Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, was returning home from being with Ahab, the evil king of Israel. The Lord sent a prophet out to meet him, with these strong words, “Jehu the son of Hanani the [prophet] went out to meet him, and said to King Jehoshaphat, Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Therefore the wrath ot the Lord is upon you” (2 Chronicles 19:2).
God was saying to Jehoshaphat, “Ahab was my enemy — an idolator — and you made friends with him. You indulged his wicked life and didn’t take a stand against it. You may think it’s a light thing to join in with someone who is against Me, but you don’t realize the consequences of such actions.”
At this point you may be thinking, “I understand that Ahab was evil, but when I think of my own friends, there’s no way I consider them to be God’s enemies.” Yet, consider what the Word says.
Does your friend take the Lord’s side in all things? “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Luke 11:23).
Is your friend’s counsel full of rebellion? “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” (1 Samuel 15:23).
Does your friend speak evil of godly people? “He who condemns the just . . . is an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 17:15).
This is not a game! Your companions are a serious matter to God because their actions have serious consequences. “You give your mouth to evil . . . [you] speak against your brother. . . . Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces” (Psalm 50:19-20, 22).
Thank God, the king humbled himself and repented: “Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:3). And God responded to Jehoshaphat’s brokenness by giving Judah total victory over the Moabites. The Bible tells us, “Then the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around” (verse 30).
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Many think that Jesus is issuing an invitation to throngs of hurting people in this verse, but this is much more than an invitation. He is telling us — commanding us, in fact — to come to Him because He alone can supply the rest our souls need.
Is it even possible for us to “come to Him” on our own? According to Jesus, it is not: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). Why would Christ command us to do something we are unable to do?
He is giving us an important lesson here, one that is critical to the Christian life. When we are given a command, we cannot just charge ourselves up and say, “I can do this. I’m your man, Lord!” If we do that, we are in trouble before we begin. A command in the gospels exposes our inability. God does this on purpose because as He reveals to us His will, He also shows us our inability to achieve it on our own.
How wonderful that Jesus follows every impossible command with a promise. After He says, “No one can come to me unless the Father draws him,” He immediately adds, “And I will raise him up on the last day” (verse 44). God will draw us to Himself but He will also raise us up into new, resurrection life. New life comes only through Him.
“Whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:21, my emphasis). I love how the King James Version translates the last part of this verse: “That his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”
God is fashioning the work in us. As soon as He reveals our inability, He reveals His ability and willingness to accomplish it all.
Jesus confronted the Laodicean church, which represented the Church of the end times. He gave her this warning that reaches out across the centuries to speak to you and me today: “If you don’t repent, I will spew you out of My mouth” (see Revelation 3:16). What incredible words!
What is the crime, the unimaginable sin committed by the modern Church? Listen to the words of the One who, above all, seeks our faith, trust and surrender: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. . . Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into his house and have dine with him and he with Me” (Revelation 3:15, 19-20).
This passage of Scripture, so often quoted, is not addressing a lost world in need of “letting Jesus in.” Rather, it directly and solemnly is a call to modern believers who are lazily lying on the bed of indifference, quite happy with themselves and the portion they have.
This generation has been diabolically blinded to the spiritual revelation that without a burning faith it is impossible to please Him. Jesus is literally and dramatically standing outside the door of a self-sufficient Church that trusts in methods, strategies and “cutting edge” paradigm shifts and tactics borrowed from the secular marketplace. He is crying out, “Let me in! Repent! Turn away from these broken cisterns that offer no living water! I am calling for a people who will walk in faith, whose trust and confidence will hold solely to My promises. I long for a people whose faith will allow them to see the invisible, believe the unbelievable, and receive the impossible!”
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.
Idolaters live in deception — believing a lie to be the truth!
“For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the Lord will answer him by myself” (Ezekiel 14:7).
This passage of Scripture means, “Because you are hardened in your sin, with no desire to turn and repent, every word you hear from now on will confirm you in your iniquity and deception.”
We see a picture of this with King Ahab, who was probably the most idolatrous king in the history of Israel. At this time, he had aligned himself with King Jehoshaphat to go into battle against Ramoth-gilead.
“And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so” (1 Kings 22:20-22).
Consequently four hundred prophets stood before Ahab, encouraging him to move forward with the attack. Can you imagine the scene? There stood a horde of flattering men, all mouthing words that fed Ahab’s idolatry. They were all lying to him, confirming his sin.
What a horrible tragedy. Ahab could not hear God’s voice because of the idols rooted in his heart. So God sent him a strong delusion — one that would destroy him.
“They received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this [reason] God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11).
“And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him; that the house of Israel may go no more astray from me . . . but that they may be my people, and I may be their God, saith the Lord God” (Ezekiel 14:10-11).
God is telling us in tender terms, “Whatever it takes to get you away from your idols, I’m going to do. I will lovingly woo you to Myself, but if that doesn’t work, I will bring the necessary punishment.”
“When ye see their ways and their doings . . . ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done” (verse 23). The Lord is saying, “You’ll know that My strong dealings with you are for a reason. I simply will not let you go!”
Do you have a stumbling block or a besetting sin in your heart? Is there a bondage that could destroy you? If so, and you find yourself under conviction from this message, there is hope for you.
It doesn’t matter what your idol is, ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to it. He will soften your heart to His convicting word and you will begin to hate your sin. Determine in your heart that you will make no peace with it!
Cry out to Him now, “Lord, don’t leave me blind. If there is any delusion or deception in me, expose it. I don’t want to believe any more lies. I want to hear only Your voice and have Your power and authority rule my life.”
There is deliverance for you if you truly want it. But God will wait for you to turn away from your idols. Then, the moment you are ready to surrender them to Him, He will empower you by His Spirit — no longer a slave to bondage but a child of God set free by truth!
In the first-century church at Jerusalem, the Greek widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. They sought the help of the leaders in the church but they didn’t feel right about giving up their time of prayer and the study of God’s Word to oversee this administrative task.
The apostles called together the church body and said, “It is not [good] that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables” (Acts 6:2). As a result, seven men of “good report” were appointed to handle all the church’s business affairs. In the meantime, the apostles pledged, “We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (6:4). This arrangement resulted in the word of God increasing and the number of disciples multiplying (see 6:7).
Very few pastors today make this kind of sacrifice. A minister once looked me in the eye and said, “There are so many demands on my time that I simply don’t have time to pray.” Another pastor confessed to me, “I haven’t prayed in months. I meditate and have quick devotions occasionally but I can’t bring myself into the discipline of prayer.”
I will not condemn any hardworking, devoted minister of God, but the fact is, every servant rises and falls to his own master. Many preachers today are not aware that they have become victims of a satanic conspiracy of interruptions. Some of them are constantly on the run, bogged down by an avalanche of duties and details.
I thank God we are never at the mercy of Satan or any of his devices. We can expose his tactics, speak the word of truth, and in Christ’s name stop every interruption. By the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we can clear our path to the Lord’s gates and come boldly to His throne of grace to receive help in our time of need. That is what the Lord wants for all of us!
“Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency” (Psalm 73:13).
The writer of this psalm, Asaph, was confused by his sufferings, especially when he observed the easy life of the wicked around him. He nearly slipped into a pit of unbelief, ready to accuse God of forsaking him, of being unconcerned. In fact, he almost quit the battle completely.
This godly man must have thought, “I’ve been living right and enduring hardships all this time for nothing. All my diligence has been in vain. I’ve been faithful to praise Him and study His Word and these plagues and sorrows make no sense. What’s the use of going on?”
Beloved, when calamities fall and trials come upon you, you must be very careful. When you are grieving, you need to guard your heart against slipping.
If you are not personally in Asaph’s condition, you may know someone who is. Perhaps a relative or a friend or a church member is having great trouble. When you observe that righteous person’s suffering, you ask, “Why, God? How could You allow this to happen?”
Asaph went to the temple and prayed. Likewise, when your time of grief or suffering comes, you must go to your secret place of prayer. Get alone with God and cry out your heart to Him. He will understand.
The Holy Spirit spoke to Asaph, “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction” (verse 18). Asaph realized, “I’m not the one who is slipping, it’s the wicked who are slipping straight into destruction.”
When Asaph began to see the whole picture, he rejoiced: “God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever” (verse 26). He could say, “Yes, my strength is failing and I’m enduring a great battle but I’m not alone in my struggles. I have a loving Father in heaven who watches over me!”
“Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, were lost” (1 Samuel 9:3).
In the Word of God, stories of lost items signify the Father’s heart for the lost. God wants His people to be willing to go out and rescue what is lost, and we see that happening in this story.
Saul’s father said to him, “‘Take one of the young men with you, and arise, go and look for the donkeys.’ And he passed through the hill country of Ephraim” (verses 3 and 4). Traipsing up and down the hills of Ephraim was a hard way to start but Saul was committed to completing the mission his father had given him.
Indeed, Saul went all over the hill country, searching in various territories, but still he did not find the donkeys. He must have started feeling kind of hopeless, but he pressed on because he was determined to remain obedient to his father’s command.
Finally, Saul said to his servant, “Come, let us go back, lest my father cease to care about the donkeys and become anxious about us” (verse 5).
Saul was actually conceding defeat, explaining, “We did our best. I thought we could be successful but we can’t, so we have to accept it and go on.”
For some, stepping out in faith is part of a larger commitment to obey at any cost. For others, apprehension over following through is really a fear of failure. In other words, those people do not engage in what God has called them to because they are afraid they may not succeed.
It is important for you to understand that when God calls you to something, He is not always calling you to succeed, He is calling you to obey!
The obedience to the call is up to you — the success of the call is up to Him!
Over the past few years God has given me a vision of the future. He has shown me a time when the Holy Spirit will move into the quietness of the night and stir up our children as never before. They will be like the young boy Samuel in the Bible who ran to the priest Eli because he didn’t know whose voice was speaking to him in the night (see 1 Samuel 3). I have seen how these children will run frightened into their parents’ bedroom at night, not realizing that God Himself is speaking to them.
God is calling our children to make a difference. He knows that many of their parents have not fully surrendered their lives, their time, and their energy — their hands and feet and minds and hearts — to His control, so He is calling the children of our time to fill the gap.
My message to the parents of these precious children is this: Do not stop them! It is God Himself calling them. It is His fire, His Holy Spirit preparing the way for the greatest transformation ever to take place in the world.
So many young people are restless, tired of going to church where everything is the same routine. They want to see the Holy Spirit in action. They want to experience all of Jesus now!
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions” (Acts 2:17).
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.
First, dive into God’s Word, lay hold of your special promise, take it into the secret place of prayer, and hold God to it. I have favorite promises from the Bible that I hold up to God whenever I cry out to Him.
“What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:9-11).
Ask the Lord for good things. He is waiting to give them to you! And ask Him to take away all your shame and remove the stain of sin. He longs to do it for you.
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Take this promise to God daily, saying, “Father, You said You would do more than I ask so today I am asking You to answer my prayer abundantly.” God is pleased by such faith.
Second, trust the Holy Spirit, who abides in you. God does not have to send an angel to speak to you; you already have His resources within you — the Holy Spirit Himself! Acknowledge His presence and say to Him, “Holy Spirit, You know the way out of this mess and I don’t. Right now I give You direction of my life. You know the very mind of God.”
Beloved, if you make this simple confession, you will know times of refreshing from the Lord. Even when you are ready to give up, He remains faithful to deliver you.
Are you being pressed on all sides and tested beyond your endurance? Is your strength nearly gone, leaving you on the brink of giving up? If this is the case, what is your way to victory? I can tell you how God continues to bring me out.
First, do not think you are experiencing some strange, unique battle. On the contrary! You are in good company. Remember Job, Jeremiah, Elijah, David, Paul? What you are going through has been common to believers throughout the centuries.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
Second, when you think you cannot go another step or endure another hour, with all that is in you cry out to God, “Lord, help!” Then consider the counsel of the psalmist:
“I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice. He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me” (Psalm 55:16-18).
“I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. . . . In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears” (Psalm 18:3, 6).
“O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me” (Psalm 30:2).
And here is a key verse: “For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper” (Psalm 72:12).
Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be your helper and He will not turn a deaf ear to your cry for help!
“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24).
Beloved, you are not building upon the rock if you need a preacher to thunder at you to obey God. Or if you need a set of rules laid out for you. You don’t need a rule book, you need a passionate love for Jesus.
The more you love Jesus, the easier it is to serve and obey Him. When your heart is enraptured with Jesus, you won’t have to constantly go before Him, crying, “God, break the power of the devil over me.” No, those chains will begin to fall off as you get to know His heart, and obeying Him will become second nature to you.
If you are in love with Jesus, I have several questions for you:
How can you go through the day without spending time in His Word?
How can you not yearn to get alone with Him in prayer?
How can you not praise and worship Him?
How can you not seek to learn what pleases Him?
Jesus tells us, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). What an incredible promise!
Search the gospels and get to know Jesus’ words. Begin with the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 and read through chapter 7. And then as you learn His words, do them! God’s commandments are not grievous or burdensome. On the contrary, obeying them becomes easier the more you grow to love Him.
As you build your house upon the rock, you will be able to stand unafraid when the storm comes. Nothing will move you — because you are walking in loving obedience to the Father.
Did you know that Satan sometimes puts people in league together just to hinder your labors for God? They come together in an effort to discourage you or discount your ministry. But if you are on a divine mission — called to do a work for the Lord — no plot against you will work.
Nehemiah was called by God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The work was progressing wonderfully when Satan stirred up a hornets’ nest to hinder it all. Four very prominent leaders joined in a plot “to do [Nehemiah] mischief” (see Nehemiah 6:2).
Four times these leaders set a trap for Nehemiah and called out to him, “We insist that you come down off your wall and talk with us!” But four times Nehemiah replied, “I’m not coming down off the wall. I have work to do because God ordained do it” (see verse 3).
Beloved, do not get involved with people who just want to argue. It is meant to be a distraction and you must go on with God’s work. Understand, the reason Satan comes against your prayer life, your consecration, and your walk with Him, is not just to bring you down. He also wants to ruin the ministry God has given you and destroy anything that brings glory to the Father.
These leaders began a rash of rumors against Nehemiah that prejudiced many against him. All these plots were designed to put fear into Nehemiah’s heart so he would become discouraged and run.
But none of those snares could stop the work of God! Scripture states, “So the wall was finished. . . . And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes; for they perceived that this was wrought of our God” (6:15-16).
When you remain steadfast, the work of God will go on and others around will take notice and glorify Him along with you.
Jezreel was a city that excelled in warfare because of its vast fleet of chariots. Chariots represent the strength of man and signify the power to speed ahead with great agility and power.
We have a “chariot lifestyle” today — one of comfort and ease where all our needs are provided. And if we want to do something, we just go ahead and do it.
The chariot lifestyle can have great appeal to Christians with its standards of success — material wealth, security, comfort. But the true servant of God does not seek these things primarily; instead, he seeks to obey his Master’s voice and pursue the concerns of His kingdom. This follower learns early in his faith walk that by pursuing the Lord first, “all these things (food, clothing, shelter) will be added to him” (Matthew 6:33).
Elijah knew better than to look to the world’s resources. Imagine the scene as he addressed King Ahab, perched high in his brilliant chariot, towering over the lowly prophet. Yes, Elijah spoke boldly to Ahab, “Prepare your chariot and go down” (1 Kings 18:44, ESV). But next we read, “The hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to . . . Jezreel” (verse 46). God’s man outran a chariot over a distance of many miles! How did Elijah accomplish this? The phrase “gathered up his garment” means that he prepared himself for the race.
When Peter says to “gird up the loins of your mind” in 1 Peter 1:13, he is saying that we need to prepare ourselves for the contest by reinforcing our belief and trust in the Lord. And the apostle Paul used running a race as a picture of our Christian life. In his final epistle, he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
We, too, can run with strength and win the prize if we properly prepare for the race.
Many of us want more of God but not to the point of being ridiculed. Our Western minds think, “I will serve the Lord, but I will remain in control.” But that is not how the Church began. The Church began with Spirit-controlled Christians who yielded themselves to God. That’s radical, yes, but that’s the way the Lord did it.
Some might say, “Yeah, but we’ve improved upon that New Testament style of Christianity.” If so, I want to see the spiritual fruit our improvements have produced. People may have mocked those first, “unsophisticated” Christians, but thousands got saved in the first four chapters of Acts. The Word of God was treasured. The churches were filled with sacrificial love. A holy excitement pervaded the atmosphere. Have we really improved upon that?
In Acts 2, while the disciples gathered in one place, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in languages they didn’t know. I don’t want to debate speaking in tongues, but I want to point out that when the Spirit came upon them, they immediately began to do something they could not do naturally. “When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?’” (Acts 2:6-8).
The disciples were speaking in actual languages they did not know. They were doing something that could have no other explanation than that God was the source. An undeniable expression of Spirit-controlled living is that we will be lifted above the limitations of mere natural talents and abilities.
The irony of Spirit-filled living is that we have to give up power in order to gain a greater power. How many times have you had trouble doing something, so you just tried harder? Have you ever tried harder to have the self-discipline to read your Bible more or pray longer? To love an unlovely person? To be bold when you felt afraid? How did that work out for you?
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.
If you don’t deal with your doubts, you will be given over to a spirit of grumbling. You will live that way and die that way because your doubts cannot simply be suppressed. They must be pulled up by the roots!
Just three days after Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, they encountered a new test. They had been singing, shaking their tambourines and testifying to the power and strength of a mighty God. They were boasting that He was leading and protecting them — and then they arrived at Marah, which means “waters of bitterness.”
This was an example of how God just keeps allowing us to encounter crisis after crisis until we finally get the lesson He is trying to teach us. If we keep refusing to learn it, a time comes when He gives us over to our own bitterness. “And they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. . . . And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” (Exodus 15:22, 24).
On Sunday they were having a great time — singing, dancing, praising! But by Wednesday they were in trouble; another crisis, and they were falling apart. How could they lose their confidence so quickly? Because they had never had any! They had never had that foundation truly built under them.
So again they failed the test. They had learned absolutely nothing from their previous crises and again they missed an opportunity to shine forth the greatness of their God. They even began to take His goodness for granted. They had no food, so He sent them manna from heaven. He dropped quails out of the sky, piling them up outside the camp three feet high. But not a word of thanksgiving was heard. Instead, the people turned to greed and hoarded up all that God gave them. And then Israel became stiff-necked!
What a shame it is to go from crisis to crisis and learn nothing in the process. It carries with it a curse and you will be given over to a spirit of murmuring.
“Ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord” (James 1:6-7).
Many Christians sit in the house of God and murmur and complain, as if God doesn’t hear them. But God does hear our murmurings — accusations that He does not care for us, insinuations that He has let us down.
God warned me not to give voice to nagging doubts and fear — not to my wife or friends or colleagues. He said to take those doubts to Him and ask Him to heal my unbelief.
Israel spent forty years in turmoil and there was a lot of backbiting, complaining, jealousy and bitterness. What a miserable existence the Israelites led while still claiming to be the children of God.
You must come to a place where you learn to trust Him. When you do this, you will have dealt a deathblow to all doubt, fear and unbelief.
Where do you start? First, look right into the mirror of God’s Word! Consider your actions over the last thirty days: Have you been complaining? You may answer, “Well, I’ve complained a little but I haven’t complained against God.” Oh, yes, you have! No matter who heard your complaints, they were all directed at God.
Everywhere I turn in the Bible, I read, “Trust Me and I’ll see you through! Just commit your ways to Me.” What does that require? Simply that you stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. You may ask, “But what if nothing happens?” That response alone reveals doubt and fear.
Dearly beloved, turn to God and tell Him that you choose to trust Him and wait for His victory. Let God make you a testimony to the world, a witness to His faithfulness. Love Him with all your heart right now and give Him all your problems, all your faith, and all your trust.
“They that carried us away required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:3-4).
The people of God were in the hardest place of their lifetime and as they were carried away, their captors required a song of them. Yet, all they felt was depression, despair and hopelessness.
Multitudes of Christians are in the same position today, trapped in adverse circumstances. As the devil comes at you with an old temptation, you may be on the edge of giving up, thinking, “I can’t make it. I’ve prayed and cried but this old bondage is going to haunt me forever.”
When Israel fell into Babylonian bondage, their captors implored, “Sing for us! Play for us! We’ve heard all about you and what your God did for you, so show us your joy in Him.”
If this demand was made in mockery, I believe it also was a pitiful plea. The gods of the Babylonians had left them empty and without hope. But the songs of the Israelites had made an impact on them. “The God of these people can open a sea; His fire comes down from heaven; He stands against their enemies. There must be something to this God of theirs.”
People who can rejoice and keep their faith in the darkest of hours are a real testimony to others who have the same struggles. Others take notice of believers who testify, “God, I believe You, no matter what is happening in my life.”
The world is shouting to us, “We are not impressed by the Red Sea opening or the blind receiving sight or the lame being healed. No! The miracle we want to see is your faith in the darkest hour of your life. You face hopeless situations with a smile of joy, singing praises to God. That is what speaks to us.”
Today people want to be everything but a servant. In fact, their pride is repelled by the idea of servanthood. A popular Scripture is, “Thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:7).
What is Paul really saying here? He is explaining that a son who has been taught correctly knows he is legally the king’s heir with all the rights that accompany the position. But he loves his father so much that he chooses the role of a servant.
Paul said in Romans 1:1 that he was “a servant of Jesus Christ” and James called himself “a servant of God” (James 1:1). And Christ, the very Son of God, “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7).
A servant has no will of his own; his master’s word is his will. The cross represents the death of all my own plans, my own ideas, my own desires, my own hopes and dreams. And most of all, it is the absolute death of my own will.
Jesus told His disciples, “My [fulfillment in life] is to do the will of him that sent me” (John 4:34). In other words, “I wait to hear every direction from My Father.”
John wrote, “As he is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). Every true Christian must be willing to say, “I really want to do His will.” But we can miss it if we set our hearts on something that we want, something that looks good and sounds logical, but is not God’s will. One of the biggest traps Christians fall into is chasing a good idea that is not from God.
Can your desire survive the cross? Can you walk away from your dream, die to it? God knows what is best for you so cry out to Him, “Father, if this is not your will, it could destroy me. I give it to You so do it Your way, Lord.”
“I want nothing in my life to hinder what God wants to do in me.”
God is forever bringing His people to this point because before He can bring about His best in us, He must do something deep within us. He wants to give us His victory, but He also wants our complete devotion.
The first six chapters of Joshua describe the glorious work God did among His people. Israel had just been freed after 400 years in bondage. The people had emerged from forty years of wandering in the wilderness and now they were at the border of Canaan, the land He had promised them years before. And so they crossed over — and then what happened? Immediately Joshua turned to the younger generation of men and separated them unto God. Scripture uses the word circumcised to describe their preparation, but the deeper meaning is, “They were made ready.”
Joshua took this action because now that they had crossed over, they faced the thick, impenetrable walls of Jericho. Taking this enemy would be impossible for the ragtag Israelites. God was telling them, “I have blessed you these recent years and you have experienced My incredible riches. However, your work is not yet finished.”
How did the Israelites prepare for this next battle? They didn’t sharpen their swords and shine their armor. Instead, the preparation took place inside their hearts. God commanded them to circle the city singing songs, praying, and waiting on Him. Finally, He had them raise up trumpets and issue a single blast. In an instant those mighty walls came tumbling down!
Joshua and his men then performed mighty exploits, defeating their enemies, inheriting greater lands, and seeing victories as never before. In the same way, I believe the Lord wants to pour out His Spirit on us in amazing ways. He wants us to believe that He wants to do it all; in short, He wants us to possess an unwavering faith.
“How can I find the will of God? How can I be sure that I am walking in His will for my life?”
Have you ever found yourself asking these questions? Do you find the topic of the will of God confusing, or do you live with the constant fear that you are missing His will for your life?
Let’s look at a statement Jesus Himself made concerning the will of God: “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17). In other words, this applies to anybody who wants to do the will of God.
According to Jesus, if you have it in your heart to do the will of God, you will understand and know what truth is. You will know His voice that says, “This is the way, walk in it.”
Since I was a young Christian, I wanted to do the will of God — even though I did not always fully understand what that was going to look like in my life. I remember going to church, sitting in the congregation listening to the preacher, and thinking, “How in the world can these people sit under this kind of message? Don’t they see how far off this is?” Most of the time they sat and listened but they went to church simply so that they could be blessed.
When people do not want to do God’s will, the first thing that comes into their lives is doctrinal confusion, eventually followed by an inability to discern truth. As their prayers go unanswered, they come to the conclusion that God doesn’t speak to them. They want their lives to be extraordinary. They want the crowds; they want to raise the dead, lay hands on the sick and have them recover; they want to speak in tongues and all the rest of it, but they do not want to walk in the revealed will of God.
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.
When you are shut in with God in prayer, the Holy Spirit will always lead you to God’s revealed Word. Christ is the living Word and He will build up your faith.
We are commanded:
“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. . . . Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. . . . And take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:11, 13, 17).
Often when you receive specific instructions from the Lord, the Holy Spirit will direct you to a passage of Scripture by whispering to your spirit that you should turn to it. And then God’s Word will speak to you directly, telling you how to get through your crisis.
Many of you reading this message are in a situation that requires a word from God. Nobody on earth can help you and the only way you can get through your crisis is to remain in Christ’s presence until He gives instructions! He must tell you the way through: what to do, when to act. The perfect timing is all in the hands of the Holy Spirit — not too early or too late.
Beloved, you do not need to worry about your trial. God is faithful to respond to your every need and request, so as you pray, simply say, “Lord, I come now not just to have my needs met but also to meet Your need.”
We were made for fellowship with Him, even in our heaviest times. Do you love to be with Him? Do you prefer Him above all others? I trust that you heart cries out, “Jesus, You are my soul’s great pleasure and I love Your company.”
I pray that God will put in all of us a heart that is easily wooed to His presence. Let us pray through all our trials and listen closely to the Holy Spirit in our secret time of communion.
Most Christians do not listen to God. They go to Him to talk! Yet the Scriptures reveal that any person who was ever used of God learned to remain in His presence until he heard from Him.
Scripture makes it clear that the Lord wants to talk to every one of us. “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21).
As a little girl with leukemia neared death’s door, she struggled with the thought of dying. Yet, one morning when her mother came into her room, the girl was aglow and happy.
“What happened to you?” her mother asked.
“An angel came to me and said I was going to take a trip,” the girl answered. “And then God came and took my hand and walked with me through a beautiful garden. He told me I was going to go there tomorrow to be with Him.”
God spoke to that little child and took all the fear from her heart! When she left to be with Him the next day, she had total peace.
Tell me, when you are communing with Jesus, do you receive such clear direction from Him? Does He tell you what to do, and when and how to do it? Some Christians don’t believe God does this but Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice . . . and they follow me” (John 10:27).
The only way through your trial is by getting alone with Jesus and crying, “Lord, You’re the only One on this earth who can help me. I’m not going anywhere until I hear You speak to my heart.”
The kind of prayer that pleases God stops everything, all activity, until His voice is heard. You will hear Him speak clearly to your heart such things as, “You’ve got to make things right with this person.” Or, “Don’t be in such a hurry! Sit in My presence and trust Me.”
If you will seek Him and wait, He will give you clear direction!
“Praying through,” a term coined by the early Pentecostals, to some meant staying on your knees until you were assured that you had received an answer from God. To others it meant continually coming back to the Lord until you had the answer in hand. (This was also called “persevering in prayer.”)
As a young boy in early camp meetings, I heard people testify, “I’m going to lay hold of the horns of the altar and I won’t let go until God answers.” Yet, I don’t believe this is the truest meaning of “praying through.”
You can be shut in with the Lord, delighting in His presence; you can spend quality hours, even days, with Him, glorying in sweet communion. You can have all your needs met, your heart totally satisfied, but what happens when you leave that hallowed place of intimate fellowship?
You may rise up from your knees only to go back to a crushing situation that has not changed. You can see the devil waiting there for you, ready to throw the same problems and emptiness at you. I ask you: What good is it to receive the glory on the mountain if it won’t see you through the battle?
Let me explain what I believe about “praying through.” It simply means that the strength, power and encouragement you receive from the Lord while shut in with Him must see you through the trials ahead. The victory you attain in the secret closet has to give you victory on the battlefield.
Think about it: Was yours a “completed prayer”? You see, “praying through” means waiting for the total completion of your prayer. Many Christians see only half-answered prayers because they don’t allow what they received from the Lord in prayer to carry them through their trial. Indeed, many sincere prayers have been wasted, aborted, lost — because they were not “carried through” in this way.
Dearly beloved, prayer is not finished — it is not a “completed prayer” — until it sees you through to the other side of your trial. We have not “prayed it through” until we have “lived it through” our trials by the strength we received in God’s presence.