Are you having problems with your job, your finances, or a relationship? Are you suffering from an illness? Is your heart aching for a loved one who is far from God? Could you summarize the situation by saying, “My life, or the life of someone I love, is a muddled mess!”? The good news is that your mess can be God’s means to bring a miraculous blessing into your life.
Your situation may seem overwhelming, but in every mess a Christian encounters, there is a miracle in the making. Most of the time, we look at trouble as something bad. But when we overcome a difficult situation through God’s grace and power, our victory is an opportunity to receive glory (greater blessings) and give glory (praise and thanks) to God. We also have the great privilege of reflecting His glory. A little trouble can yield a heap of glory.
God says your afflictions are light compared to the heavy blessings they can bring into your life: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Who in the natural would think that financial problems, sickness, or any other difficulty could be a benefit? But in God’s supernatural world, afflictions can lead to glory. God wants to use the very thing the devil works against you to bring glory into your life.
God has a process to bring His glory into your life; if you grasp the process, you’ll receive the glory. The way we handle hard times and deal with difficult moments provides a foundation upon which God builds a beautiful life. Joseph is a good example of someone who grasped this process. God turned a mess into a miracle in Joseph’s life, and He can work a wonder in yours, too. So, let’s look at how you can get God’s glory in your situation. Consider these four keys.
Focus on the Word of God: “While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). Look at what God says about you and your problems. No matter what others say or how things look in the natural, look at the invisible.
Confess the Word. Don’t just read the Word—speak it, confessing the invisible. If you have spoken negatively into your situation, ask for forgiveness and begin to speak positive, Bible-backed confessions.
Have patience and faith. Hebrews 6:12 says that it is through faith and patience that we inherit the promises of God. Patiently walk by faith. Some people want their glory now. They don’t want to wait, but God needs to work on us first to prepare us for the glory to come.
Take hold of joy. While you are waiting for your victory, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Look at your mess the way Jesus looked upon His excruciating death on the cross as the means to a miracle: “For the joy that was set before Him endured the cross . . .” (Hebrews 12:2).
When problems arise, focus on and confess God’s Word. Walk in faith and patience while you take hold of joy. Your mess is merely the means to your miracle. Your glory is on the way!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.” Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the Lord.” (1 Chronicles 16:24-26, NIV)
Forever. Beyond the measurement of time.
It’s difficult for us to comprehend a love that literally has no beginning and no end. But that is the love God has for us.
God is so good. He wants His best for each of us.
We fail Him. Every day.
His love never fails.
We seek after our own way. We ignore Him. We reject His wisdom and advice.
Israel repeated this same cycle for hundreds of years. They had the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle as reminders of God’s miracles and laws. The ark and the tabernacle were mobile, carried across the wilderness for years. Set it up, worship, break it down, and move on. Repeat.
Finally, Israel had taken possession of the promised land and David was king. Jerusalem was established as God’s place on Earth, and the ark and tabernacle were finally home. As David and the priests gathered all of Israel to celebrate this great moment together, He offered a song of thanksgiving. David concludes this song of praise with a thankful heart, proclaiming: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; His love endures forever.”
God’s love endures forever indeed. It has no end, and it is available to you right now. Give thanks to God, for He is good. He is everlasting.
Isabell is the daughter of Sarah Bowling and the granddaughter of Marilyn Hickey. She graduated from Oral Roberts University with her bachelors in Historical and Philosophical Theology and received the award for Theology Student of the Year upon graduation.
She is excited for what this next season brings and is looking forward to learning and growing under the tutelage of her mother and grandmother. In the future, she also hopes to continue her educational journey by seeking a graduate degree in Europe.
We pray Isabell’s blog post blesses you today!
“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” John 17:17
Have you ever wanted to be holy? Not holey like Swiss cheese, holy like Jesus is holy. Here’s the good news: we are already sanctified! Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves of God’s truth and live like we know that we’re holy. I love the idea of sanctification, because it’s so final and it’s completely out of our control. Sanctification is the process by which we become holy. It is a process, but the good news is we have already begun it.
First, we enter into sanctification when we give our lives to Christ. We are set apart because we need to be in order to house the Holy Spirit. We are all temples for Holy Spirit to sit and dwell within us, so there’s step one of our sanctification. We just have to say yes to Jesus living in our hearts.
The second step is continually choosing to set ourselves apart. We do this by living righteously and meditating on the Word. Oh man, this part is so tricky! I know especially in high school, I did not want to believe that my physical actions had consequences on my soul, but the truth is that they do. When we are not kind to ourselves or others, this has a wholistic effect on our being. Here’s an example: when we gossip, it can have negative side-effects on our relationships here on Earth, but it can also be poisonous to our Spirit. God tells us not to gossip or slander, so when we act out of disobedience, it is sickness to our spirit, which is designed to be in equilibrium with the Father. This can sound scary, and unrealistic, but the truth is Jesus said, “Now you are already clean [sanctified] because of the word which I have spoken to you’.” (John 15:3) He has called us clean, holy, and set apart. That—more than any sin we may commit—is the truth.
The third part of sanctification—where we live righteously and meditate on the Word—comes from a proper understanding of the truth of who we are. We are already holy and set apart, so our actions need to reflect that. In my own life, when I am wrestling with fleshy sin, I can get really down on myself and very critical of myself. Other times, I see someone else struggling with sin and I see their sin first. But, when God sees us, He doesn’t see the sin we are struggling with, He sees us. The sanctified temples that He loves. When we shift our attitude about ourselves and others and bring it into alignment with what God says, we start to have a proper understanding of just how valuable we all are. C.S. Lewis in his book Weight of Glory says, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” (C.S. Lewis, Weight of Glory. P46) People are important. We are important. But this importance comes from the weight of significance that God puts on us.
Let’s remember today that we are holy. We are sanctified. Out of that knowledge, we choose to live our lives in a way that reflects the truth of who we are. Let’s love well, respect people, and seek God in everything we do.
“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” John 17:17
Jesus spoke these words during His prayer to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. Up to this point, Jesus had imparted to the disciples everything God expected—His Word and an understanding of His character. Like Jesus, the disciples were set apart from the world. Their affiliation with the living God (rather than the dead works of the law) would draw hatred from those who did not know Father or Son (see John 16:3).
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:14-16)
Jesus asked the Father to protect His own from the enemy. His request was essentially, “Don’t let his snares abort their mission.” Note that:
Jesus did not suggest that they should be removed from the world.
In order to fulfill the call of God and glorify Jesus (see John 17:10), the disciples had to remain in the world.
Keeping the disciples in the world was a sign of Jesus’s love for the world.
In difficult times, Job, Moses, Elijah, and Jonah each prayed to be taken out of the world. Their prayers were not answered. Our relationship with the world should reflect the love of Christ: we are here to bring the Word to the world. Some will receive it. Some will not.
To remain in the world and yet not be part of it, the disciples would need sanctification—to be “set apart” through the Word of God.
Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. (John 17:17-19)
Ephesians 6:14 says, “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth.” The disciples would be fortified by the truth and by feeding on the Word, they would think, speak, and act differently than the world. Instead of being absorbed into the world, they would stand out from it and bring glory to God.
This sanctification was Jesus’s final request to the Father on behalf of the disciples. Jesus spoke of His own sanctification in John 10:36, but here He states that He will sanctify Himself for the disciples’ sake. The Anointed One had always been set apart, but here the consecration of the sacrifice rather than preparation for a task is implied. The Living Bible states it this way:
Make them pure and holy through teaching them your words of truth. As you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world, and I consecrate myself to meet their need for growth in truth and holiness. (John 17:17-19 TLB)
Because Jesus was sanctified when He entered through the veil, we too can be sanctified by His Word. “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil” (Hebrews 6:19).
Next week, my granddaughter, Isabell, will be posting on what sanctification means for us today!
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. Ecclesiastes 12:13
Ecclesiastes is a beautiful book. It starts with groaning, but it ends with joy. We can groan a lot, but if we can get hold of the joy of the Lord, it will be our strength for this life.
You say, “Where’s Jesus in this? Is Jesus in here, in the midst of all the vanity and groaning?” Oh yes! If you look at chapter 12, at the 11th verse, it says: “The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd.” A goad is a stick or a cattle-prod, something used to move you in the right direction. So the words of the Shepherd will give us direction, and they’ll hold us tight like a well-driven nail. We can hang our life on the Shepherd’s words. Notice the capital “S” for Shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd referred to in this Scripture!
In Ecclesiastes, we see Solomon look for satisfaction in everything but God, but in the final chapter he comes back to the living God; he saw the Son, the Shepherd King, and it transformed his life. I believe when we get to Heaven, we can sit down with Solomon and he can tell you, “I tried everything and it was empty, but when I got hold of Jesus, I knew that was life and life abundant.”
Solomon’s final conclusion is that the whole of life is to fear God, to keep His commandments, and to live forever with Him. This is the chief thing in life and the only eternally rewarding thing. Don’t spend your life frivolously looking for a purpose. Find God’s purpose for your life!
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6
Hebrews 11 is the “hall of fame” of faith. It includes people like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, and Noah. Today, we’ll talk about a few of these heroes of faith.
Noah: Faith for Your Family
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith. (Hebrews 11:7)
God told him that He was going to send a flood. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. But right believing brings right living, and because Noah had faith, he was obedient to God. Put your hand on your heart and say, “I’ll never forget — faith obeys.”
So Noah built an ark, and everyone thought he was crazy. Everyone but his family, that is. His wife and sons believed that he heard from God. And by walking in faith, Noah saved his family. All the people who didn’t believe in God drowned, but Noah’s family was saved.
Noah leaves that legacy for us today—that his faith brought righteousness. When we believe God, He makes us righteous. Stop trying to do things to become righteous. Just obey His Word and have faith in His Word. God can save your household if you walk in faith. You can claim this promise.
Abraham: Faith for Provision
Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. (Genesis 22:13, KJV)
In Genesis 22, God spoke to Abraham and told him to take Isaac, the promised son who was born to him when he was 100 years old, and sacrifice him on Mount Moriah.
What must Abraham have been feeling? Hebrews 11:19 tells us Abraham believed that even if his son died, God would raise him from the dead. What?! Abraham believed in a resurrection before there was one?! Absolutely! I believe he was the first to believe.
Alone on the mountain, Isaac asked his father, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb?” And Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb.” God will provide. Abraham never took his eyes off the Father!
Once Abraham had prepared the fire and the wood, he put Isaac on the altar. And just in time, a voice spoke to him and said, “Lift up your eyes.” I would say that to you today! Get your eyes on what God can do rather than what your problem is. Lift up your eyes. Abraham did, and saw a ram caught in the thicket. God had provided the sacrifice!
Do you realize that at the same time Abraham and Isaac were going up Mount Moriah, the ram was coming up the other side? When we’re going up the mountain, God has a provision coming up to meet us! Abraham substituted the ram for Isaac and called God a very special name: Jehovah-Jireh, which means the God who provides. But it’s more than just provides. It means the God who sees ahead and has a provision for us!
Rahab: Faith Comes by Hearing and Believing
By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace. (Hebrews 11:31)
So, how does one receive faith? Let’s look at the life of Rahab (see Joshua 2 and 6)? She, along with all of Jericho’s inhabitants, had heard about the God of the Hebrews, but Rahab alone heard and believed. Not only did she believe in her heart, but she confessed it with her mouth and acted out her faith by hiding the Israelite spies.
Faith does come by hearing God’s Word (see Romans 10:17). But many people hear God’s Word and don’t believe it, so they don’t get its benefits.
Because of Rahab’s willingness to believe what she had heard, she was rewarded beyond her wildest imagination. When the rest of Jericho was destroyed, the walls of Rahab’s dwelling remained standing — as a testimony to her belief in God’s Word.
We can hear God’s Word continually, but until we believe what we hear and then act on it, it is not profitable to us. When you hear the Word of God, don’t just casually receive it in your mind. Meditate on it. Accept it and receive it as a special message from God to you. Then use it to benefit your life.
Just as Noah’s faith saved his household and Abraham’s faith saved Isaac, the first thing Rahab did when she made a covenant with the Israelites was to ask protection for her family (see Joshua 2:12-13). When you get saved, you want your whole family to be saved. When we become faithful followers of Christ, meditating on His Word day and night, God will bless us and make our homes prosperous.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
In His last recorded words, Jesus told the disciples that they were to be “witnesses” in (1) Jerusalem, (2) Judea, (3) Samaria, and (4) the ends of the earth.
The first preaching of the gospel was in their own neighborhood of Jerusalem, then it spread by the disciples into nearby Judea. It went on into Samaria through Philip and the deacons, plus the apostles. Then, the gospel went into the uttermost parts of the earth with Paul. Again Jesus is reminding us that the Gospel is for all people, not just the Jews, but also for the Gentiles, the Samaritans and for every nation.
Now I think it is important to note that Jesus called us to be “witnesses.” “Witness” has to do with the root word “martyr.” It’s not always easy to be a witness, but it is oh so powerful and wonderful!
Stephen was the first martyr for the sake of Christ, but Stephen rejoiced in the opportunity to lay down his life. How do we know he rejoiced? Because he didn’t appear to be in agony. Scripture says that his face was like the face of an angel (see Acts 6:15).
When we face trials of any kind, remember that this is the life we signed up for when we accepted Christ. Jesus promised that in this life there would be trouble. Why? Because when we become witnesses for Christ, we must demonstrate the life that He lived, which was one of persecution. But we can rejoice in our suffering because our reward in heaven will far outweigh anything we come up against in this life.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
Many people think that it’s difficult to be “saved.” But Romans 10:13 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” You might be thinking, “That’s too easy — too simple.” It is simple to receive eternal life — for one reason: Jesus has done what is necessary. It is not what we have done. It has already been done. We must simply believe that He has done it for us.
If we call upon the name of the Lord, repent of our sins, invite Jesus into our hearts, and confess it boldly with our mouths, the Bible says that we will be saved. Jesus did it all. He paid it all so that we might have inherit eternal life. It is not by our works; it’s by our faith and what He did. It’s salvation by faith; it’s transformation.
When I think of transformation, I think of God taking us as a caterpillar and making us into a beautiful butterfly. This is so evident in the life of Saul. Saul goes from persecuting Christians to being willing to die for the people if it meant they would come to know Jesus. How did this transformation happen? Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus and God transformed him into an apostle, which means “sent.” As we see so often in the Bible, even his name was changed to reflect the transformation! He was sent by God to minister to the Gentiles, and because he was sent to the Gentiles, he was given a Gentile name: Paul.
Naturally, the Jews didn’t trust him. They came up with a conspiracy to kill him, but Paul’s followers lowered him in a basket through an opening in the city gates so that he could escape. God always has provision, doesn’t He? Whether it is a basket, a rope, the right people to hold on to the rope, or the Savior Jesus Christ, God always provides a way of escape. First Corinthians 10:13 says:
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Romans is out of this world because it really shows us that we have all sinned, but Jesus is the answer for all sinners. We can never do enough because Jesus did it all. When He died on the cross, He said, “It is finished.”
The finished work of Jesus brings transformation and eternal life!
In 2023, Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles) follows the Feast of Atonement on September 29-October 6. When the Israelites came out of Egypt, they spent 40 years in the wilderness. God visited them and took care of them, providing food, water, clothing, even helping them defeat their enemies. Though they lived in tents, their needs were always met.
The Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated every year because they wanted to remember and celebrate how God not only took care of them, but how His presence came down and lived with them. Every year, each family set up a little tabernacle in a tent, and for seven days the family lived in the tent, celebrating the presence of God with them during those hard times, celebrating that He brought them into the promised land.
As the seventh feast, symbolizing the day of rest, God called them to rest and to enjoy His presence. Seven is also the number of completion. All the other feasts were very busy, but the seventh one was a big celebration full of rest and enjoyment.
This feast emphasized the presence of God with us—no matter where we are, His tabernacle is with us, in our hearts. Where we are, He wants to be. This is seen in the original building of the Tabernacle, in the Garden with Adam and Eve, and in the greatest presence of all, when He comes down and lives in our hearts.
This is a blueprint of Jesus. Through the Feast of Tabernacles, we see God’s plan for us, the sending of His Son so we could have His constant presence, not just once a year, but every day! Tabernacles also represent that one day, Jesus will come back and establish the ultimate tabernacle, His Kingdom.
This year, Yom Kippur (the Feast of Atonement) is September 24-25. In Leviticus 23:26-32, the Feast of Atonement was special, and required a 24-hour feast of repentance. This feast isn’t for the church, but for the Israelites—God’s old covenant people. For 24 hours they reflected on the previous year and repented of their sins.
On that day, no one was to work, only spending time focusing on how they had sinned, seeking repentance, and asking God to have mercy on them. This feast was all about cleansing Israel with an offering of a lamb (blood sacrifice), covering their sins in full. God gave us a future picture with this feast because Jesus, the Lamb of God, came to take away the sin of the world, for both the Jew and the Gentile. Jesus’s blood atoned for (covered) our sin so we could walk in freedom.
Zechariah 12:10 tells us there’s coming a day when Israel will look on Jesus, the Lamb of God, who they pierced and know in an instant that He is their Messiah. A nation will be saved on that day. They will see Him and know Him as the wounded one, the Bread of Life. They will feast on the Bread of Life. This feast has everything to do with you because the Old Covenant is your foundation, and we’ll be blessed when we pray for Israel.
The Feast of Trumpets (also known as Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year) starts on September 15 this year. In the Old Testament (Leviticus 23:25), it was in preparation for the Feast of Atonement and announced the voice of God and His might in warfare, gatherings, and coronations. When the feast was eaten, the people knew that were eating victory, that nothing was impossible with God, and that they could be free from anything.
During this time in history, the ram’s horn was very important, serving as a representation of Jesus’s victory in our lives. Every feast began with the blowing of the shofar (a trumpet made from the ram’s horn), then the people would feast on who God was, giving them a revelation of their true Messiah. The first time we see the horn of a ram mentioned in Scripture was when Abraham was about to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to the Lord, but God provided a ram instead, sparing Isaac’s life (see Genesis 22:13).
Several hundred years later, the Israelites blew the trumpets as they conquered Jericho. They marched once around the city for seven days, then on the seventh day they marched seven times—each time they marched around, the priests blew their trumpets. This blowing of the trumpets gave the people confidence that they were going to win because God would make them victorious.
Seen throughout the Bible close to 20 times, the blowing of the trumpets had several different meanings and announcements to the people:
Trumpets were blown before going into battle, claiming victory (Numbers 10:9).
In the year of Jubilee, the trumpets were blown to kick off the celebration (Leviticus 25).
The trumpets were blown for a calling to repentance, and repentance led to victory (Leviticus 23).
Trumpets were blown when someone became king (2 Samuel 15:10; 2 Kings 9:13; 11:14, 2 Chronicles 23:13).
Isaiah 27:12-13 reveals the prophecy of the coming of Jesus through the blowing of trumpets. This meant that Jesus would raise the believers from the dead and take them to heaven to be with Him eternally.
The harvest resurrection will start with the sound of a trumpet (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
The greatest Feast of Trumpets will be when Jesus comes back, and we are all caught up to be with Him in heaven. Just as the trumpets were blown for the coronation of a king, the trumpets will again sound when the King of Kings comes to reign victoriously forever!
This month’s verse is Psalm 118:24. To give context for this verse, a study of the entire Psalm is excerpted below from my book, Experiencing God’s Heart: The Book of Psalms for Today. I pray you are blessed today and throughout the month of September as we discuss the theme of hope and joy; and celebrate the Jewish Feast of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
2 Let Israel now say, “His mercy endures forever.” 3 Let the house of Aaron now say, “His mercy endures forever.” 4 Let those who fear the Lord now say, “His mercy endures forever.”
5 I called on the Lord in distress; The Lord answered me and set me in a broad place. 6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? 7 The Lord is for me among those who help me; Therefore I shall see my desire on those who hate me. 8 It is better to trust in the Lord Than to put confidence in man. 9 It is better to trust in the Lord Than to put confidence in princes.
10 All nations surrounded me, But in the name of the Lord I will destroy them. 11 They surrounded me, Yes, they surrounded me; But in the name of the Lord I will destroy them. 12 They surrounded me like bees; They were quenched like a fire of thorns; For in the name of the Lord I will a]”>[a]destroy them. 13 You pushed me violently, that I might fall, But the Lord helped me. 14 The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.
15 The voice of rejoicing and salvation Is in the tents of the righteous; The right hand of the Lord does valiantly. 16 The right hand of the Lord is exalted; The right hand of the Lord does valiantly. 17 I shall not die, but live, And declare the works of the Lord. 18 The Lord has chastenedb]”>[b] me severely, But He has not given me over to death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, And I will praise the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord, Through which the righteous shall enter.
21 I will praise You, For You have answered me, And have become my salvation.
22 The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. 23 This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity. 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We have blessed you from the house of the Lord. 27 God is the Lord, And He has given us light; Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. 28 You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt You.
29 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
Author of Psalm 118: Anonymous
Background: Psalm 118 is the last of the Great Hallel psalms and was sung following the Passover meal. Nearly a century after the return of the Jewish people to Palestine, Nehemiah engineered the reconstruction of the walls around Jerusalem in 52 days! We believe this psalm, which was sung by our Lord and His apostles (see below), was written commemorating this joyous occasion.
Theme: The eternal merciful nature of God inspires thanksgiving and trust. To those who confidently call upon Him in times of distress, He will valiantly deliver.
Psalm 118 Quoted in the New Testament: Verse 6 is quoted in Hebrews 13:6 by the author of Hebrews in his instructions to the Jewish people regarding godly living. Verse 22 is quoted by Jesus (Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10-11; and Luke 20:17) and by Peter (Acts 4:11 and 1 Peter 2:7) referring to the rejection of Jesus by Jewish leaders. Verse 26 is quoted in Matthew 21:9; 23:39; Mark 11:9; Luke 13:35; 19:38; and John 12:13 referring to Jesus as the Messiah.
Personal Application: Christians experience varying levels of trials while walking with Jesus and are frequently challenged to exercise faith. Whatever situation you are experiencing right now, have faith that God is able to deliver you. Read Psalm 118 many times and think about the great trial Jesus faced as He prepared to die on the cross. Be courageous and joyful knowing full well that the same God who resurrected Jesus is also working on your behalf!
Over the years, I’ve had people ask me questions about Jesus, God, and the Bible. I have compiled a few of those questions and answered them below. I hope that you will find the answers informative and that they will encourage you in your walk with the Lord.
Q: I’ve been baptized in Jesus’s name. Though I pray daily, I don’t read the Bible daily and I don’t attend church weekly. When I die will I go to heaven or hell?
A: Being baptized does not assure one’s salvation. Even reading the Bible daily and going to church regularly do not assure you of a place in heaven. There is only one way to avoid hell and go to heaven. Jesus said that we must be “born again” to enter the kingdom of God (see John 3:5-8). If you have not been “born again,” you will go to hell. But I have good news for you! The Bible also tells us how we can be born again. To be born again, you must receive Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior: “…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). If you have not made such a confession but have a desire to do this, simply pray this prayer sincerely:
“Dear Jesus, I believe that you died for me and that you rose again on the third day. I confess to you that I am a sinner and that I need your love and forgiveness. Come into my life, forgive my sins, and give me eternal life. I believe that God has raised you from the dead, and I now confess you as my Lord. Thank you for causing me to be born again!”
If you have received Jesus as your personal Savior, I want to encourage you to find a Spirit-filled church that can help you grow in the things of the Lord.
Q: How do we know Jesus is God?
A: The Bible, which is the final authority for every Christian, says in John 1:1, 14, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…” Philippians 2:6, 7: “Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” These verses refer to Jesus Christ. They tell us that Jesus is God who became man and lived here on earth. If Jesus is not God, then we, of all people—that is to say Christians—are the most to be pitied. If Jesus is not God, then we have no hope for eternal life because a mere man could not ascend into heaven and sit at the Father’s right hand as the Scriptures record. I would encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit to open up your eyes to the fact that Jesus Christ is true God and true man. Come before Him in prayer and ask Him to reveal Himself to you in a personal way. If you are honestly seeking for the truth, then I know that He will do this for you.
Q: Why should I read the whole Bible?
A: The Bible is God’s primary method of communicating with His creation, mankind. It is His revealed Word and will to man. Through reading and studying the Bible, you can meet, get to know, and establish a one-on-one relationship with the one true God, your creator. As such, the Bible can be your best friend. Its two major divisions, the Old Testament and the New Testament, both point to Jesus as the redeemer of the human race. The Old Testament prepared the way for Jesus, and the New Testament prepares a people to receive Him. That’s why it’s so important for you to read every book in the Bible—you can behold Jesus in every book of the Bible! Each book reveals to you Jesus and His love for you. When you read the whole Bible, you will recognize the unity of the Bible, and can apply its truths to every area of your life.
Q: How do you know God wrote the Bible?
A: The Bible claims God as its author, and a knowledge of the Word makes this apparent. There are 66 books in the Bible—written by more than 30 different persons over a period of thousands of years, and yet there is a consistent theme running from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible describes the fall of man, his utter sinfulness, and God’s redemptive plan through the blood sacrifice of His Son. If the scriptures were not written by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the mortal men who penned them surely would not present man as totally depraved and in need of salvation. Man’s “religion” always teaches access to God through human effort, but the Bible clearly states that mankind is dead in trespasses and sin. Dead men can’t work their way to God; they can only accept God’s provision of a new life in Christ Jesus. Each of the prophets declared that it was the Word of the Lord that came to them; and with the exception of end-time prophecy, all prophecy has been fulfilled to the letter—even as God said it would be (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21).
Q: Is the Bible really God’s infallible Word?
A: Yes, the Bible is God’s infallible Word. Even though there are Scriptures which, when read, may seem “inconsistent,” one must know the whole counsel of God’s Word to see there is no contradiction.
Q: What is the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament?
A: The purpose of the Old Testament is to show us man’s creation, his sin (fall), and to show us God’s preparation for a redeemer to come who would make salvation available to all men. This redeemer (Jesus) came through the Jewish nation; thus, the Old Testament is the story of their history—good and bad. In the New Testament we have the manifestation of the redeemer and His manifestation through His people (those who receive Him). We also see the culmination of God’s plan of redemption in the book of Revelation.
Q: Which version of the Bible do you believe is the most accurate?
A: From the time that God confused language at the tower of Babel until now, the human race has been trying to communicate through the imperfect vehicle of foreign languages. The Bible was written in Hebrews, Aramaic, and Greek. Because different words can be translated in a variety of ways, we have different Bible versions, which essentially are different translations. Modern translations are taken from the original Greek and Hebrew; but even so, there is still a problem in that one word can have various shades and meanings and thereby can be translated differently. So, each person who translates a work must do it on the basis of the context in which the word is written in order to determine the original meaning. Different scholars have different opinions on how these words should be translated; thus, we have a variety of translations, and all of these translations depend upon the text from which that particular language was translated. My personal preference is the New King James Version.
Q: What does it mean to walk with God every day? How can I walk with Him every day?
A: “To walk with God” means to live your life in harmony with Christ’s life in you. This comes about through prayer and Bible study. Speak to God in prayer and let Him speak to you through the Bible.
Q: Please explain what “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) means.
A: The Bible says that no Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, but that Scripture is to be interpreted through the revelation of the Holy Spirit. “Rightly dividing the word of truth” refers to this and means to take the Scriptures within the context they are given in order to interpret the Scriptures. Not only are we to take Scriptures within the context that they are given in the chapter but also within the context of the Old and New Testaments as well. You must take into consideration the full counsel of God in light of how Jesus revealed the Father to us while He was here on earth.
Q: Marilyn, please explain the Trinity. If Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit is God and God the Father is God, how can Jesus sit at the right hand of Himself?
A: The concept of the Trinity (three-in-one and one-in-three) is ultimately a mystery to our human, finite minds! I can only tell you what I understand about it as I read through the Bible. Ultimately the truth about the Godhead must be accepted by faith so long as we are in these human bodies. Although the word “trinity” is never mentioned in the Bible, its existence is clearly spoken of in Matthew 28:19 and 2 Corinthians 13:14. God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4) yet made up of three distinct persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Just as a family is one unit made up of several family members, so the Godhead is one unit with three members. Each person of the Trinity has a specific role, differing from the other two; and yet together, they make up a single unit with a single purpose, carrying out a perfect and complete plan.
The Heavenly Father is the architect or planner of the Trinity; Jesus is the contractor or the one who carries out the plan; and the Holy Spirit is the laborer or the one who gives life to the plan. Let’s look at the creation record. The Father planned it, Jesus did it, and the Holy Spirit gave it life. These three distinct roles, or ministries, of the Trinity can be seen in the creation of man and the birth and resurrection of Jesus in the flesh. (See Genesis 1:2; 1:26; and John 1:2).
The Old Testament Scriptures which refer to God as one God, literally mean that He is a unit, not that He is only one individual. When you see this relationship, you can understand that Jesus the Son can sit at the right-hand of the Father.
Q: Please explain what happened during the years between Malachi and Matthew.
A: The years between the time of Malachi and Matthew were years in which Israel had no prophet. No new Words of God were communicated, and no prophets nor spokesmen were available to Israel. According to Jewish history, Israel was occupied and ruled by foreigners and there were several uprisings such as the Maccabean uprising—but for the most part these times of rebellion had little positive result. During this time, the Roman Empire was expanding and eventually controlled much of the known world—including Israel. It was during the time of the Roman occupation of Israel that God raised up two intercessors—Anna and Simeon—who prayed that they might see the Redeemer. The answer to their prayers was manifested in Jesus. (See Luke 2:25-38).
In light of our blog posts on Jesus being “the way, the truth, and the life,” I want you to have confidence that you can lead someone to salvation and baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is a very simple, scriptural approach to these life-changing decisions.
How to Lead a Person to Christ
Open a Bible to Romans 10. Have the person you’re speaking with read aloud verses 9-10.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10 NIV)
Explain to them that because these Scriptures say that “it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved,” you are going to lead them in a short prayer, and they should repeat after you as you pray.
Allow the Holy Spirit to guide your prayer so that the candidate will be sure to:
Acknowledge that they are a sinner.
Ask the Father to cleanse him by the blood of Jesus for every sin they have committed—from the day they were born to this very moment.
Invite Jesus to come into their heart and be master and Lord of their life.
Thank God for saving their soul.
Ask them to read Romans 10:13 out loud: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Now, ask them to read it again, but this time them substitute their own name for “whoever” in this verse (some versions might say “everyone” or “whosoever”). Through doing this, they will realize that they have fulfilled the simple requirements of being saved according to God’s Word—whether or not they feel differently!
How to Pray with Someone to Receive the Holy Spirit Baptism
The candidate for Holy Spirit baptism is someone who is a born-again child of God. The work of the Holy Spirit is essential for Christian growth. Through this baptism, God empowers the believer to develop and express their new life in Jesus Christ.
Many people desire to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, but they don’t know how to do so. Frequently, I open the conversation by saying, “I would love to pray with you to receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit.” Then proceed to:
Open a Bible to Luke 11:10-13 and ask the candidate to read this passage out loud.
“For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (NIV)
These verses establish the way to receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit. We simply ask in faith because we know that our loving heavenly Father would never give us a “counterfeit.”
Ask them candidate to read Acts 2:4 out loud: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Assure them that just as Jesus’s disciples spoke in tongues when the Holy Spirit came on them, they will also speak in tongues when they are baptized by the Holy Spirit.
Ask the candidate to read Romans 8:26-28 out loud. This will confirm the purpose and benefits of praying in tongues.
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Lead the candidate in a short prayer, during which they ask the Father to baptize them with the Holy Spirit. Now, tell the candidate that, by faith, you are going to pray in the Spirit together. Encourage them to speak freely as the Holy Spirit directs regardless of how it may sound to the natural ear.
You should begin to pray out loud in tongues. After you have prayed awhile, you may want to sing in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:15).
Although the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a one-time event, the infilling of the Spirit goes on and on and never stops. Encourage them to pray in the Spirit every day and expect a new richness in their Christian experience.
Isabell is the daughter of Sarah Bowling and the granddaughter of Marilyn Hickey. She graduated from Oral Roberts University with her bachelors in Historical and Philosophical Theology and received the award for Theology Student of the Year upon graduation.
She is excited for what this next season brings and is looking forward to learning and growing under the tutelage of her mother and grandmother. In the future, she also hopes to continue her educational journey by seeking a graduate degree in Europe.
We are excited for Isabell to be our first guest blogger on Mondays with Marilyn. God put this message on her heart in light of John 14:6. We pray it blesses you today!
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). This verse is from a portion of Scripture where Jesus is preparing His disciples for His death. In chapter 13, He washes their feet and here He is leaving His final words with them. He tells his friends that He is going before them to prepare a place for them. The apostle Thomas asks, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5). Jesus responds to his worries by saying “I am the way!”
Family, how many times do we overthink the blessings of God? Jesus is telling his friends that there is a place for them, that He is preparing a blessing for them in the future! This is a good thing, a gift from Him. But Thomas is confused. He doesn’t know what Jesus means and He is uncomfortable with not knowing. He doesn’t want to miss out on any of the blessings that God has for him, so he asks Jesus for some clarification.
I imagine that Thomas wanted Jesus to tell him one of two things. Either to describe the details of the place Jesus was preparing for him, or a step-by-step list on how to get there. Instead, Jesus says “I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Thomas wanted an easy answer. He wanted Jesus to tell him what to do, when to do it, and what was on the other side. Instead, Jesus refocused him. “It’s all about me!” He said, “I am the way, you don’t need to do anything else except know me!”
How many times have you wanted Jesus to give you answers to your questions. “Jesus, what should I do for my next job? Jesus when will I get healed of this-or-that? Jesus, will my friends ever turn back to you?” These are questions that have answers, and it would be easy for Jesus to give us a simple answer. However, more often than not, He reminds us of who He is. Jesus is the answer. He knows it all, sees it all, and can do anything. So, when He responds to our questions and says, “Just be with me,” that is the most comforting thing He could say. How relieving is it to know that Jesus is the way? I think about all the different ways that I’ve failed, and I am filled with comfort knowing that it’s not by my own strength.
The next time you feel overwhelmed with your situations and all the “Jesus, why?” questions start to crowd your mind, remember, He is the answer. Take rest in Him. Know that He is the way, and He will get you through.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
This is the sixth “I Am” statement Jesus makes in the Gospel of John and it’s our theme verse for the month of August. There are a few things I want to point out:
Jesus is the only way to the Father.
Jesus is the truth which reveals the Father.
Jesus if the life that brings regeneration (rebirth) to man.
As the way, the truth, and the life, Jesus was the embodiment of three basic Jewish concepts:
The Jews knew about the way.
In Deuteronomy 31:29, Moses warned the Israelites about straying from the way after his death:
“For I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you. And evil will befall you in the latter days, because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands.”
David asked to learn the way in Psalm 27:11:
Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a smooth path.
Isaiah spoke about God leading us in the way:
Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
“This is the way, walk in it,”
Whenever you turn to the right hand
Or whenever you turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:21)
A few chapters later, Isaiah prophesied a return to the way:
A highway shall be there, and a road,
And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness.
The unclean shall not pass over it,
But it shall be for others.
Whoever walks the road, although a fool,
Shall not go astray. (Isaiah 35:8)
Jesus didn’t explain the way, He said, “I am the way.” Jesus didn’t give directions, He said, “I am the direction.” Jesus didn’t point His people there, He said “I will take you there.”
The Old Covenant taught the truth.
David professed to having walked in truth:
For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,
And I have walked in Your truth. (Psalm 26:3)
David vowed to walk in God’s truth:
Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth. (Psalm 86:11)
The author of Psalm 119 chose truth:
I have chosen the way of truth. (v. 30)
A man can teach truth, but not walk in it. Jesus said, “I am the truth.” All moral perfection is found in Jesus, the truth.
The Scriptures emphasized life.
Moses commanded Israel to choose life in Deuteronomy 30:19:
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”
David trusted God to show him the road to life:
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
Solomon said correction and instruction give life:
For the commandment is a lamp,
And the law a light;
Reproofs of instruction are the way of life. (Proverbs 6:23)
Jesus isn’t just a path to life, He said, “I am the life.” Remember that Jesus demonstrated the sixth “I Am” statement in the healing of the nobleman’s son in John 4:46-53. The nobleman believed the truth in Christ, went on his way, and his son received life (vv. 50-51).
Jesus will do the same for us. He’ll be the truth and all we need. He’ll be the way and make a way for us. He’ll give us the life we need to please Him.
Over the years, I’ve had people ask me questions about discouragement in ministry, burnout, and hearing God’s voice. I have compiled a few of those questions and answered them below. I hope that you will find the answers informative and that they will encourage you in your walk with the Lord.
Q: I am struggling trying to keep the vision of my ministry. Have you ever been discouraged about serving God?
A: My heart has been deeply touched as I’ve traveled and have met many individuals in the five-fold ministry asking similar questions. I do know how it feels to be discouraged, and at times I wondered whether I was really in God’s will for my life and my ministry. I want to encourage you not to give up hope. Please continue to press on to victory—it will come eventually as you trust in God’s ability to deliver you from your circumstances. God promises us in Matthew 28:20 that “[He is] with you always, even to the end of the age.” Hebrews 10:35-36 says, “Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (NASB).
Q: I’m resting from near burnout from church duties, outside women’s organizations, my family responsibilities, etc. During that season, my quiet times were not what they should be. Now I find myself having regular, quality quiet time but feeling a lack of fulfillment. I don’t seem to have any vision, and the Lord seems to be silent. Do you have any suggestions or Scriptures?
A: The answer to your burnout problem and present lack of fulfillment is found in John 15:1-2: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” In life, there are seasons of bearing fruit, pruning, growing, and bearing more fruit. Certainly, in the times of “fruit bearing,” where there is evidence of what our life is producing, we have a sense of fulfillment because we can “see” what we have done. However, there are necessary times when God puts us in a “dormant” state so that we can abide in Him and He in us. John 15 goes on to say, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (v. 4). I believe you may be experiencing a time of “abiding” in your life. God is giving you a season of rest, consolidation, and a chance to re-energize. Enjoy it! Receive this time as God’s wisdom for this season in your life. If the Lord is silent, then you can be certain that you are in His will! The Holy Spirit gets “noisy” within us when we begin to walk outside of God’s will.
Q: I’m not sure if I’m hearing God’s voice or someone else’s voice. What does God’s voice sound like?
A: We all struggle with the question, “Is this the voice of God?” As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, John 10:3-5 offers us a wonderful promise: “…the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” The voice of God can come to us in different ways. In the Old Testament, the voice of God is described as a still, small voice (1Kings 19:11-2). Most often, God’s voice sounds very much like our own thoughts. But these thoughts do not originate from the mind, they come from deep within our own spirit. Believers have been promised that as we continue to walk with God, He will guide us with His eye upon us and lead us in the way we should go (Psalm 32:8). According to Galatians 5:16, we can know that we are being led by the Holy Spirit if we are walking in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit means to act on God’s Word no matter what our senses (or “sense-knowledge”) tells us. I believe our flesh seeks after signs—something we can see or feel. Check out the leading you have by asking yourself, “Is this my flesh wanting a sign, or is this God’s Word directing my spirit?” If you follow the Word, you will never be disappointed.
Q. Several people have told me that God has a special call on my life. How do I find out what God’s will is for my life?
A. I want to share with you three steps that have helped me discern the will of God for my life:
the desire must line up with the Word;
you should have an inner witness of your leading—the Holy Spirit bears witness with God’s Word in your spirit which brings you peace; and
circumstances should line up accordingly. At times there may be a waiting period. The desire may be scriptural; you may have an inner witness; but circumstances may take some time before coming together. When this happens, it’s important to be patient. It is never wise to try to make things come together on your own. God will bring to completion what He’s begun (Proverbs 3:5-6).
You can trust God for your future. As you learn to rely more on Him and less on your own “feelings,” you will find a peace that truly passes all understanding. Be very careful about accepting any “Word from the Lord” from others. Remember, all “words” must line up with the Word, your own inner witness, and the circumstances. Anytime we depend on someone else’s understanding of God’s will for our lives, we are putting ourselves in a place of danger.
Success is a mind game. If you’re not in the right frame of mind, your chances of success are diminished. What you think and believe will play an important role in your success. The devil will do what he can to make your best efforts fail by playing mind games with you.
The devil wants you to live in fear. All of us have attacks of fear. You may be afraid to try because you are afraid to fail. I believe that not trying is the biggest failure of all. If God told you to do something, you’re better off trying to do it and failing than not trying at all! You will never succeed if you give in to the fear of trying. Successful people overcome the fear of trying.
When you’re tired, you can make some wrong decisions. Elijah became exhausted and made the wrong decision. He had just experienced the power of God like never before: He called down fire on Mt. Carmel, had the prophets of Baal killed, prayed for rain, and then ran 20 miles in the mud from Mt. Carmel to Jezreel (1 Kings 18). But when Jezebel threatened to take his life, he ran off scared; he left the revival that had started on Mt. Carmel. Why? I believe it was because he was physically tired. He wasn’t thinking straight, or he wouldn’t have feared Jezebel’s threat. So, God put him to sleep. You will be up to the Lord’s work if you are physically sound and mentally alert; don’t sacrifice good judgment to fatigue. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is sleep!
We are living in the “Information Age,” and with all this information comes what I call the “frenzies.” It’s easy to get into a state of panic if we look at all the negative things going on around us. But, Paul told us not to walk as the gentiles walk “in the futility of their mind” (Ephesians 4:17), but to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Ephesians 4:23). When Paul was dragged outside the city of Lystra, stoned, and left for dead (see Acts 14), the disciples could have gotten into a frenzy of anguish; instead, they said, “Paul, in Jesus’s name, get up!” Their faith brought Paul back to life. Don’t surrender to frenzy; surrender to faith!
Our minds won’t let us forget the past—past failures, past hurts, past sins. But God has no trouble forgetting those things as long as we have confessed them and forsaken them. The Bible says that “He will . . . subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). Your past failures are no excuse for your present inaction because God has put a “No Fishing” sign beside the sea of forgetfulness! What He’s forgotten, you need to forget. Don’t let past hurts keep you from present joys—don’t surrender to past experiences of failure!
I believe that this is the beginning of a whole new wave of success for you. Get out there and do what the Lord has told you to do! Don’t let others or the devil lead you down the path to failure. In areas where you have had constant defeat, you are going to see real victory; so rejoice in your newly found freedom.
Fear is the Christian’s most dangerous enemy. Hebrews 2:15 says that Jesus delivered us from a lifetime of bondage to fear, but as a Christian you probably know that fear still creeps in at times. Fear attacks us today as it attacked Jesus’s disciples when they walked with Him on this earth. Jesus continually said, “Fear not, fear not, fear not.” He acknowledged that fear was indeed a very real threat to faith; and that is why He wants to set us free from it.
Following chronologically through Peter’s life, I found a pattern of fear that is too often very real for Christians. His life is an example of how fear does not always disappear overnight; but it shows the restorative process that Christ wants to create in all of us. By maturing in His divine restoration, you discover how to not only get free from fear, but to stay free from it.
Not long after making the greatest statement that a man could make, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15–16), Peter made the worst statement: he denied knowing Jesus at all. How could a man be so extreme? He did the best — and he did the worst.
How did Peter get himself into this position of denial?
I know what is behind it: fear. Jesus had been his intimate friend, guide, and counselor for three years. Now He had been taken away for trial and judgment, and Peter was afraid that he also would be taken and tried. When the Lord’s enemies recognized Peter they said, “You’ve been with that Galilean; you’re one of His disciples” (Matthew 29:69, author’s paraphrase).
Peter abhorred the thought of crucifixion. He was filled with fear, and he began cursing and swearing. Out of terror for his own life, Peter denied knowing his Lord. Peter didn’t just suddenly come into this fear, however. I have seen that fear is very subtle, and it is a very gradual process. Just as when you begin reading God’s Word and grow in revelation knowledge, you can also regress in a process of fear. Faith will take you from strength to strength and glory to glory; fear will take you into growing weakness until it manifests itself in sin.
I want you to look at Peter’s life to see how he started with one statement of fear, and eventually found himself in its control. His first real mistake with fear — strangely enough — happened immediately after he made the tremendous statement, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
After Peter confessed Christ’s lordship, Jesus began explaining to His disciples that he would have to die on the cross and be resurrected. Peter could not imagine losing his Lord, and he reacted violently:
Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:22–23)
Peter’s first step towards really blowing it was by denying the cross of Jesus Christ. Why did he do it? Was it out of compassion for Jesus? No, it stemmed from fear. He’d been thinking, We’ve found the Son of God, the Messiah. He’s ours. He’s going to deliver us from Roman rule, and we’re going to rule and reign with Him.
But he could not see this simple truth: before the crown must come the cross. As far as Peter was concerned, anything having to do with the cross would put the crown away. How could the Messiah establish His rule if He died? No way. Peter’s first fear was a fear of the cross.
That fear still exists today, because inherent in the human personality is also a struggle with the fear of the cross. We are fearful about having to die to our own desires. We so often fall short of willingness to say, “Jesus, I am willing to surrender all to your cross.” That unwillingness to surrender our old nature is fear. Paul had a revelation that we must “die” at the cross by faith:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
Whether you like it or not, you must be willing to crucify the hidden corners of your life. You have to allow the Holy Spirit to shine His searchlight through your soul and show you how to crucify those dark areas. The fear of allowing our old nature to die is a deceiver, for before the crown must come the cross.
The cross is a place of victory, not a place of fear.
But Peter was blind to the truth about Jesus’s crucifixion. He could not see that Jesus had to die before He could bring life. Fear had entered in, and it began popping up all over the place. He made one negative statement, and soon he found himself making more of them. Matthew 26:33-35 shows that Peter was still not seeing God’s Word because he began boasting in himself.: “Oh Jesus, the rest of the disciples may be offended because of you. But I would never do that. I would die with you first” (author’s paraphrase).
Have you ever heard other believers exalt their own strength in this way? They’ll tell you, “Have you heard about so-and-so? They really blew it, but I would never dream of doing what they did.”
That is nothing more than confidence in the flesh. Instead, you can say, “Jesus in me is greater than he that is in the world.” You can say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Confidence in God’s Word will always keep you and bring you through during a trial. But Peter’s misplaced assurance in his own ability is what failed him. You see, fear brings you to a point where you rely on your own courage and bravery: “I’ll be brave! I’ll be brave!” But the characteristics of true bravery and courage aren’t found in the flesh; they are only found in the Spirit.
In John 18, we see Peter getting into a really zealous spirit; but it is not Word-inspired. Again, I see it tying into his inner fear of the cross; he just cannot bear thinking about Jesus going to the cross because that spoils all of his plans. So, when the Jews came to take Jesus away, Peter was overtaken with a spirit of fear, and it drove him into a wrong zeal in his own motives: “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear” (John 18:10).
He’s trying to help Jesus avoid the cross! Oh, that fear was just chewing on Peter, and it was starting to show up in his conduct. Jesus was led away, and Peter followed Him. But in what way did he follow? The Bible says that Peter “followed Him at a distance” (Matthew 26:58). Fear puts a distance between you and your Lord because it deteriorates your trust. Oh, you’re following Him, but there becomes a distance because you are relying on personal works, not on faith.
How did Peter get so far away from Jesus? It started with his first statement, “I’ll never let you go to the cross.” It ended up with, “I’ll die before you go to the cross; I’ll cut off people’s ears before you go to the cross.” Then in Mark 14:66–67, Peter’s fear reached its peak:
Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came. And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.”
Peter denied it. He denied it again. And finally, when they said, “We can tell you’re one of His by the way you speak,” what did Peter do? He began to curse and swear. He said, “I do not know the Man!” (Matthew 26:72).
As he spoke those words, a cock crowed in the distance and the Words of his Lord came rushing back, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times” (Matthew 26:34). Peter was now flooded with guilt and sorrow.
Fear never justifies wrong deeds; it only creates them. It begins as a seedling, and soon it brings its close companions of condemnation and sorrow. All of this denial began with a seed of fear: the fear of the cross implanting itself into Peter’s soul. Now it had saturated all of his actions.
Fear of losing Jesus, fear of having to die for his faith, fear of losing his security blinded Peter to the victory of the cross. Fear never respects the things of God because it is a deceiver.
But in the midst of this dark picture, I also found the steps of restoration that Jesus planted. Jesus always wants to help you overcome fear and you overcome fear by applying the same process to your life that Jesus applied to Peter.
#1: Jesus Prays for You
And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31–32)
Jesus is focusing Peter’s attention on God’s Word: “Although you will know Satan’s attempts to sift your faith, listen I’ve prayed for you. Remember: I’ve prayed for you.”
You may say, “His faith did fail.”
No, it did not fail. It was Peter’s courage that failed him, and that is why we must be cautious about where we place our reliance. Our own courage will never be enough. Peter’s courage may have failed him; but his faith did not fail. After he denied Jesus, he wept bitterly because he still believed.
Sometimes you may feel as though you really failed, and the devil will lie to you, “Why bother trying again? You can’t do it.” But although you may have blown it, you may have said wrong things, done wrong things, and faltered in courage, hold on to Him. Your faith will not fail you, and it will hold you up if your bravery lets you down.
Your first step out of fear is to know and believe that Jesus has prayed for you, and that He still prays for you. In John 17:20, before His death, Jesus prayed to His Father and in that prayer He said, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word.”
Then in Hebrews 7:25 it says that Jesus “always lives to make intercession for [us].” He prayed for you then. He’s praying for you now. When you come against fear you can say, “Satan’s trying to sift me; but my faith won’t fail because Jesus is making intercession for me to come through.”
#2: Jesus Sees You
In Luke 22:61, at the same time Peter says, “I don’t know Him,” Jesus turns and looks at him. What do you suppose that look said? “Peter, you are letting me down when I need you the most. You said you would die for me, but now you are cursing me.”
No, I don’t believe Jesus’s look said that at all. I believe that He was looking to Peter’s soul and saying, “Oh, Peter, don’t do this to yourself.”
So, the second part of knowing what to do when fear strikes is to remember that Jesus sees you. He isn’t condemning you; He wants to help. He sees you right where you are, and He still loves you.
#3: Jesus Sends You a Message
Jesus also has a third step of restoration from fear, and it is shown after Jesus’s resurrection. Remember, the last look Peter had from Jesus right before His death on the cross was the one after Peter denied Him. Then after Jesus’s resurrection from death, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome visited the tomb with the intent of anointing Jesus’s body for burial. The stone had been rolled away, and as they entered, they saw a man sitting on the right side. He spoke to them:
“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples — and Peter — that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” (Mark 16:6–7)
Why didn’t he just say, “Tell His disciples that He is going before you to Galilee?” Why “and Peter?”
I believe it was because Jesus wanted Peter to have a personal message of His love. Have you ever noticed that in a heavy attack of fear, Jesus will give you a personal message through His Word? Once, during a trial where the natural circumstances were almost impossible to bear, I called out to God for a personal message: “God, I must have something fresh from you. I know that I claim these daily Scriptures, but I need something straight from you.”
He gave me the most precious Scripture from the book of Haggai, and I still use it against fear today: “According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!” (Haggai 2:5). Jesus has a personal message for you in His Word. It’s not just “God’s Word for Christians.” It is for you today.
In 1 Corinthians, I saw that not only did Jesus send Peter a personal message, but He also had a personal meeting with him directly after His resurrection: “He was seen by Cephas [Peter], then by the twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:5).
I always imagined Jesus’s appearance to the disciples in the locked room as His first. But Jesus went to Peter before He talked to the rest of His disciples. He wanted to say, “Peter, I still love you. I prayed for you, I saw you, I sent you a message—and you’re coming through.”
Have you ever awakened in the night with fear flooding in through every fiber of your soul and the warmth of Jesus’s presence comes to drive it away? Those personal moments with Jesus will dissipate any fear surrounding you; He wants to calm the storm within, and that is why He promised, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you.” These quiet times alone with Jesus are carved from God’s love, especially for your reassurance.
#4: Jesus Will Deliver You
Now that these steps toward pulling Peter out of fear had taken place, Jesus still had to deal directly with what happened, and the way He totally delivered Peter from fear is dynamite!
After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We are going with you also. They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”
They answered Him, “No.”
And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.
Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish . . . (John 21:1-6, 9–11)
One man, Simon Peter, managed to drag the entire net of fish to the shore all by himself. Why is it that seven of them couldn’t muster the strength to draw in the net — but one man did it alone? It is because after Peter had received a vision and a touch from Jesus, he received strength. Once you get a vision of Jesus, nothing is the same again; you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (see Philippians 4:13).
Now Jesus was going to deal with him. Notice that when the disciples came to the land, Jesus had a fire burning. Peter might’ve thought, I remember the last fire I warmed myself near; it was when I denied you. Jesus had that fire ready on purpose. He wanted to heal those memories of the enemy’s fire by allowing Peter to warm himself over the fire of a friend who is closer than a brother.
Jesus said, “Simon Peter, do you love me more than these?”
“Oh, yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus replied, “Feed my lambs.” Meaning, “Give my young disciples (lambs) nourishment from the Word.”
Jesus asked him again, “Simon, do you love me?”
Simon said, “Lord, you know that I love you. You know what kind of love I have for you—because you know me.”
Jesus replied, “Tend my sheep.” Meaning to shepherd or pastor. Notice that Jesus is not speaking of lambs, but sheep. Given the best of nourishment, the disciples mature into the ability to receive training and direction.
But now Jesus looked at Simon and asked him, “Simon, son of Jonah. Do you love me? Do you even love me as a friend?”
And Peter’s heart wrenched; he was grieved. “Oh, Jesus, do you even doubt my reciprocal love for you?” Then, “Lord, you know all things, including my love for you.”
Now came the calling, “Feed my sheep.” The Lord called Simon Peter from being a fisher of men to a teacher of sheep. “Nourish and love them; nourish and love them.”
I found it interesting that Peter professed his love for Jesus three times—exactly as many times as he had denied Him. Within those confessions came the warmth of healing and restoration. From the restoration came the call: feed my sheep.
Jesus then probed into the exact place from where Peter’s fear originated:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” (John 21:18–19)
Jesus was saying, “I know your fear; I know that you have been fearing the cross all along.”
Peter was martyred on a cross, and Jesus told him about it before it ever happened. Historians say that when Peter was crucified, he refused to die in the same manner as his Lord; he cried, “I am not worthy.” He was crucified upside-down.
Talk about somebody moving right in and taking the fear. If someone came and told me that I would be crucified, my first thought would be, I’ll never go to another foreign country.
But Jesus brought Peter to such complete deliverance that he was willing to go anyway. It didn’t matter to him, because suddenly he saw that the cross was a place of victory: first the cross, then the crown. I believe Jesus was saying, “Peter, you won’t be fearful, because I’ll be there to take you right out of it.”
Not only did Jesus completely restore Peter from his fear of the cross, not only did He forgive all of his faults, but He brought him back into the ministry he was called to fulfill.
In Acts 2:14, he was a changed man: “Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, ‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.’ ”
He preached a sermon that wouldn’t stop! They could have killed him, but he didn’t care; instead, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” was the message that he preached, and 3,000 men were converted that day! Is that the Peter of fear? No, that is the Peter who was restored by the hand of the Lord Himself.
Be a Simon and dismiss fear when it comes your way. Be a hearing one. Jesus did not come to give you fear; He came to deliver you from it. Psalm 112:7 speaks of the fearless man: “He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”
Be bold! Let your flesh and your fear die at the cross and start living in the resurrection life of Jesus Christ. Jesus took Peter right to the cross and delivered him from fear; He wants you to receive your deliverance at the cross also. First the cross, then the crown.
This post has been excerpted and adapted from Freedom from Bondages (Marilyn Hickey Ministries, 2021).
Tomorrow, all across the United States, we will be celebrating freedom. Today, I want to talk about freedom, but not freedom from a tyrannical government. Rather, I want to discuss freedom from fear—a tyrannical weapon of Satan.
Sixty-three times in the Bible, it says “Fear not.” God told Joshua five times to be strong and courageous. Why? Because he must have needed to hear it! And to Joshua’s credit, he believed it, and he took the promised land in less than seven years! I don’t believe it’s a sin to become afraid, but I do think it is a sin to stay afraid. Joshua 1:9 states: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord you God is with you wherever you go.”
One key way to overcome fear can be found in the verse preceding this:
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (v. 8)
When I first began studying Joshua 1:8, I was troubled and thought, Lord, how can I possibly meditate on your Word day and night? You must not understand my schedule.
The Lord began dealing with me and said, “Did you know that Joshua was responsible for the food, water, clothing, and spiritual and military guidance for over a million people?”
Think about that.
While God provided everything while the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, after they crossed the Jordan River and entered the promised land, this became Joshua’s responsibility.
I’ve discovered that God has a lot to say about meditating, and it is exciting what meditating on His Word can accomplish. Meditation on the Word changes lives—in fact, it is life. If you meditate on the Word day and night, you’ll implement the key element of being blessed, prosperous, and successful in every area of your life!
Since this month’s theme is hope with an emphasis on optimism, and our key verse is Joshua 1:9, I’ve provided one meditation below for each day this week, including today. It’s time to overcome unhealthy fears and become strong and courageous!
Day #1: In Him
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
We can conquer because He has conquered. The footprints of Jesus are on everything, including you. Everything you meet; He has already met.
The greatest outpouring of God’s miracle-working power was unleashed at the moment Jesus was raised from the dead—when life conquered death. Jesus gives that same resurrection power to believers when they are baptized with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:8).
The Christian life is not a struggle but a surrender. It is receiving and appropriating what He has purchased for us with His death and resurrection and being aware that we are in Him. Knowledge and formula are not enough; we must be in Him.
Each day, look to Him and say, “I’m wholly yours, Lord: my spirit, my soul, and my body are yours.” If one day brings a defeat or a disappointment, use it as an opportunity to gain another victory that will glorify the Lord. After a while, this way of life becomes a habit. It’s not a struggle; instead, it’s spontaneous living! Then you will realize you are every bit whole in Him—spirit, soul, and body. You are no longer living life under the sun. Now, you are living life under the Son! This is God’s victorious lifestyle for those who are wholly committed to Him.
Day #2: Dead-end Fears
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:12-13
The first words Jesus spoke after the resurrection were, “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:10). The road that leads to fear is a dead-end road. Sometimes, fear can be constructive and beneficial. When I was growing up, my parents set rules for us in our home. If we broke them, there were consequences. I had a healthy fear of disobeying them. Likewise, we can have a healthy fear of God. But when fear becomes our master, it produces dead-end results.
Fear comes into your life when you focus more on your circumstances than on Jesus. It will torment your soul and your body. The spirit of fear will move into all areas of your life, hindering you and hurting you, and when you give in to them, they will grow until they become bondages. When a fear is not surrendered to God, it will become a phobia that will envelop your mind and make you paranoid. Many diseases are rooted in fear.
Jesus fashioned us for faith and confidence. When you are afraid, be honest with the Lord. Tell Him that you’re afraid, that you don’t want to be afraid, because you know it’s the opposite of faith, and that you’re sorry for it. Then repent, saying, “Lord, I’m going to trust you to take care of me in this matter.” Saturate yourself in God’s love. He cares for you and wants to take away your fears. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Day #3: Sweet Surrender
To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27
When we know Jesus as “the way,” we find truth and life (see John 14:6). Jesus fulfills our total being. He is the way for our will, the truth for our intellect, and the life for our emotions. Life surrendered to Him is abundant life.
Surrender helps us overcome fear. Jesus struggled in great agony when faced with the cross. He knew He could walk away from it all, leave you and me behind. However, He conquered His fear and surrendered to His Father, saying, “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). How was Jesus able to face the cross? He surrendered to God because the Father’s will was best.
Surrendering our fears, bitterness, and grief to God is the only way to overcome them. When we are bitter, we must examine the reasons why we feel that way so we can get rid of it by laying it at Jesus’s feet. If we don’t allow grief to follow its natural course—taking our pain to the Lord and allowing ourselves to feel it—we will become angry and discontented. We must turn to God so that He can move in our situations and heal our attitudes and emotions.
Finally, surrendering to God can help us defeat depression in our lives. Depression causes us to feel burdened, gloomy, and sad. We can fight sadness and depression with the joy of the Lord. Cast your burdens on Him and begin to worship Him. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Rejoicing in the Lord will elevate you above the situation and enable you to maintain a childlike faith.
Sometimes, surrender is needed hour by hour or minute by minute. But I have found that surrendering to Him brings great peace in the midst of difficult situations.
Day #4: Dealing with Reality
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” John 15:16
There are three ways we can approach life: 1) we do all we can to escape reality; 2) we constantly rebel against reality; 3) we hand over our realities to Jesus let Him develop us.
Too often, people turn to alcohol, narcotics, food, or other addictions to escape the weights of life. As they keep facing the same harsh realities, they soon discover that they can’t escape them. Christ came to set us free in our realities, not from our realities.
In real life, I am a woman. In our culture, there are certain negative stereotypes associated with my gender: lack of intelligence, lack of leadership abilities, lack of toughness, and many other falsehoods, which can limit me if I let them. But I have found the exact opposite to be true in Christ. God did not make a mistake when He made woman. I have experienced abundant favor. I have lived in His ability to develop daily miracles; and He can do the same for you!
Day #5: Kingdom Reality
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9
Did Jesus ignore reality? The raising of Jairus’s daughter is told in three of the four Gospels (see Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; and Luke 8:40-56). Jairus asked Jesus to heal his dying daughter. In Matthew’s account, as Jesus and His disciples traveled to Jairus’s house, a sick woman in the crowd reach out and touched Jesus’s cloak, and she received healing for an issue of blood. While Jesus was talking to the woman, Jairus’s servants arrived with news that his daughter had died. Was Jesus unable to juggle the two realities? If so, why was He sidetracked with the case of this woman?
Jesus knew that there was a higher set of facts at play—kingdom facts. There is always a higher level of reality than what we see before us. Jesus lived in two worlds—earth and heaven. This story demonstrates how choosing the higher way of heaven can affect the lower way of earth.
When Jesus came into the ruler’s (Jairus’s) house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. Matthew 9:23-25
Jairus’s daughter lived, showing us that the kingdom of God runs on faith. Is anything impossible with God?
Day #6: Living for Today
Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. (1 Peter 5:7 AMPC)
When we try to live for yesterday, today, and tomorrow all at the same time, we get confused. If you try to go in three directions, you will get nothing but dizzy. Be a today person. If you carry all the worries of the past, present, and future, they will weigh you down and overwhelm you. Jesus says in Matthew 6:34:
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Jesus wants you to live in the present. When you try to live in the past and future, you cut off the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
Often, I have wasted hours worrying about some event in the future, and, when that time came, the things I feared never occurred. What a waste of time that was! Cast your cares on Him and enjoy every good thing today!
Day #7: The Ongoing Work of Christ
Which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all [for in that body lives the full measure of Him Who makes everything complete, and Who fills everything everywhere with Himself]. (Ephesians 1:23 AMPC)
In the opening chapter of Acts, Luke gives an account “of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen” (Acts 1:1-2). But Jesus was not finished with His apostles. He was sending them the Holy Spirit who would empower them to do all that they were called to do (see John 14:26).
To me, this suggests that as long as I have breath, Jesus is still working in me. Christ in us is a constant hope of glory (see Colossians 1:27). Jesus came to give us abundant life (see John 10:10). As I have gotten older, I have found new abundances.
Revelation 21:5 says, “Behold, I make all things new.” Jesus makes new beginnings. What He begins in your life, He wants to continue. Keep your eyes open for daily miracle. He is “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13).
This post has been excerpted and adapted from 30 Meditations on Jesus (Whitaker House, 2014).
Over the years, I’ve had people ask me questions about the topics of prayer and fasting. I have compiled a few of those questions and answered them below. In last week’s blogI answered many questions related to fasting, so this week’s post mostly answers questions about prayer. I hope that you will find the answers informative and that they will encourage you in your prayer walk.
Q: Can a person “pray without ceasing” according to 1 Thessalonians 5:17? How long should we pray every day?
A: Prayer is an intimate conversation with the Father. First Thessalonians is a reminder to always be in an attitude of prayer. Whatever we’re doing and wherever we are, there should be no time when we are void of the assurance of the presence of God with us and in us. Paul was indicating in that verse that God gave us the gift of praying in tongues so that we could be in communion with Him all day. By praying in the Spirit, we can redeem what might otherwise be wasted time. I have found that praying in the Spirit is wonderful when I am driving, cooking dinner, studying, etc. Whatever I’m doing, praying only heightens the end results. If you think about it, God has given us many, many opportunities to pray throughout each day. By taking advantage of these opportunities, you can flow in a continuous refreshing of the Holy Spirit.
As far as setting aside daily prayer time, all Christians should pray every day. God’s Word says that if we seek Him early, we will find Him (see Proverbs 8:17 KJV). I like to take that Scripture literally. In the morning your mind is like a blank slate—and that’s the best time for God to write on it! You don’t have to pray for 10 hours every day but give God some special time each day to prepare you for walking in His will. I want God’s wisdom for my day, and I know that you do too!
Q: Why did David say in the psalms that he prayed against his enemies, but Jesus commands us to pray for our enemies and love them?
A: When David prayed for death and destruction toward his enemies in the psalms, I don’t believe he was praying against flesh and blood. David was coming against the principalities and powers—the demonic forces—behind the person who was causing him trouble. Ephesians 6:12 says, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Therefore, it was scriptural for David to pray that the work of his enemies be destroyed. It was good spiritual warfare to pull down the strongholds that had come against his life.
However, we are to bless our enemies as Jesus commanded (see Luke 6:28) in order that they might come into the knowledge of God and receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. Sometimes I have thought that God allows us to have enemies just so we could bless them, pray for them, and do good to them. Once, a man in my city said some very ugly things about me to his congregation. He even called me a false prophetess. Personally, I wanted to tell him off. But the Lord asked me, “How do I treat my enemies?”
“You love them,” I replied.
The Lord then told me, “Treat him the way I would.”
From that time on, whenever I heard that pastor’s name, I said, “Lord, bless him.” Then one day God gave me special instructions to bless him through promoting his church. I obeyed the Lord and saw the fruit of my obedience. Not long afterward some people from the man’s congregation called me saying their pastor’s attitude had completely changed. He now spoke highly of me, and he had even invited his congregation to read through the Bible using my devotional plan!
I asked the Lord, “What happened?”
He responded, “When your ways please me, I make even your enemies to be at peace with you.”
I don’t think you need to speak God’s blessing directly to a person who offends you. Sometimes that “enemy” might live in another state or country, and then you cannot speak to them in person. But bless them in your prayers and pray that God would do good to them. Then, if possible, bless them with your actions. Send a letter or some flowers just to say, “I care about you.” If you will bless your enemies, pray for them, and do good to them, God will transform those relationships!
Q: Why do we have to pray to the Father in Jesus’s name? Can’t we call upon Jesus directly? Aren’t they one-in-the-same?
A: The reason we need to address the Father in Jesus’s name is because Jesus gave us this instruction (see John 16:23). He did this because the position of the Father in the Godhead is one of authority.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct individuals who are one in unity. Jesus is not unequal to the Father, but He submits to the Father’s authority. A similar illustration would be that a wife is not unequal to her husband, but she is in submission to his headship. As the architect of the universe, Father God is the one who has the responsibility to fulfill the prayers we ask according to His Word. Jesus is our mediator because of His sacrifice. Therefore, we come in Jesus’s name.
Q: What does the writer of James mean when he mentions “praying amiss?”
A: Asking “amiss” is defined by James as a prayer which satisfies our own worldly lusts (see James 4:2-4). This chapter also discusses other reasons for unanswered prayer: lust, murders, covetousness, strife, adulteries, pride, rebellion against God, backsliding, sin, and doublemindedness.
On the other hand, any prayer that is prayed according to the promises of God will never be “amiss” (see 1 John 5:14-15).
Q: How can someone determine God’s voice and know they are led by the Spirit of God and not their own thoughts or desires?
A: In John 10: 2-5, Jesus offers us a wonderful promise:
“He who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep . . . the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out . . . the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
There have been times when I felt certain that God was leading me, yet I discovered that the “leading” was nothing more than a fleshly thought. I cried out, “God, show me how to walk by the Spirit!” And He began to show me a helpful way to know that I am being led by the Spirit. In Galatians 5:16 we are told, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Basically, I have found that walking in the Spirit means that we are not living according to the instincts of our senses. To walk after the flesh means that we are living by what we smell, see, taste, feel, and fear. But to walk by the Spirit means to act on God’s Word, no matter what sense-knowledge tells us. When Christians get off-track, they are usually walking according to their senses rather than by faith in God’s Word.
One time, many years ago, I received several letters saying that I should go on the radio in a certain needy area of the U.S. I asked my staff for counsel on this, and they said, “That situation would not produce enough positive results. Your efforts would be better spent in some other area or project.” But I kept receiving the letters, so I made a personal decision to broadcast my program in that area. I had prayed about the situation, but I hadn’t really prayed for the leading of the Lord. Just as my staff had warned, the radio broadcast in this area never went anywhere. Eventually, I had to admit that I went on that station from a personal leading, rather than a leading from the Holy Spirit. I had listened to the voice of my flesh and the letters being sent to me, without seeking the voice of the Lord. Had I asked God for His leading, He could have directed me to use that money in a wiser way to benefit more people.
I believe that our flesh seeks after “signs”—something we can see or feel. But Jesus said, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign . . . ” (Matthew 16:4). Such people are walking after their sense-knowledge. We aren’t supposed to look for signs. We are supposed to look to God’s Word and allow signs to follow us! Check the leadings you have and ask yourself, “Is this my flesh wanting a sign, or is this God’s Word directing my spirit?” If you follow the Word, you will never be disappointed.
Q: Jesus said that the bride doesn’t fast while the bridegroom is with her (see Mark 2:19). Jesus is fully with us, isn’t He? Why do you encourage people to fast?
A: Mark 2:19 and Matthew 9:15 speak of the bridegroom and fasting. However, in Matthew 9:15 Jesus says, “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.” He also said in John 15 that He would be taken away and it was to our advantage that He go away since He would send the Holy Spirit who would be with us as our helper. Technically speaking, it is not Jesus in the fullness of His being who is with us, rather it is the Holy Spirit who indwells us.
Q: What are the spiritual benefits of fasting? How should a person prepare to go on a fast? How do you know if the Lord is directing you to do so?
A: By studying Joel 2 and Isaiah 58, you can get a good idea of what fasting will do for you. Matthew 17:21 connects prayer and fasting with overcoming disbelief or, in other words, feeding your faith and starving your doubts.
Jesus was spiritually prepared before the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness to fast for 40 days (see Matthew 4:1). If you are going to fast or if you sense in your spirit that God is calling you to a fast, seek Him in prayer for a specific direction. The Spirit’s leading is a still, small voice within your spirit. It is also known as an “inner witness” (see 1 Kings 19:12). I wouldn’t suggest that you be like Jesus and fast for 40 days because it could be very dangerous. Instead, be led of the Spirit in your fasting; and let the Lord lead you in setting up a time frame. Check out last week’s blog for more details.
I believe that the two subjects of fasting and prayer go together. People who have never fasted may not know what is involved; and fasting usually sounds like drudgery and difficulty. I’ve heard people talk about such long fasts that I thought, If I fasted that long, I’d die. I couldn’t possibly do that. I used to associate fasting with these long, long periods of time; yet a fast can be as short as one meal and still allow God to do some wonderful things in your life.
My late husband, Wally, had never been taught fasting, but when he first began to serve the Lord, he had a friend in a mental hospital about whom he was very concerned. As he prayed for his friend, the Lord spoke to him out of the Scriptures saying, “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). Like I said, Wally didn’t know anything about fasting, so he “only” fasted one meal. Ever after such a short fast, the man was released from the hospital!
So, I don’t want you to think about the length of time you will fast, but how you can get your heart in line with the Lord and let Him speak to you.
WHAT FASTING DOES
First of all, let’s talk about the benefits of fasting and how God will prepare you to fast. If you can get sold on what fasting will do in your life, you will want to fast.
Jesus was spiritually prepared before the Lord led Him to fast for 40 days. Matthew 4:1 says, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” If you are going to fast, you need to be led by the Spirit. That’s why Jesus could endure 40 days of fasting. Forty days is a long time, and it could kill you if you aren’t really led of the Spirit. I don’t suggest that you suddenly decide to be like Jesus and fast for 40 days because it could be very dangerous. Instead, I suggest you be led by the Holy Spirit and let the Lord lead you in setting up the time frame.
Elijah also went on a fast for 40 days, but God prepared him for it. He was very defeated at the time God called him to fast. He had just called down the fire at Mount Carmel and had a tremendous victory over the prophets of Baal. God then opened the heavens in response to Elijah’s prayer for rain. Finally, in a supernatural anointing of strength, Elijah outran Ahab’s chariot into Jezreel.
However, upon arriving in Jezreel, Ahab’s hateful wife, Jezebel, sent him a message. She wasn’t very happy about the fact that Elijah had killed all her prophets. In fact, she was furious and threatened to kill Elijah. In a weak moment, Elijah became full of fear and ran into the wilderness, hid under a tree, and told God, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (1 Kings 19:4). Elijah left the revival because of a message from a woman.
Looking at Elijah, I see that God was determined for him to be a winner. I think God is just as determined for you to be a winner. Elijah had blown it, but God did something wonderful for him: He sent an angel to encourage him and give him food. Then Elijah went back to sleep after having eaten. Evidently, he really needed rest. Again, the angel woke him and fed him, but this time he said to Elijah, “I want you to go to Horeb, and it is a 40-day trip. You won’t have to eat anything because the food I gave you will sustain you” (1 Kings 19:7-8, author’s paraphrase). Elijah was prepared for his 40-day fast. He didn’t just decide to fast that long in his own strength. The angel of the Lord came to encourage him and prepare him.
When Elijah went to Horeb, the Lord revealed where he had “missed it.” He saw the fire, the wind, the earthquake—many manifestations of the Lord. But then he heard a still, small voice saying, “Elijah, you missed it because you didn’t wait for the leading of my Spirit. You looked at Jezebel and her message and ran away. Wait for the still, small voice. Learn to be led of the Spirit so you won’t miss it anymore.”
Never again do we read of defeat in Elijah’s life. Here was a man who had been very defeated. Yet he was led into a 40-day fast, heard the voice of God, learned how to be led of the Spirit, and was transformed. God will do the same for you when you fast.
Let’s go back to Matthew 17. Jesus had just descended from the mount of transfiguration when a man whose son was demon-possessed came to Him and said, “I brought [my son] to Your disciples, but they could not cure him” (v. 16). Jesus prayed for the son, and he was delivered. When the disciples asked why they couldn’t cast out the demon, Jesus answered, “Because of your unbelief; . . . However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (vv. 20-21).
What is the purpose of fasting? To cure unbelief. This is the key to fasting. Jesus told His disciples they were unable to cast out the evil spirit because of their unbelief. If they had been fasting and praying, however, they would have had the faith to cast them out. Fasting will put you in a position of higher faith. There are several biblical examples of fasting, including the Israelites (see 1 Samuel 7:6), Esther and the Jews living in Shushan (see Esther 4:16), and the Assyrians (see Jonah 3:5). But I want to talk about a very unusual fast recorded in Judges 19-20.
These chapters tell of a Levite man living in Ephraim who was supposed to have been a priest. However, he wasn’t much of a man of God. After all, during the time of the judges, Israel did what was right in their own eyes instead of following God’s Law. This Levite man had a concubine who went to visit her father. When he went after her to take her back to Ephraim, he stayed a long time with her father. After the two men ate and drank a great deal, the Levite and his concubine started back to Ephraim. They entered a town of Benjaminites, where they had no place to stay for the night. Finally, a man invited them into his house. The Benjaminites were well-known for their cruelty and immorality, and they gathered around the man’s house asking to have immoral relations with the Levite. Instead, the Levite gave his concubine to them for the night. They abused her and left her to die on the doorstep of the house where she and the Levite were staying.
When he was ready to leave the next morning, the Levite found his concubine dead outside the front door. He then cut her body into 12 pieces and sent one section to each tribe of Israel, saying, “This is what the Benjaminites have done to my concubine!” (Judges 19:30 and 20:4-7, author’s paraphrase). So, the other tribes came against Benjamin and said, “Give us those men so we can punish them!”
The tribe of Benjamin answered, “No, we won’t do that,” and prepared for battle. The other 11 tribes joined together to fight the Benjaminites, who were left-handed and were so outstanding at throwing stones that they never missed. It shocked me to learn that the Benjaminites won the first two battles in which 40,000 men were killed! This seemed unfair to me. I thought, God, the other tribes were right. Why did you let the Benjaminites win? But after two major losses . . .
. . . All the children of Israel, that is, all the people, went up and came to the house of God and wept. They sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening; and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. So the children of Israel inquired of the Lord . . . saying, “Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of my brother Benjamin, or shall I cease?”
And the Lord said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand.” (Judges 20:26-28)
They only fasted one day! But after this short time of fasting and praying, they won the war and defeated the Benjaminites. Why did they lose the first two battles? Because Israel was so backslidden that the powers of darkness had overwhelmed them. This shows how it took fasting and prayer to finally break the powers of darkness so that the 11 tribes could win. Fasting and prayer will not only bind up your unbelief; it will also break the powers of darkness.
WHEN TO FAST
There are many times when God may call you to fast, below are just a few examples.
I think that when you’re not seeing results after having stood on the Word and having had people pray, you need to fast and pray. Then you will see the powers of darkness break.
When you are stumbling, or in an overwhelming situation and don’t know what to do, fast!
I believe a person who is involved in weekly fasting and prayer begins to manifest the fruit of the Spirit and something spiritual happens to push his old nature out. If you are very impatient, or if you have personality problems, be consistent with your fasting and prayer. It will change you.
Fasting and prayer will help you go out in the anointing of God into the ministry He wants you to have. Paul began fasting as a brand-new Christian (see Acts 9:8-9) and continued throughout his ministry (see Acts 13:2, Acts 27:39, and 2 Corinthians 6:5). I believe fasting was the “secret” of the anointing upon Paul’s ministry.
TIPS FOR FASTING
Fasting is to be done in secret. Jesus said in Matthew 6:16-18:
“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Fast with pure motives and a clean heart, confessing your sin to the Lord (see Isaiah 58 and Zechariah 7:5-7).
I personally believe that the best kind of fasting is consistent fasting. It is easy to fast when you get in trouble. However, if you were consistent in fasting and prayer, would you get into trouble so often? Fasting and prayer can keep you in a place of faith and victory so that when crises come, you will be so full of the Word and the Spirit that they won’t even be a crisis to you. You will already be prepared.
As far as a length of time, if God speaks to you to go on a three-day fast and you have that witness in your spirit, do it. If He leads you to go on a fast for one, seven, or ten days, do that. It is good to be led by the Spirit in fasting. At one point in my life, God led me to fast seven meals each week. I didn’t do them all in one or two days, and I did different meals depending on my traveling schedule. This is only an example to encourage you to seek your own plan from the Lord.
When you’re fasting, consider donating to a local food bank or other church/organization that helps the less fortunate (see Isaiah 58:7).
Fasting will help you know how to pray and have compassion for people, and you will see them come forth to victory (see Isaiah 58:7).
Speak powerful words in your fasting and keep your conversations right. Don’t have a critical attitude or talk about your problems when you’re fasting. If you fast and gripe, you may as well buy a hamburger and forget it.
PRAYER WITH FASTING
I studied the Scriptures on prayer, and I found that all the men with tremendous prayer lives prayed early in the morning. Jesus prayed early in the morning, long before daybreak (see Mark 1:35). To encourage yourself in this, look up: 1 Samuel 1:19, Job 1:5, Psalm 57:8-9, Psalm 88:13, Psalm 119:147, and Proverbs 8:17. Why is prayer good early in the morning? Because it gives you a good start. In the morning you are not yet occupied with the things of the day.
When does dew come? Early in the morning. When the sun comes up, the dew evaporates. The dew is often taught as a type of the presence of the Lord, teaching that there is a special presence of the Lord early in the morning. To get up early in the morning is to get the dew of His presence. This isn’t to say you can’t pray throughout your day; Daniel and David both prayed three times a day. But I do strongly encourage you to begin your day with prayer.
Finally, prayer must accompany fasting. Keep them together and you will have an amazingly effective prayer life!
***Before commencing a fast you should assess your health and consider visiting a health professional.
Marilyn Hickey Ministries acknowledges and embraces the numerous references found in the Bible that speak to the practice of fasting. We believe that Christ encouraged fasting for His disciples and for us, through His example. We believe that the purpose of periodic fasting is to accompany prayer, but we do not believe that there is a biblical requirement or instruction for everyone to participate in fasting. Christ in Scripture, distinguished between appropriate and inappropriate times for fasting.
As in all other aspects of your relationship with God, you should make a decision to participate in fasting only after taking into consideration whether fasting is appropriate for you as an individual—apart from and without any involvement in a group that may be fasting. We encourage you to thoroughly confirm your spiritual and physical suitability before fasting for any period of time. Carefully consider your personal health condition, contraindications of any medicines you may be taking, as well as the appropriate fasting procedures and measures to conclude a fast. These factors are the responsibility of the individual (you). We always recommend that a person consult his or her physician before a strict or prolonged fast.
For more on the topic of prayer and fasting, click here.
If you haven’t read “The Tabernacle Prayer Plan: Part 1” yet, we encourage you to read that before continuing below.
THE TABLE OF SHEWBREAD
The brazen laver marked the separation of the outer court from the holy place, which was the inner tent within the tabernacle walls. The first item in the holy place was the table of shewbread–a ceremonial stand with twelve loaves of bread representing the needs of the twelve tribes of Israel. The priests ate the bread as a sign to the Lord that He was their source who would meet all of their needs.
The shewbread represents our physical needs, the Word as our food (Matthew 4:4, John 4:34) and Jesus as the Bread of Life (John 6:35). When we enter God’s presence, we should be hungry for revelation and eager to feed on His Word.
Remember the travelers on the road to Emmaus? “Now it came to pass, as [Jesus] sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight” (Luke 24:30-31). When we open our Bibles and feed on God’s Word, we should expect to see Jesus, to sense His presence in every passage and teaching. His presence sustains us. The writer of Hebrews says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (v. 3 NIV, emphasis added).
None of us would dream of going days without food. God is telling us that we need to regularly feed on His Word. This is what will sustain us through each season of our lives.
THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICK
Next to the table of shewbread was the golden candlestick with one long branch in the middle and three offshoots on each side. Unlike our candlesticks today, the golden candlestick didn’t hold wax candles, but oil, much like a lamp.
The priests kept the golden candlestick lit to provide light for both the holy place and the holy of holies, so they could see and obey the Lord in their service. Remember, light, flame, and oil all represent the presence of the Spirit of the Lord, which should constantly be burning in us.
The golden candlestick reminds us to never let the flame of the Holy Spirit grow dim in our lives so we can see what God is doing and constantly burn bright, lighting up our lives for the glory of God. Paul encouraged Timothy “to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you . . . “ (2 Timothy 1:6 NIV). Likewise, we should seek out the Spirit of God in our lives and watch for His presence in all that we do. When we are in touch with His presence, we shine brightly in the world. We become the golden candlestick that illuminates situations and brings understanding to others.
One day, we will see the seven golden candlesticks blazing before the throne of God Almighty. Our daily prayer should be to keep the Spirit of God alive in our lives so that we can clearly see His path and His direction in serving others.
THE ALTAR OF INCENSE
The last piece of furniture in the holy place was the altar of incense. The incense was continuously burning, filling both the holy place and the holy of holies with a sweet aroma that attracted God’s presence. For the people of Israel, this incense, made from a very special combination of spices and oils, was a symbol of intercession.
At the altar of incense, the priest would intercede for the people. The altar was lit with coals from the brazen altar, reminding us that our prayer must come humbly before God with an understanding of both our sin and the sacrifice that Jesus made.
There were several times when “strange fire” (this was any fire that didn’t come from the brazen altar) was used to light the altar of incense. Each time, God severely judged those who didn’t follow His instructions.
Prayer Plan: The altar of incense represents how our High Priest, Jesus, is always interceding before God on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25). When we pray, we should put the needs and requests of others before our own. When you pray for other people, your words to God on their behalf can have a powerful impact on their lives. Letting others know you are praying for them is a great encouragement when they are going through a dark time. These prayers of the saints are like incense, having a sweet aroma to God that pleases Him (Revelation 5:8).
THE ARK OF THE COVENANT
After going through the outer court and the holy place, the priest would enter the holy of holies–the place where only the high priest could go before the Lord, and then, only with an offering of blood. Here was where you would find the ark of the covenant, which had two pieces. The bottom piece was a container where the Ten Commandments, the golden pot of manna, and Aaron’s budding rod were kept. The golden pot of manna symbolized God’s supernatural provision for His people, the budding rod demonstrated His delegated authority through human leadership, and the Ten Commandments represented His truth.
Prayer Plan: When you come before the Lord in prayer, ask for His provision. That’s what Jesus did. His model prayer included the simple request for daily food. Relying on the Lord for our daily needs is a way of expressing our humility, showing that we rely on Him for all things.
Praying for people in authority is a practice encouraged by the apostle Paul, a man whose native country was occupied by a foreign army. When we are in the holy presence of God, we can find the spiritual strength to pray for our enemies and those who may be abusing their power over us. Wise leaders also need our prayer support because they are constantly under attack from the enemy.
Finally, the truth of God’s commands is the way to freedom. Therefore, pray in spirit and truth, seeking the truth about yourself and your situations, and asking for truth to be revealed.
THE MERCY SEAT
The second, or top, piece of the ark was called the mercy seat. It was made of pure gold and fashioned with two cherubim guarding the throne. The presence of God, in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, hovered over the mercy seat between the two cherubim.
On the Day of Atonement, the high priest would sprinkle blood on the mercy seat for the remission of sin. Here God would speak to the high priest and give him instruction and guidance for all of the people. The message of the holy of holies? God relates to you in mercy and truth. We need mercy from God to overcome problems, difficulties, and enemies. But we also have attitudes, character flaws, and areas we need to change, so we need truth.
Prayer Plan: When you come before God in His presence, He’s not going to play around and ignore the issues He has asked you to change. But when He knows you are listening and that you’ll embrace truth, then you will not only experience His mercy, but enjoy it as well.
One of the most important stories in the Bible is the “Exodus”–the story of how God rescued His people from slavery in Egypt and brought them into a new, promised land.
The Exodus is a pattern that represents how Jesus rescued us from the slavery of sin and gave us a new life of freedom.
After God used Moses to lead the people out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and away from Pharaoh’s armies, He met with Moses on Mount Sinai. It was here that Moses received the Ten Commandments. But many fail to realize that God also gave Moses instructions to build the tabernacle–the resting place for the presence of God.
The details and pattern of the tabernacle are a symbol of Jesus’s death on the cross, His atoning blood that was shed for the world, and His role as the only mediator between God and man. The tabernacle pointed to the day when God would send His Holy Spirit to live no just in the holy of holies, but in the heart of every man, woman, and child who receives Him. That day has come!
Sometimes, if God seems far off, if you don’t feel like your prayers are being heard, or if you don’t know where to go when you’re stuck in the “wilderness,” it is difficult to know how to pray. That’s why the tabernacle is so important! It gives us a pattern, a way to approach God with confidence.
In this blog, we will walk through the patterns of the tabernacle, and at each step along the way, we believe God is going to speak to you and show you how the tabernacle point you to a life filled with God’s presence!
THE BRAZEN ALTAR
When entering the tabernacle’s outer court, the first thing you would have seen was the brazen altar. Early altars in Israel’s history were made out of rocks, stone, or mounds of dirt, but the brazen altar of the tabernacle was built of brass-covered wood.
Before they could go any closer into God’s presence, the priests had to offer a sacrifice both for their own sin and the sin of the people. The beginning of their relationship with God started with recognizing their own humanity and wrongdoing before a holy God who loved them perfectly.
The brazen altar points all of humanity to the perfect sacrifice that ended the practice–when Jesus, our High Priest, offered Himself. Hebrews 7:26-27 says, “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.”
Prayer Plan: Thanks to Jesus’s perfect sacrifice for sin, no longer is there the need for the shedding of blood. Instead, God asks us to become living sacrifices, to begin our days humbling ourselves before God and asking for His help to do His will, and not our own. The apostle Paul said, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). He took up his cross every day, and in doing so, he found freedom from the slavery of his former life.
THE BRAZEN LAVER
Blood sacrifices are, by their nature, shocking. Imagine the area surrounding the brazen altar where the animals were slaughtered. Blood would be pooled everywhere, splattered on clothing, and filling the air with its heavy metallic smell. Who could enter the presence of a holy God in such a condition? So, after the brazen altar, there was a brazen laver–a ceremonial washing bowl made of brass. Here, the priest washed clean the blood spilled on him from the sacrifice.
In the same way, even though our sacrifice has been made, we still need cleansing because we’re imperfect. Our lives get messy, and we need to wash off anything that’s unclean as we serve a holy God. The brazen laver was God’s way of making the priests pause and purify themselves before entering His presence. Sacrifice and humility before God are important, but what He longs for is a pure heart. A heart prepared to listen and obey.
David, a man after God’s own heart, pleaded for God to create in him a clean heart:
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:2, 7, 10)
Prayer Plan: No one can read these verses and not be touched by his sincerity. When we pray with a pure, cleansed heart–washed in the blood of the lamb–and come before our Father, our prayers are powerful!
Over the years, I’ve had people ask me questions about being filled with the Spirit and praying in tongues. I have compiled a few of those questions and answered them below. I pray that you will find the answers informative and that they will encourage you in your walk with the Lord.
Q: How can I receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit?
A: Acts 1:8 promises that “. . . you shall receive powerwhen the Holy Spirit has come upon you; . . .”. Jesus states in Luke 11:13, “How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” So, the Word tells you that when you ask, be ready to receive. Tell God that you do receive His gift. Thank Him for the baptism of the Holy Spirit and believe His Word. Once you believe that you receive, then by faith begin to speak out loud in syllables and sounds that aren’t English. This will sound strange in your mind, you may think, “This can’t be the Holy Spirit!” But Romans 8:7 tells us that our fleshly mind opposes the things of God. If this happens, simply make the decision to trust the Word. Acts 2:4 says that “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Q: Is the gift of tongues scriptural? Would you please give me some Scripture references?
A: Yes, the gift of tongues is scriptural. It is found in Acts 2:4 (see question above) and 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14. Tongues is more certainly of God. As you read the book of Acts, you will see many instances and references to the operation of this important gift from God. First Corinthians 14:39 states, “Therefore, brethren, . . . do not forbid to speak with tongues.” This same chapter even provides us with a scriptural order in operating in the gifts of the Spirit. When a message in tongues is given to the church, an interpretation must also be given. It is possible that several people can receive the interpretation for the message in tongues; but in order to eliminate confusion, only one and at the most two people are to give an interpretation.
Q: If tongues is a real language as spoken of in Acts, why do people who minister overseas have to have an interpreter to translate?
A: When we pray in tongues, the Holy Spirit prays through us (Romans 8:26-27). What may at first seem like mumbo-jumbo is in reality a heavenly language which neither our earthly minds nor Satan can understand. In my own experience however, the more you pray in tongues, the more you can begin to recognize certain phrases and sounds. Sometimes, I ask for an interpretation and God tells me through my spirit what I am praying (more about this in an answer below). I have also received reports from many missionaries who have gone to foreign countries, preached in tongues, and the people have understood. So tongues is as valid today as it was in Acts 2:6, but it is as the Holy Spirit directs. God can use tongues, but He can also use an interpreter.
Q: Is there a difference in the “prayer language” in the book of Acts and “tongues” in 1 Corinthians 14?
A: There is a difference between tongues and a prayer language. A prayer language is personal, direct intercession/petition/communication to the Father from the Holy Spirit within us. This builds or edifies us personally (Jude 20). A public tongue must be accompanied by a supernatural interpretation. This is the equivalent of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:5).
Q: I am a born-again believer and know that I am filled with the Holy Spirit, but I do not speak in tongues. My question is, can you be Spirit-filled and not speak in tongues?
A: The answer to your question is found in Mark 16:17 when Jesus states, “Thesesigns will follow those whobelieve . . .they will speak with new tongues.” It’s very clear here that the signs Jesus lists in verses 17-18 will accompany those who believe. The scriptural pattern in the book of Acts beginning with the 120 in the upper room is that those who received the baptism of the Holy Spirit manifested it with the evidence of tongues. This, however, does not necessarily mean that you are not Spirit-filled. I have met several people who by faith received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and later manifested tongues. But I believe that tongues will always be manifested in those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit if they are open to all God has for them. Speech is a mechanical operation used either by our mind or spirit. Most people, when properly instructed on how to yield the instrument of speech, will receive their language.
Q: How can I find out what I am saying in tongues?
A: Many of the early Christians must have asked this question as well because Paul made sure he addressed this point in his first letter to the Corinthians: For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful” (14:14). The Bible tells you that you spirit knows what you are saying, but your mind does not. So, the only way you can find out what you are praying by the Spirit is to ask the Lord to give you revelation so you can interpret what you are praying. Nonetheless, I have found that it is important not to get caught up in trying to figure out what I am saying, but it is important to be consistent in prayer and to trust the Holy Spirit to pray that perfect prayer through me. Sometimes I will pray with the Spirit and then I will be impressed of the Lord to interpret what I have said. In this way, I find out what the Holy Spirit has been praying through me and my understanding is then enlightened. Another place in Scripture says we speak mysteries, but 1 Corinthians 2 tells us that the Spirit reveals these mysteries as we pray in the Spirit. So, claim His promise to show you by revelation what you are speaking.
Q: Must I first confess my sins and repent before I use my prayer language?
A: When we pray in the Spirit (tongues), we have immediate access to the throne of God. The Holy Spirit Himself is praying through us as we pray in the Spirit, and there is no sin in the Holy Spirit. In times of emergency, the very first thing we should do is pray in the Spirit. Romans 8:26-27 says:
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
The Holy Spirit knows our weaknesses and our infirmities, so He makes intercession for us through our prayer language. He prays a perfect prayer and God hears His own Spirit as quickly as you hear your own voice when you speak. It is also important to understand that because you have become righteous through Jesus Christ, you stand in a place before the Father through Jesus. Certainly, there is a time and place for us to confess our sins, but this is only necessary as the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins.
Q: How can I grow from devotional tongues to the gift of diverse tongues?
A: Your devotional tongue was given to you when you were baptized in the Holy Spirit. It is a part of your prayer life and can be used at your will. However, the gift of diverse tongues is an operation of the Holy Spirit through an individual and may be used only as the Holy Spirit wills. This gift is for the edification of the body of Christ and must be accompanied with the gift of interpretation.
This year, Pentecost is on May 28–that’s just a couple of days away! A few weeks ago, we previewed the background of Pentecost and how it started after the Israelites worshiped the golden calf, Moses interceded on their behalf, and God’s covenant with them was renewed (Exodus 34:22). If you didn’t get a chance to read this post, I recommend taking the time to review it.
Jesus dominates the Gospels, but the Holy Spirit dominates the book of Acts. He unveils Himself as the comforter, helper, teacher, and miracle worker. Jesus knew that just as He had walked in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church must also be clothed with the Spirit. He told His disciples that they must wait in Jerusalem to be baptized in Holy Ghost power.
The purpose of the Holy Spirit was to give the disciples power to be witnesses of Christ throughout the earth. The word power here is dunamis, which means “miracle–working power” or “inherent strength or ability to perform effectively.” It is the living and abiding presence of the Holy Spirit which overflows and uses men and women to be powerful and skillful in word and deed.
As witnesses, the disciples could perform the miraculous and have the ability to live moral, clean lives. The signs and wonders would win others to Christ and give full assurance of the gospel message. The power of the Holy Spirit would also cause the new converts to endure and be strong in times of severe suffering and weaknesses.
In Acts 2:1 we have the feast of Pentecost, which is also known as the Feast of Weeks. There were three major feasts that were held in Jerusalem and attended by thousands of Jewish males annually: the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), the Feast of First Fruits, and the Feast of Tabernacles. At these great Jewish feasts, as many as 180,000 men came to Jerusalem to worship.
It was during Pentecost that the 120 tarried in the upper room in Jerusalem for the enduement of the Holy Spirit that Christ had promised. The King James version of Acts 2:3 says, “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them” and a great and mighty wind filled the room. As they began to speak with other tongues, a universal sign of the New Covenant was given. God had judged the Tower of Babel by confusing their tongues. At Pentecost, He brought unity through the speaking in tongues by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost marked a new beginning of the work of the Holy Spirit. Unlike the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit now abides in all Christians on a permanent basis as opposed to just visiting or empowering a select few.
The glory had fallen on the temple in Solomon’s day, and at Pentecost the glory fell upon the New Testament Church. John the Baptist had foretold this event when he said there would come one after him who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit wasn’t just for one man (see Joel 2:28); it was meant for the entire Church. The gift of the Holy Spirit is as extensive as the gift of salvation. Not only is His infilling for the entire Body of Christ, but Scriptures bear out that there is more than one filling. Acts 4:8 and 31 says that both Peter and the others who had been in the upper room and were baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire, were “filled” with the Holy Spirit. There is an initial baptism, and as the believers continue in Him, there are special fillings or anointings for special occasions.
THE HOLY SPIRIT FOR THE OCCASION
When Peter stood up to preach, he was anointed for that occasion. When the disciples prayed and asked for boldness, they received an anointing for boldness. The three words that are the keys to the book of Acts include logos, which occurs 35 times in Acts and means “the Word of God”; onoma, which means “name” and is used to refer to the name of Jesus approximately 33 times in Acts; and pneuma, which means “breath,” “spirit,” or “soul” and is used 53 times in Acts to denote the Holy Spirit. These are also the keys which unlock the door to the power of God in our lives today.
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND JUDGMENT
Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit. Peter had told them that the promise of the Holy Spirit was for those “whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:32). Ananias and Sapphira chose to disobey the Holy Spirit and lie to Him. Acts 5 shows us that the Holy Spirit has feelings, and, like Jesus, He is acquainted with grief (see Psalm 78:40; 95:10; Isaiah 53:3; 63:10; Micah 2:7).
The Holy Spirit has power and authority just as the Father and the Son have power and authority. He is to pervade our entire lives. Ananias and Sapphira tried to separate their spiritual life from their financial dealings. Lying to the Holy Spirit is the same as lying to God. Peter’s discerning of spirits, or word of knowledge, was also a manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND WISDOM
The Holy Spirit revealed Himself as the Spirit of Wisdom in Acts 6:1–3. The Grecian and Hebrew Christians were at odds and the Holy Spirit gave wisdom to the disciples to resolve the situation. Guided by the Spirit, the disciples directed the church to elect seven men who were full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom to serve the people, thus putting an end to the conflict. Each time we see the Spirit’s wisdom in Acts 5 and 6, we also see an increase of the Word of God and its effect (see Acts 6:7).
The Holy Spirit aided these men in the time of trials and caused them to look to Christ instead of their circumstances. In Acts 7, Stephen rebuked his listeners for resisting the Holy Ghost. They responded by stoning him. But, being full of the Holy Spirit, Stephen looked up and saw Jesus. He became the first martyr, full of the Holy Spirit, with his last view on this earth of Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of the Father, waiting to receive him.
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND REVIVAL
Philip was also full of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 8). He ministered to the Samaritans and a tremendous revival occurred when Peter and John prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit. The word here for receive is lambano, which indicates that as the disciples laid hands upon them, one–by–one they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
This filling of the Holy Spirit was such an outward manifestation, that, Simon, a new convert who recently had been a part of the occult, wanted to buy the power to pray for people to receive the Holy Spirit. Philip was then led by the Spirit to minister to an Ethiopian eunuch. After baptizing the eunuch, “the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away” (Acts 8:39) and he was later found at Azotus and in various other cities.
There are various works of the Spirit here. We see men filled with the Spirit. We see men directed of the Holy Spirit. Phillip was caught away by the Spirit in much the same way Ezekiel was. The Holy Spirit is ever the same in the Old and New Testaments.
In Chapter 9, we have evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit drawing Paul and sending an unknown believer to him—not from Jerusalem or one of the original apostles, but Ananias who was responsive to His voice. Ananias laid hands on Paul and he was filled with the Spirit. We know certainly that Paul spoke in tongues because later he says, “I thank my God that I speak in tongues more than all of you” (1 Corinthians 14:18).
Again, we see the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of individuals and throughout the churches in Acts 9. The Church walked in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit and was multiplied. Wherever the Holy Spirit is, there is life and multiplication. The more the Spirit is poured out, the more life, blessing, and multiplication there is.
THE HOLY SPIRIT BRINGS UNITY
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit changed the direction of the Church. He broke down the walls of prejudice and brought unity in the book of Acts. The Samaritans, whom the Jews considered less than dirt, received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Jews viewed the Gentiles as dogs, but God sent Peter to preach the Gospel to them and the Holy Spirit baptized them in His power. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles was God’s seal that they had already believed in Christ.
THE HOLY SPIRIT MAKES WITNESSES
In Acts 11 a prophet is moved by the Holy Spirit to prophesy things to come. In Acts 13, we see more of the fulfillment of Jesus’s command that they would be witnesses unto the uttermost parts of the earth. Here, the Spirit separates Barnabas and Saul for the work that He called them to do, and they were sent forth in Holy Ghost power.
THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE DISCERNER
Although He is often symbolized as a dove, the Holy Spirit can also bring judgment. On the island of Cyprus, a sorcerer tried to withstand Paul, but filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul spoke words of judgment against him.
We also see a fresh filling of joy which accompanies the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts. Of course, one of the fruits of the Spirit is joy. How beautifully the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit are shown in this book. In the Jerusalem Council, we see the Holy Spirit bearing witness and the council receiving the direction of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s word of wisdom through Peter and James brought the believers into one accord (see Acts 15:8–9,12–29). Of course, the Spirit’s presence in their midst was sufficient for any problem and they were willing to give him credit for it.
In Acts 16, we see the wisdom and direction of the Holy Spirit in Paul. His tour goes through Galatia to Troas. The Spirit not only led him, but He also stopped Him when he was going in the wrong direction (see 16:6–7). God directs His children. Being led by the Spirit of God is a charismatic mark of the Spirit–filled believer.
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE WORD
The power of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts comes when it is needed. In Acts 19:6, we have the third occasion when tongues was specifically mentioned in the book of Acts. This occurred 20 years after Pentecost. The speaking in tongues and prophesying in Acts 19 were outward evidences of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. These visible signs were just as important then as with the 12 disciples and other believers on the day of Pentecost. After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we see an outpouring of the Word in Acts 19:10 (KJV), “. . . so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” In Acts 19:20, we see a revival broke out: “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” Special miracles began to come to pass. It seems that more and more people were responding directly to the Holy Spirit. As a result, more and more miracles were coming to pass.
PRISONERS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
We can be led by the Holy Spirit, and we can also be bound by Him. The Holy Spirit brings boldness and victory, but we have to become His willing prisoners. We have to accept the boundaries and constraints He sets forth because they are necessary for His purposes. We know this from Acts 16:6–8.
As Paul made his journey to Jerusalem, he went in the Spirit (see Acts 20:22). He wanted to go to Rome and then to Spain. He went to Rome in chains as a prisoner, but more than that, he was a prisoner of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moved upon people to warn him about going to Jerusalem (see Acts 21:4,10–11). If Paul had gone to Jerusalem, ignoring all these warnings, the Judaizers would have taken his arrest as a judgment of God. This would have certainly brought great confusion to the Church. But the Spirit bore witness to Paul and the Gospel he preached through this Spirit manifestation.
The Spirit is the protector and unquestionably the guide of the Church. The book of Acts shows us that all believers are to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, empowered by Him, taught to be His disciples, and directed and constrained by Him. Every believer is to be a witness by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the picture of the Church in the book of Acts.
Next Monday, I’ll be answering some questions about being filled in the Spirit and praying in tongues.
The feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits all happened within eight days in the spring. Fifty days from the Feast of First Fruits to Pentecost–there are seven Sabbaths in between–takes us into fall, harvest time. So, Pentecost is during the fall harvest time and means “fifty days after” (Leviticus 23:15-16).
During the Feast of First Fruits, they waved a single loaf of bread, but during Pentecost they waved two loaves of bread. Because of the harvest, they had the grain, therefore they could make bread. Why would they wave two loaves? Jesus wants old covenant and new covenant people. He loves both Jews and Gentiles–Jesus makes one new man. Pentecost celebrated us all coming together as one–in Jesus. The power of the Holy Spirit is in the Feast of Pentecost, and it affects both the Jew and the Gentile–it affects you!
The very first celebration of Pentecost was in Numbers, when Moses was given the Law for the Israelites, but it was actually not a good celebration. God wrote the Ten Commandments on two tablets for Moses to give to the people so they could live a long and happy life in the promised land. Sadly, when Moses came back to reveal the law to the people, he found them involved in sin and worshipping a golden calf.
When Moses saw this, he was so angry he threw down and broke the Ten Commandments at the foot of the mountain. That day, judgment came down on the people on the Feast of Pentecost, and 3,000 Israelites were killed (Exodus 32:27-28). It shouldn’t have been that way, but the people had turned their backs on God and missed what He had for them. Moses went back up on the mountain and interceded on behalf of the people and pleaded with God not to destroy them. Moses, as mediator, stood between God and the Israelites. He went and again got two more tablets of commandments and came back to call the people to repentance. Because of the intercession of Moses, the Israelite’s repentance, and God’s forgiveness, the presence of God came back, and He led them into the promised land. God looked for a man to stand in the gap for His people, and Moses stood in that gap, just as Jesus did for us.
In the New Testament, Jesus was involved in Pentecost. After He rose from the dead and went back to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Pentecost was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on God’s people, sent by Jesus. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came with a rushing, mighty wind, fire fell, and people began to speak in tongues. Three thousand did not die as on the first Pentecost, but instead, 3,000 were saved (Acts 2:41)! God always intended for people to be saved and anointed with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, because though the Law brings death, the Spirit brings life (2 Corinthians 3:7-8).
When you get spirit-filled, you enter into an astounding dimension of power. At Passover they were filled with the Lamb; at Pentecost they were filled with the Spirit. In 2 Corinthians 3:18-20, we see that we can be transformed to another level of glory by the Spirit–this is true for every believer–to experience the power of the Holy Spirit! With Pentecost came power; and the demonstration of healing and miracle came after Pentecost through the disciples and the rest of the body of Christ. What has Jesus always wanted? A demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit!
There is such sweet security in knowing the completeness of your position in Christ. Yes, insecurity seems to strike at the most uncomfortable times, and often through the most unlikely situations. But your revelation of the total process of redemption, both sonship and placement through adoption, will free you into the security of who you are.
From the very rich to the very poor, in all segments of society, insecurity is a leveling agent; it is no respecter of persons. As young children, perhaps we carried what were called “security blankets.” Into circumstances both new and frightening we carried them as warmth of the familiar in strange and unknown surroundings. But we outgrew those security blankets. Some of us outgrew teddy bears, some of us outgrew sucking our thumbs. But all of us know the pangs of insecurity.
God wants to surround you with a security blanket that will free you from the fear of insecurity. He wants you secure in the assurance that He has taken care of each part of your life: past, present, and future. I once received a letter from a woman who testified of the security which God filled her life with. I thought, “Dear Lord, how we all need what this woman has.”
She reminded me, “You gave a teaching on David’s wife, Bathsheba, and how she was forgiven after committing adultery — and is even in the lineage of Jesus Christ! Her son, Solomon, even said, ‘She’s a virtuous woman.’ ”
The woman writing said, “That story relates to me. My unbelieving husband left me and our three young children for another woman. Shortly after, in my hurt and disillusionment, I thought nothing of getting involved with another man — even though I was a Christian! I soon found I was pregnant, but he was nowhere around. I didn’t want to add the sin of abortion — murder — to my already-existing sin of adultery. I decided to keep the baby.”
The woman repented of her sin and promised that she would raise this child according to the admonition of His Word. But she said, “After having this new baby I just kept worrying about what to tell my other children. How could I cover up my sin of adultery? I thought the other children would hate me and the baby.”
But the Lord showed her, “Your past is over. Your children will not turn against you.” He comforted her. She wrote in her letter, “I can now rest peacefully in the security that my children will rise up and call me a blessed, virtuous woman because of the security God has given me in His Word.”
She is secure about her past, she is secure about her present, and she is secure about her future. The heartwarming part of her story is the end, for she and her husband were reunited in the Lord and in their marriage. They are a family again and serving Him today. She is a secure woman who found the substance of her security in God’s Word. He has a security blanket for every area of your life too, but God’s security blankets are only for believers.
Look around. You’ll see unbelievers everywhere grabbing every available security they see; money, people, you name it. They’re looking for security in all those things, but outside of God, security eludes them. They’ll try Eastern philosophy, but it only makes them ask more questions; they have no answers. They’ll try drugs or alcohol, but eventually they sober up again. Only Jesus Christ can bring the peace of security because Ephesians 2:14 says, “He Himself is our Peace.” He is our security.
Jesus Christ has given you security because He made peace between you and God. He gave you something very special: first, He gave you regeneration, which is the new birth which makes you God’s son. But you are more than a son, for the Bible says you were also adopted.
Most Christians know that they have been born‑again, and they understand that Jesus has given them new life. But few realize that adoption is a separate process. You have been adopted, and that is where your security comes in:
Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:1–5)
You were in bondage before you received the precious gift of salvation through Jesus’s shed blood. When you were born‑again you were “redeemed,” or purchased back for God’s possession. Sin no longer rules as your master, you now belong to God and you are His child. But you have more than just a title. Galatians 4:5 says that Jesus redeemed us who were under the law for one reason: “That we might receive the adoption as sons.”
You receive the name, “Child of God,” but it is your adoption by the Father which places you as His child. In the Old Testament when a son was adopted, as Abraham adopted Ishmael, specific customs were observed. You see, although Ishmael’s father Abraham was a free man, his mother was a slave. Legally, although he was a son, he was still a slave. In order to be a true son, he had to be adopted.
We receive the blood of Jesus to become God’s children. But we must also have the adoption which places us in our legal position. Ishmael could only enter into the privileges and authority of a son through adoption.
An adopted son would receive all the authority that his father had and would legally be a son. The son would be equal to the father. In the same way, the Pharisees were outraged that Jesus called God “My Father,’’ because He was equating Himself with God.
In Paul’s generation, Romans practiced adoption of sons. Until age sixteen they were placed under the discipline of tutors. Upon coming of age, the sons celebrated an adoption ceremony which symbolically bestowed the same privileges of their fathers on them. Each boy would now be considered mature enough to handle the responsibility of the position, authority, conditions, and blessings of being a son.
When slaves were owned, but there were no children, a master might watch for a slave who would be worthy of becoming his heir. He would look among his slaves and ask himself, “Who is aggressive? Who is loyal and faithful? I shall adopt that person as my own.”
Sometimes that person was a fully-grown adult, but they were still adopted. Then in the custom the master would say, “I have chosen to adopt you. You will be my child and carry my name, so from now on you are a son, not a slave.”
Then at the completion of the ceremony the slave who was now a son would say, “Abba,” to his new father; he was saying, “You’re my dad.”
As a born-again Christian, God is not just some big master who is trying to whip you into shape. He is your dad, and you are His child. He has adopted you in order to bestow on you every privilege and condition that a son could possess.
My husband and I have an adopted son, so I began comparing natural adoption to supernatural adoption. I thought, “When people adopt children they often choose according to a child’s appearance or abilities.”
I can tell you what happened to us when we first saw Mike at three-years-old. We fell in love with him. My husband said, “I can’t go home without him.”
We adopted Mike spontaneously. We saw him, we wanted him to be our child, and we took him home; it was that simple. We brought him home with us even before the legal work was completed on paper. But your adoption was not spontaneous, for Ephesians 1:4–5 tells you when the Father made plans to adopt you:
He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.
He says, “I wrote your plan of adoption even before the world was created.”
You were not predestined to be saved; that was your own choice. But your predestination is found in your adoption. God says, “Everyone who is saved I adopt so they can benefit from the privileges of being in my family.”
God predestined your adoption, and it gave Him good pleasure. He took joy in preplanning you to be a joint heir with His Son, Jesus.
Have you ever wondered why God would want more children? After all, he had the best didn’t He? He said about Jesus, “This is my Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
But Hebrews 2:10 tells us: “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all thing and by whom are all things, bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (emphasis added). God wants a big family! He doesn’t just want one or two; for it is His will that not one person would perish, but that He could save every person (see 2 Peter 3:9).
God wants to bring many sons (and daughters) into His glory. He desires to bring you into all the privileges that Jesus Christ obtained through His sufferings. Some people say, “Oh, there will be glory when we get to heaven.”
But God wants us to have glory now. You are His child, and He wants to be your dad while you are living on this earth, and Jesus suffered and shed blood in order to accomplish that work.
When we saw Mike we said, “He is so beautiful and so charming. We want him to be ours.” Most people do adopt by sight. But when God looked at you, did He say, “You are a knockout! My, you have a sweet disposition, you would fit right into my family?”
Or did He say, “Your IQ is exceptional. I need smart people in my family?”
No, God did not choose you according to your looks or IQ. He was not concerned with what you could offer Him. The Bible says that man was polluted with sin. That doesn’t sound very enticing. Ephesians 2:12 says, “You were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”
God was looking for some people who were hopeless. He was looking for you: “Their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18).
God did not choose you because of your IQ; your understanding was darkened. He didn’t get you because you finished college; you were ignorant. He didn’t pick you out because of your beautiful eyes; you were blinded to spiritual things. God adopted you because He loved you. He didn’t have an adoption list that said, “I only want sweet ones.” He said, “I want anyone who will come to me.” He wants to be your dad. He wants you to know within that He is your loving Father: “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ ” (Galatians 4:6).
It wasn’t easy for Him to make you His child. You see, adoption costs money. Today if you adopt a newborn baby, typical costs include the mother’s hospitalization, legal fees, furniture, clothing, food, and then you keep on paying to raise the child. A baby is very expensive to adopt. In the same way when the Father adopted you, He really had to pay.
You were so dark and polluted with sin that someone had to die in your place to clean the slate for you. The only one who would — and could — take your place in death was the very child whom God loved the most: His only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was the Son of God, but He came down and became the Son of Man. You are a son or daughter of man. But through Jesus you became a son or daughter of God. And unlike natural adoption, you even aspire to look just like your Father.
When we adopted Mike, he didn’t look like us. Oh, occasionally someone will say, “Mike looks just like you.” That really flatters me because to be honest with you, Mike is better looking than us. He really doesn’t resemble either Wally or me.
Now if you look at our natural-born child, Sarah, she looks just like her father; if you’ve seen Sarah, you’ve seen Wally. But usually adopted children do not look much like you. And as far as having your behavioral characteristics, they may pick those up along the way, but they are not inherited.
But when you get adopted by your heavenly Father it’s even better. He makes you look as beautiful as He is: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
The Holy Spirit, who looks just like the Father, has come to live inside your spirit. He bears witness that God is your Father. He makes your actions resemble the Father’s, and He gives you God’s characteristics. Why? Because He cries, “Abba, Father.” “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16).
Your heavenly Father has already made the provision to deal with your sinful past. He has destroyed it through the blood of Jesus, and now He has made you His child. You can be very secure about your past because God says, “You aren’t a slave to sin anymore. You are mine.”
Now that He has taken care of your past, He also wants to meet every need in your present life on earth. Your adoption has many benefits for you today. I asked, “Lord, what do we receive through adoption?”
Number one, you receive an inheritance: “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). There is that predestination again. God said, “I have not only predestined your adoption; I have also planned ahead for you to receive your inheritance.”
We were slaves to sin with nothing coming to us but hell. In fact, when we were sinners, we probably remember having a lot of hell here on earth. We were slaves to Satan. A lot of people say, “I’m just doing my own thing.” But they aren’t doing their own thing — they’re doing Satan’s thing, and he is a hard master.
When we were born‑again and left slavery behind for sonship, we received the inheritance of all that Jesus obtained through suffering and death. He doesn’t want you living as a slave. You see, there is a difference between a slave and a servant. A slave has no choice to obey; but a servant of God obeys him out of love. We serve him from a motivation of love because he is such a loving Father. He has given us everything that belongs to his firstborn Son: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). And again, “If children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:17).
A very special part of your inheritance is that not only were you freed from slavery to sin, but you were also freed from the bondage of remembering it. The sin nature enslaved you. People say, “I can’t help myself; I just keep failing in life.” Why is that? It is because slaves are in bondage to their masters. But you have been given a new nature in your adoption and inheritance, a nature which brings total liberation: “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’ ” (Romans 8:15).
Now let me ask you a question. How can you be insecure about your present with God as your dad? He’s such a great dad; He granted you freedom for your spirit which in turn frees you from the bondage of sin.
But if He paid this expensive price for your freedom, why are so many Christians still bound to insecurity? There are many who are secure about one area of their lives, but very insecure about something else. I remember having an insecurity about getting married. When I first started to date, and it wasn’t until I was sixteen, the young man was almost seven years older than I. My mother was very concerned about it; she said, “He’s going to want to get married, and you just started dating. You have college and your whole life ahead of you.” Then she told me, “You think that since nobody had dated you before this, that this man might be the last one to come along. But that is not true.”
What is fear about not getting married? That is an area of insecurity. Any fear that you get in is a bondage, and insecurity is nothing more than fear. It keeps you from trusting the one who has everything that you need. But you have the Spirit inside telling you, “Dad has your provision.”
I can tell you from my experience that Dad brought me the best husband, and it was at exactly the right time. If God planned for your adoption and inheritance before the foundation of the world, don’t you think He has what you need today? As an adopted child of God, you have true security.
As you start trusting Him for the privileges of adoption, you can be sure that the world will not understand at all. They’re busy worrying about everything:
“Aren’t you afraid of getting cancer?”
“Did you know that the divorce rates are up?”
“Aren’t you afraid about nuclear war?”
The world is bound by a cord of fear and insecurity. As an adopted child of the heavenly Father, your trust is an enigma to all who are spiritually blind: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him” (1 John 3:1).
Christians are really strange ones in the world’s eyes. Once a man asked me, “Most women who get in the ministry end up with broken marriages. What makes you think yours will be different?”
I said, “Don’t ask what — ask who. The same God who set me apart for the ministry is well able to make my marriage sweeter every day.”
He can do the same for your marriage, too, or for any area of your life. Look to Him. He is more familiar to you than even the best natural father could be. But there is another condition to your inheritance, and it goes along with all of the blessings; that condition is called chastening.
“For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”
If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. (Hebrews 12:6–8)
Discipline is a condition that comes with adoption. If you think you’re going to get away with everything, you’re not. First Peter 2:16 tells us that we are not to use our freedom as a cloak of wickedness, but as servants of God. You have been made free from sin, and chastening is a part of staying free of it.
The first time Mike really misbehaved, we had to spank him, and it wasn’t easy. Wally cried, and said, “I don’t know how I can do this.”
But Mike needed the correction, just as you need Dad’s correction. A once-popular theory was that God’s correction came through sickness and physical affliction. But would you correct your child in that manner? Of course not! That would be child abuse, and it is illegal; how could we ever imagine that God would discipline us in that manner? If you read Hebrews chapter 12 you discover that the correction of God comes through His Word. In His Word is the discipline for those whom He loves. A loving parent would never let his child do everything he wanted. Would you allow your children to run out in the streets to play just because they want to? “Oh, let him play with the electrical outlets; he’s just expressing himself.”
You’d better start expressing yourself, or that child is going to get hurt! It’s the same way with God. The Father who created you knows what the best plan is for your life. He wrote the instructions; now it’s up to you to read His Word and find out what they are. It’s the same way with equipment that we use. If I bought a kitchen appliance, it won’t work to full capacity unless I understand the instructions for use. When you willingly come under the authority of your Father’s discipline, you will work for Him to your fullest capacity.
Another part of adoption is the forgiveness and cleansing that is included in your inheritance. A natural father might condemn you for something: “You’ll never amount to anything. You’re a real problem.” But God says, “If you do sin, and you confess it, then I am faithful and just to forgive you” (1 John 1:9, author’s paraphrase).
God will never bring up a past sin that has been forgiven. And because He forgets that sin, He has installed in your new nature the ability to also forget it and leave it alone: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22).
You need more than an inheritance for your present; you need a new nature to have the inheritance. You need more than forgiveness; you need cleansing inside. Now God says, “I have equipped you with the nature of adoption, so I’m giving you the inheritance that goes with it.”
God has given you that inheritance for right now. He wants you to be secure in your present life. He wants you to be able to say, “I’m secure about myself; now I want to minister the same security to others. My needs are met, so I want to meet others’ needs.”
What good would an inheritance be if you didn’t get it until after you died? Your inheritance is for right now, to take care of your present. But if you are concerned about your future, God’s adoption has secured that part of your life also.
You see, when you were adopted, you were also given a seal within. In natural adoption after the papers are legally complete, a seal is placed on them saying, “This is official in the eyes of the law.”
In the eyes of God, your seal of salvation is official, and it is your promise of eternal life. Just as our son’s name became Hickey, your “name” became “Saved,” and it is in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Now you have the Spirit inside which will translate you into the glory of your future inheritance: eternal life with your Father.
In the future, even your physical body will be restored into the fullness of adoption. You can be secure about your past through repentance; and you can be secure about an inheritance for the present. But you have a promise of redemption for all eternity: “We also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23).
You have the promise of physical transformation coming where your body will no longer be under the wear and tear of this world. Jesus has adopted all of you, and the restoration leaves you lacking nothing in future results.
First John 3:2 tells us that although God has given us security for our earthly lives, our future adoption even surpasses that. It outweighs the advantages of earthly kingship: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
You and I, although we receive glimpses in His Word, have no idea of the tremendous fullness of what lies ahead. We will rule and reign with Jesus because of our seal of adoption. And when Jesus appears in glory, you will receive the fullness of revelation of Him. You have a glorious transformation ahead.
When we adopted Mike, my husband told him, “A lot of people have children they don’t want. Many children aren’t planned. Some people want boys, but they get girls. But we looked at a lot of children and babies; we chose you. You are a chosen one.”
And today Jesus says to you, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (John 15:16). You are a chosen one, part of a chosen generation. But even better, you chose Him back. He didn’t choose you because you were worth it; He chose you because He loves you.
Now every time you enter into your security by faith, you are really saying, “Abba, Abba.” Every financial or physical miracle in your life is the Spirit crying within you, “God, you are my dad.” Every restoration in your life is created because you listened to the Spirit of God within you as He whispered, “Son.”
I pray that you discover how to walk in the security of the knowledge that God’s adoption brings to your past, to your present, and to your future.