the souls which I have made” (Isaiah 57:16). The Lord was saying, “If all you saw in Me was anger, your spirit would fail; it would be too overwhelming.” No, He goes on to say, “I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him” (verse 18).
These are the words of a God who will never give up on His people!
If you want the peace of God to reign in your life, you must quit several things:
Stop trying to figure out how God will work things out
Stop worrying and fretting (Philippians 4:6: “Be anxious for nothing”)
Stop telling God what is right for you
Stop thinking you are a failure and you can’t please God
One of Satan’s most effective traps for robbing Christians of peace is to convince them they must strive in the flesh to please God. He springs this on me all the time!
Sometimes when I need a quiet place to pray, I drive out into the hills. I was there not long ago, looking out over green fields and forests and enjoying the presence of the Lord. Out of nowhere, the thought hit me that I am not doing anything for the Lord.
“Lord,” I cried out, “I’m just not accomplishing much for Your kingdom. All I do is pray, get messages for sermons, and go to church and preach. The whole world is going to hell and I’m not doing anything for You.”
Have such thoughts ever hit you? You do everything you know to please the Lord yet you still don’t feel holy. I know I didn’t. In fact, I hardly ever feel holy . . . even in my best of times. Even when I’m preaching under the Holy Spirit’s anointing.
You may ask, “You, Brother Dave? At times you don’t feel as if you’re doing much for God?” Yes! The devil comes in and makes us all feel unworthy, unfulfilled, and we lose our peace by giving in to those awful feelings.
Listen to Paul’s prayer for us: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:13).
Trust in His goodness. Believe in His love and mercy. And don’t accuse Him of being angry or upset with you or of not speaking to you. Let His peace dwell in your heart and over your whole life.
“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
When I reread this passage recently, I was struck by something I’d never seen before. Paul is instructing us to stop worrying and go to God with prayer and supplication. Then we are to thank Him for the answer. But Paul says nothing about receiving deliverance, a word of direction, miracles, or healing. Instead, he says that we receive a gift . . . the peace of God.
God answers all our requests and supplication with the gift of His peace: “The peace of God will guard your hearts and minds.” In other words, God’s first answer to our every prayer and heart-cry is His peace!
All praying people have one thing in common: No matter how bad we may feel going into our secret closet of prayer, we come out filled with His peace. God has limited Himself to His own government and it is known as the providence of God. He does things here and there, preparing people’s hearts and orchestrating events, but until His providence works out the answer to our porayer, He says, “I’m not going to give you what you think you need but what I know you need — peace of mind and heart.”
Many of us wrestle with the Lord in prayer. We petition Him with many tears; we pound heaven’s gates; we claim every promise. But as the days, weeks, and months go by, we begin to wonder: “Why won’t you hear me, Lord? What’s blocking my prayer? What have I done to grieve or displease You?”
The fact is, God already has said to us, “Here! Here is My peace and it passes all understanding. Take it and let it rule in your heart while I work all things for your good.”
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).
This one verse contains an incredible command; the entire body of Jesus Christ has been called by God to let His peace rule and govern our hearts, minds and bodies! The peace of God is to sit as ruler over everything. And if there was ever a time this call needed to be sounded, it is today in this hour of turmoil and confusion!
The Lord commanded the early Church to allow His peace to rule their lives, because He knew what was coming and He wanted to prepare them. In just a few years’ time, they would be persecuted, even tortured. They would face loss of homes, confiscation of all worldly goods, and attacks from vicious men who thought they were doing God a favor by killing them. God foresaw all this and was preparing them. “You must be grounded in My peace in order to get through all the incredible changes ahead.”
A false peace is sweeping through many churches today, a peace that will fail in the troubled days ahead. Moses called stubborn Israel “self-blessed,” meaning self-deceived. He warned Israel that a curse would come upon all wicked, disobedient children of God who walked in idolatry. They would plaster over their sinful ways with a false sense of peace: “When he hears the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart” (Deuteronomy 29:19).
Moses is describing the child of God who decides to satisfy his lust for evil by finding a cozy doctrine that tells him he’s still saved, heaven bound — while still sinning. He says to himself, “I will do as I please and still not lose the peace in my heart.” False peace!
No matterwhat happens to America or to the nations of the world, no power in hell can rob your of the peace of God through Christ Jesus, which He implants in your soul. God will have His people governed by peace. True peace!
Does God give favor, bless abundantly, and lavish His grace on hungry, waiting hearts? The answer is yes — and we find this illustrated in the story of Christ’s birth.
An angel appeared to Mary announcing the amazing event about to take place in her life: “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be” (Luke 1:26-29, emphasis mine).
Bible scholars say that Mary was very young, a teenager, at the time. Imagine how strange this encounter must have been for her. Here was a simple girl from an obscure village and family, being approached by a massive, fearsome angel standing before her exclaiming, “Greetings, O favored one!”
Then he made an incredible announcement: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (1:30-32, emphasis mine).
Often people trembled in fear when an angel appeared to them but Mary was not afraid, although it is true that she was “greatly troubled” by what the angel said about favor. She lived in a male-dominated society and her life had no real evidence of favor — but a transformation was about to take place in her life and in the world!
You may want to see your circumstances transformed. You may face sickness, a tense marriage, a wayward child, a crushing financial need. Like Mary, you can receive God’s favor, and testify as she did in her song of praise, “I am blessed by the Lord because He sees me at all times, in all my circumstances. He can conceive things I could never imagine.”
“And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50). That includes you!
Paul said to Timothy, “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6).
My word to you today is the same: Stir up the gift of God. When God put His hand on you, He put a deposit of His life within you — the ability to do the supernatural.
So how do you stir up the gift of God? It starts by saying, “Lord, I want it! I want my life to be what You have called it to be. I do not want to simply blend in with this society and ultimately make no difference. I want the power to stand out as a follower of Jesus Christ.”
That has been my prayer over the course of my entire Christian life: “Lord, stir me. Take me to another place: don’t let me become stagnant. Don’t let me live on yesterday’s grace and yesterday’s victory. Today is a new day; there are new people I am going to encounter. Stir the compassion in my heart. Give me the eyes to see people the way You see them. Don’t let me be afraid of people’s faces. You are alive inside me; You gave me Your Holy Spirit; and You left me on the earth for a purpose — so help me to lay hold of the reason I am alive in this generation!”
Remember, the only thing that stops the true child of God is unbelief. And so we must ask God for the grace to honor Him and make full use of the deposit He has given to us. That is how souls will be touched — as they see the reality of Jesus Christ living in us!
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.
Do you sit under strong preaching that lovingly exposes your sin? If so, do you allow that word to convict you? Or, do you continue in your sin without grieving at all?
If you are rejecting the warnings of the restraining Holy Ghost, disobeying God time after time, then you are being recruited for the cult of Antichrist. The devil is silently initiating you into his mystery of iniquity. And when the promising, miracle-working Antichrist comes along, you’ll be swept up in his lies and given over to a delusion!
Listen to what Paul says about compromising believers who refuse to love and obey God’s holy word: “That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:12).
Here are the ominous results of not believing and acting on God’s truth:
The heart becomes hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Satan works on the hardened heart to justify itself, so that it is relieved from all fear of penalty.
The believer becomes blinded by the lie that says there are no wages for sin and no Judgment Day.
The believer falls prey to doctrines of demons, thinking evil is good and good is evil.
He eventually drifts so far from Christ and the truth that he becomes blinded to who the Antichrist is — and he ends up worshiping and serving him as a god.
On Judgment Day, God will say to such a person, “Depart from me, you worker of iniquity!”
Beloved, it doesn't have to be this way. God has made a covenant promise to remove all delusion from us and give us victory over sin. All He asks is that we declare war on our sin, saying, “I refuse to make peace with this habit. Deliver me, Father!” When He hears this prayer, He will send such Holy Ghost power and glory from heaven, the devil won’t stand a chance.
Pray right now that God will implant in you a great reverence for His Word. Ask Him to help you be disciplined in your reading of the Scriptures. And ask the Holy Spirit to help you take to heart what you read— to believe that God means what He says.
Throughout Scripture, God gives us a clear picture of how important it is for us to obey His Word. We see one such example in the life of King Saul, to whom God gave clear, specific commands through the prophet Samuel. “Go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1 Samuel 15:3).
God had spoken to Saul in crystal-clear terms and yet, after he went into battle, he obeyed the Lord only in part. Rather than destroying everyone and everything, he spared King Agag — and he even kept some of the spoils of battle (see 15:7-9).
Samuel was grief-stricken at this. He told Saul, “The Lord sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord?” (15:18-19).
At this point, Scripture gives us a grievous, chilling word: “Then came the word of the Lord unto Samuel, saying, It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments” (verses 10-11).
Does this describe your life? Has God told you in no uncertain terms to deal with something and yet you keep clinging to it? Right now, His Spirit may be speaking to you in a kind, wooing voice, “Your sin stands between us, interrupting our communion. I can no longer bless you while you persist in it. Trust My Spirit to help you. Lay it down now, My child."
God is telling us, “I want all your heart, all your love — not just half-hearted obedience!”
The wicked have always been destitute of the truth — despising it, trampling it, mocking it with disdain. I saw an example of this in The New York Post, as one writer confidently declared, “Science has now replaced faith.”
Paul’s greater concern was always for those who had known the way of truth, confessing their faith in Christ, and yet flirted with sin. “Who changed the truth of God into a lie . . . For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections” (Romans 1:25-26).
Others, held in bondage by their lustful pleasures, turned to false teachers to try to find peace. They ended up accepting “damnable heresies . . . and many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (2 Peter 2:1-2).
All of Paul’s messages on apostasy and the Antichrist were aimed at such carnal Christians. They weren’t meant for the idolaters of Rome, the heathen of Greece, the pagan tribes in unknown places. No, he meant for them to be read in churches, directly to believers!
You see, Paul was calling God’s people everywhere to love the truth — to search it out, study it and obey it. He wrote, in essence, “Let the truth be your guide! Ask the Holy Spirit to give you eyes to see it, ears to hear it, and a heart to love it. Otherwise, you’ll open yourself to deception and end up believing a lie. Satan will be able to initiate you into the cult of Antichrist!”
The Bible says that in the days just prior to Jesus’ return, Satan will attempt to deceive even the elect, if that were possible. It won’t matter how long a Christian has walked with Jesus, he will face temptations he has never had in his life. Even the strongest believer will be tempted to doubt God’s faithfulness and mistrust His Holy Word.
“For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Matthew 24:24).
“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7).
The Greek word Paul uses for iniquity in this passage literally means lawlessness. Therefore, the mystery is one of lawlessness — acting without law or restraint.
Yet, this lawlessness is not simply a rebellion against the rule of man. It’s not about rebelling against civil authority or committing a violent crime. These things do provoke God’s wrath, but the mystery of lawlessness goes much deeper. It is an outright rejection of the truth that is in Christ — a casting aside of God’s Holy Word and His commands.
This spirit of lawlessness is rampant in our nation today. It is the very force behind the legislation that seeks to banish God from our society; the same spirit that Satan used to deceive Eve when he told her, in so many words, “God won’t punish you for disobeying. You can eat the fruit and you won’t have to pay for it!”
Satan is using the same lie on Christians today; day after day, he convinces masses of believers that they can sin without paying any penalty. It is a demonic scheme to pervert Christ’s gospel of grace.
Tragically, many lukewarm Christians are succumbing to this spirit of lawlessness. Paul says the Antichrist will rise to power because people will be blinded and deceived by their own sin (see 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10).
Satan will deceive masses of people, just as he did Eve, by convincing them of a subtle but powerful lie: “God doesn’t punish for sin!”
Paul says this deception will come “because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (verse 10). He then adds, “For this [reason], God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (verse 11).
The apostle is saying, “Those who refuse to obey or respect God’s Word will fall under a powerful delusion. At first they’ll wink at their sin, justify it. But soon they’ll actively seek out a message of easy grace. In fact, they will invent a grace that is far beyond what God intended. His grace never leads to license and always leads to repentance!”
“Whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6, ESV).
A drifter, homeless and confused, was directed into my office when I served as an assistant pastor at Times Square Church in New York City years ago. He wasn’t interested in making conversation until he looked down and saw my fine, genuine Texas cowboy boots.
“I don’t know why I’m here,” he spat out. “You preachers are all the same, spending money on big buildings and fancy cars. And look at those boots!”
After he made that last remark, he looked down at his beat-up, ripped canvas shoes and shuffled his feet self-consciously.
“Do you like these boots?” I asked. And before he could answer, I removed my boots and gave them to him. And, yes, I walked home shoeless. Then forgot the incident.
About six months later, a pastor friend, Steve, called from Greensboro, North Carolina.
“Gary, you’re not going to believe this, but there’s a guy in my office who says you gave him a pair of cowboy boots. He’s been hitchhiking around the country and he says that every time he looks at those boots, he thinks about Jesus.”
That young man wandered into my friend’s church (obviously led by the Holy Spirit) and said he wanted to know more about Jesus. You can imagine the joy that brought to my pastor friend! But Steve was forthright with him.
“For six months the Holy Spirit has been after you. Are you ready to give your life to Christ?”
“That’s why I’m here!” And he was born again right then.
I want to encourage you to look for opportunities, even if you feel like you’re in a famine. Is your marriage in a famine? Look for an opportunity to serve, to love, to bless your spouse.
Are you in a famine with your children? Is there division and turmoil? Look for an opportunity to love, to serve, to order your household according to the ways of the Lord.
Are there difficulties in your finances? Look for a way in the midst of the famine to be a blessing to others and you will find the windows of heaven opening.
God pours out rich blessings on those who give —cheerfully.