In the first-century church at Jerusalem, the Greek widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. They sought the help of the leaders in the church but they didn’t feel right about giving up their time of prayer and the study of God’s Word to oversee this administrative task.
The apostles called together the church body and said, “It is not [good] that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables” (Acts 6:2). As a result, seven men of “good report” were appointed to handle all the church’s business affairs. In the meantime, the apostles pledged, “We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (6:4). This arrangement resulted in the word of God increasing and the number of disciples multiplying (see 6:7).
Very few pastors today make this kind of sacrifice. A minister once looked me in the eye and said, “There are so many demands on my time that I simply don’t have time to pray.” Another pastor confessed to me, “I haven’t prayed in months. I meditate and have quick devotions occasionally but I can’t bring myself into the discipline of prayer.”
I will not condemn any hardworking, devoted minister of God, but the fact is, every servant rises and falls to his own master. Many preachers today are not aware that they have become victims of a satanic conspiracy of interruptions. Some of them are constantly on the run, bogged down by an avalanche of duties and details.
I thank God we are never at the mercy of Satan or any of his devices. We can expose his tactics, speak the word of truth, and in Christ’s name stop every interruption. By the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we can clear our path to the Lord’s gates and come boldly to His throne of grace to receive help in our time of need. That is what the Lord wants for all of us!
“Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency” (Psalm 73:13).
The writer of this psalm, Asaph, was confused by his sufferings, especially when he observed the easy life of the wicked around him. He nearly slipped into a pit of unbelief, ready to accuse God of forsaking him, of being unconcerned. In fact, he almost quit the battle completely.
This godly man must have thought, “I’ve been living right and enduring hardships all this time for nothing. All my diligence has been in vain. I’ve been faithful to praise Him and study His Word and these plagues and sorrows make no sense. What’s the use of going on?”
Beloved, when calamities fall and trials come upon you, you must be very careful. When you are grieving, you need to guard your heart against slipping.
If you are not personally in Asaph’s condition, you may know someone who is. Perhaps a relative or a friend or a church member is having great trouble. When you observe that righteous person’s suffering, you ask, “Why, God? How could You allow this to happen?”
Asaph went to the temple and prayed. Likewise, when your time of grief or suffering comes, you must go to your secret place of prayer. Get alone with God and cry out your heart to Him. He will understand.
The Holy Spirit spoke to Asaph, “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction” (verse 18). Asaph realized, “I’m not the one who is slipping, it’s the wicked who are slipping straight into destruction.”
When Asaph began to see the whole picture, he rejoiced: “God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever” (verse 26). He could say, “Yes, my strength is failing and I’m enduring a great battle but I’m not alone in my struggles. I have a loving Father in heaven who watches over me!”
“Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, were lost” (1 Samuel 9:3).
In the Word of God, stories of lost items signify the Father’s heart for the lost. God wants His people to be willing to go out and rescue what is lost, and we see that happening in this story.
Saul’s father said to him, “‘Take one of the young men with you, and arise, go and look for the donkeys.’ And he passed through the hill country of Ephraim” (verses 3 and 4). Traipsing up and down the hills of Ephraim was a hard way to start but Saul was committed to completing the mission his father had given him.
Indeed, Saul went all over the hill country, searching in various territories, but still he did not find the donkeys. He must have started feeling kind of hopeless, but he pressed on because he was determined to remain obedient to his father’s command.
Finally, Saul said to his servant, “Come, let us go back, lest my father cease to care about the donkeys and become anxious about us” (verse 5).
Saul was actually conceding defeat, explaining, “We did our best. I thought we could be successful but we can’t, so we have to accept it and go on.”
For some, stepping out in faith is part of a larger commitment to obey at any cost. For others, apprehension over following through is really a fear of failure. In other words, those people do not engage in what God has called them to because they are afraid they may not succeed.
It is important for you to understand that when God calls you to something, He is not always calling you to succeed, He is calling you to obey!
The obedience to the call is up to you — the success of the call is up to Him!
Over the past few years God has given me a vision of the future. He has shown me a time when the Holy Spirit will move into the quietness of the night and stir up our children as never before. They will be like the young boy Samuel in the Bible who ran to the priest Eli because he didn’t know whose voice was speaking to him in the night (see 1 Samuel 3). I have seen how these children will run frightened into their parents’ bedroom at night, not realizing that God Himself is speaking to them.
God is calling our children to make a difference. He knows that many of their parents have not fully surrendered their lives, their time, and their energy — their hands and feet and minds and hearts — to His control, so He is calling the children of our time to fill the gap.
My message to the parents of these precious children is this: Do not stop them! It is God Himself calling them. It is His fire, His Holy Spirit preparing the way for the greatest transformation ever to take place in the world.
So many young people are restless, tired of going to church where everything is the same routine. They want to see the Holy Spirit in action. They want to experience all of Jesus now!
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions” (Acts 2:17).
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.
First, dive into God’s Word, lay hold of your special promise, take it into the secret place of prayer, and hold God to it. I have favorite promises from the Bible that I hold up to God whenever I cry out to Him.
“What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:9-11).
Ask the Lord for good things. He is waiting to give them to you! And ask Him to take away all your shame and remove the stain of sin. He longs to do it for you.
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Take this promise to God daily, saying, “Father, You said You would do more than I ask so today I am asking You to answer my prayer abundantly.” God is pleased by such faith.
Second, trust the Holy Spirit, who abides in you. God does not have to send an angel to speak to you; you already have His resources within you — the Holy Spirit Himself! Acknowledge His presence and say to Him, “Holy Spirit, You know the way out of this mess and I don’t. Right now I give You direction of my life. You know the very mind of God.”
Beloved, if you make this simple confession, you will know times of refreshing from the Lord. Even when you are ready to give up, He remains faithful to deliver you.
Are you being pressed on all sides and tested beyond your endurance? Is your strength nearly gone, leaving you on the brink of giving up? If this is the case, what is your way to victory? I can tell you how God continues to bring me out.
First, do not think you are experiencing some strange, unique battle. On the contrary! You are in good company. Remember Job, Jeremiah, Elijah, David, Paul? What you are going through has been common to believers throughout the centuries.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
Second, when you think you cannot go another step or endure another hour, with all that is in you cry out to God, “Lord, help!” Then consider the counsel of the psalmist:
“I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice. He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me” (Psalm 55:16-18).
“I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. . . . In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears” (Psalm 18:3, 6).
“O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me” (Psalm 30:2).
And here is a key verse: “For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper” (Psalm 72:12).
Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be your helper and He will not turn a deaf ear to your cry for help!
“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24).
Beloved, you are not building upon the rock if you need a preacher to thunder at you to obey God. Or if you need a set of rules laid out for you. You don’t need a rule book, you need a passionate love for Jesus.
The more you love Jesus, the easier it is to serve and obey Him. When your heart is enraptured with Jesus, you won’t have to constantly go before Him, crying, “God, break the power of the devil over me.” No, those chains will begin to fall off as you get to know His heart, and obeying Him will become second nature to you.
If you are in love with Jesus, I have several questions for you:
How can you go through the day without spending time in His Word?
How can you not yearn to get alone with Him in prayer?
How can you not praise and worship Him?
How can you not seek to learn what pleases Him?
Jesus tells us, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). What an incredible promise!
Search the gospels and get to know Jesus’ words. Begin with the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 and read through chapter 7. And then as you learn His words, do them! God’s commandments are not grievous or burdensome. On the contrary, obeying them becomes easier the more you grow to love Him.
As you build your house upon the rock, you will be able to stand unafraid when the storm comes. Nothing will move you — because you are walking in loving obedience to the Father.