The testimony of the victories of others should move us to make a decision for Christ. We need to cast aside the weights that burden us down. In order to do that, you should ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in identifying those weights. He can also lead you to recognize the sin that besets you. Besetting sins are those that crowd around you or maybe better stated as it is the sin that is at every point around you and everywhere you turn. Not only is the sin present, it goes well for it or it has its way. It is the temptation that is at all points around you and it consistently causes you to fall.
Once you have cast off the weight and sin, you can run the race. Races are never easy and neither is this one. Opposition will face you, but you will need to face it with patience or as some may define it as cheerful endurance. How can you run such a race? Shouldn’t races be tiring and taxing to the body? They should, but God‘s plan is different. The response of many may be that they cannot run this race or they do not have the strength to succeed and they will be correct. The secret for victory in running the race will not be found in you. It can only be found in the Lord and in order to get it, we must look to him. Looking to Jesus is not just assenting to him, but instead it is attentively fixing your eyes upon him. Make the decision of looking and focusing on Jesus to gain his strength for your race.
Have you ever made a decision of faith, but then never follow through with the action of it? Maybe you sat in church, listened to a sermon and made a prayerful decision that never came to fulfillment. Possibly in devotions, the Lord impressed upon your heart as you read the scriptures and spent quiet time with him and you never moved beyond that. Why? Was your decision insincere? Was it simply an emotional decision and not a truly faith one? If it was real, why didn’t it happen?
After eating the Passover meal, the Lord revealed to his disciples that he would be smitten and they would be scattered. Peter responded that he would not be offended in him and that he would rather die than deny Christ. You probably know the outcome that he denied Christ three times and then wept bitterly. He had faith and failed terribly.
Why did it happen? We know the type of relationship that Peter had with the Lord and we also know the greatness of his faith by walking on water with Jesus and also bring the first to proclaim that he believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. But with all that faith, why did he fail?
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus being full of heaviness in heart and mind, petitioned Peter, James and John to pray with him. When he returned to them sometime later, he found them asleep. He questioned them as to why they could not pray with him and then admonished them by saying, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Peter, whether he knew it or not, was in a battle. Events were going to transpire that would keep him from standing strong in his faith. Jesus provided to him exactly what he needed in order to be victorious and that was prayer. Peter, great in faith, had a spirit which was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, but in order to carry out the actions of his faith, he would need his body and its faculties to cooperate with him at standing strong and speaking out loud his faith to Jesus’ captors and those he would meet over the next 18 hours and beyond. For that to occur, he would need to pray. It wouldn’t be some short mumbling of words, but instead a battling place where he would petition God for his grace, strength and courage. Had he done that, the outcome would have been different and Jesus would have never made the statement about his denial.
Our lives are no different than Peter’s. We have faith and in our hearts we make determinations and proclamations concerning that faith. However, decisions are not enough. As we face the constant battle with the world, the flesh and the Devil with his aids, we need to spend time in prayer with God. The flesh never wants what is spiritual. As we pray, we are strengthened in the inner man. Our spirit and soul are in harmony with the leading of God’s Holy Spirit. The stronger the inner man becomes, the weaker the flesh is. Prayer or spending time communicating with God and fasting, which is a denial of the body and flesh of what it wants, will strengthen the inner man and weaken the flesh. Remember, it is prayer that enables you to fulfill your decisions of faith.
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41)
When you make a decision of faith, don’t just stop there. Create check points throughout the day for you to stop, seek God’s face and ask him to provide his strength to you. The greater the faith decision, the more prayer will be needed. You may need to petition others to pray with you just as Jesus petitioned Peter, James and John. The battle you face is important and you can be victorious because the Lord would not have impressed upon you to make that faith decision if you could not do it.
It is not terrible people who make faith decisions and then fail to follow through with them. It is people, who lack strength, who fail to live up to their faith. Prayer is what you need so that you can actualize your faith. Have faith and remember, you must pray.
What is giving to God? Think about it, you cannot give anything to him because he already owns everything. Giving isn’t a yielding, because he can take it anytime that he wants. So what is giving to God.
Giving stems from a desire and that desire should be to express how you feel towards someone. When we give to God, we express how we feel towards him. The Psalmist writes that the emotion behind his giving is thankfulness.
Offer unto God thanksgiving… ( Psalm 50:14)
A thankful heart is what God wants. Gifts to God result from thankfulness. These gifts aren’t given out of coercion, responsibility or even guilt. They come from hearts that recognize what God has done for them and are mere expressions of that thankfulness.
As I look back, I can see many occasions when my gift to God was nothing more than the relinquishing of my possessions to him. I guess I’ll see those items as wood, hay and stubble at the bema seat, but there were many times when along with the possession, I gave to God a heart overflowing with thankfulness.
To correct my errors, I have decided to check my heart before each offering to God and make sure that I am expressing gratitude instead of obedience or any other attitude. Secondly, I will guard my heart for complaining and instead ask God to help me recognize his plan so that I can be yielded and thankful for his sovereignty and provision.
When people forget about you and your needs, it is a hurtful experience. It conveys the absence of love and concern. There are times in our lives when we face trials and difficulties and it appears as if God has forgotten us. We pray and ask for deliverance, but nothing happens. Has God forgotten us?
…he forgetteth not the cry of the humble. (Psalm 9:12)
God has not forgotten you. His love and concern has not been set aside and your life and its concerns have not been mislaid or lost. God has heard your cry, he knows the problems that you face and the heaviness in your heart that you carry because of it.
So, why doesn’t he answer? Why doesn’t he deliver? But he has and he will. God has heard your prayers and is providing the grace that you need. Many of learn the grace and truth go hand-in-hand. It seems that you cannot have the one without the other. God I want you exposed to truth concerning him and buy the truth he will be able to exercise grace in your life. Paul experienced this and wrote about it. God’s grace was sufficient for him because of his reliance on the truth of the power of Christ.
Until your actual deliverance comes, expose yourself to the word of God: read it, listen to the testimony of others, attend church services and listen to the preaching of God‘s word and God will begin working his grace in your life.
How long must you rely on this grace until the deliverance comes cannot be known. Remember as God works in the details of your life, he is also working in the lives of others. He wants to use grace in your life to shine as a light to the lost. He also may be working in the lives of others to bring them to repentance before he moves his hand in judgment or chastening. Until then, you must wait on him. Thankfully because of his grace, you will be able to endure.
Protect yourself! You hear it all the time. Protect your identity, protect your vehicle, protect your home, get a flu shot. But do you hear anybody talk about protecting your heart from being caught in a snare?
Jesus spoke of this in Luke 17. He tells his disciples that offenses will come. When he spoke of offenses, he was referring to situations that would cause them to stumble or fall. Offenses are traps or snares that take our hearts captive. Much like the branch of a tree is pulled down and attached to a rope so that it can snare rabbits or other small animals.
Each of us could become ensnared and one major way for that to occur would be by refusing to forgive. Right after Jesus’ warning of offenses (snares), he talks about the brother sinning against them and then repenting: not only once, but even seven times in a day. His advice or counsel was for them to forgive each time.
Refusing to forgive can lead to anxiety, anger, depression and a host of physical elements. It would be wise for us to forgive and by doing so, we are not setting the offender free: we really are freeing ourselves.
Forgiveness is not explaining away the offense or allowing the person to be free from the consequences of their wrong. It is simply freeing them from owing you anything.
I remember a conference speaker referring to a situation when he was the principal of the school. He explained how a student brought a firearm to school. When he was caught, he was very sorry and in tears asked the principal for forgiveness. The principal told the boy that he forgave him, but that he could not speak for the law which he also offended. With that, he picked up the phone and called the police. When we forgive, we are acting in the same manner: forgiving them of a debt owed to us, but still having them answer to God concerning their offense against him.
Outside of being persecuted for Christ, you are not required to be a doormat and allow people to wound and hurt you. But you are required to forgive. Remember, when you forgive, the person you freeing is yourself.
If the Lord gave you what you really deserved, would you be ready for it? Would you look forward to it with joy or does the thought frighten you? What we fail to recognize is that it is not just a hypothetical question.
The Lord render to every man his righteousness and his faithfulness: (1 Samuel 26:23)
These were words spoken by David when he interacted with King Saul who sought to kill him. He knew that God was sovereign and would return upon men that which they have rendered to others. The same still holds true today. The New Testament describes the principle as sowing and reaping. What you sow, you will also reap. It may take some time before it arrives, but it is coming. Just like it takes all summer for apples to grow and ripen on a tree, it may take most of a person’s life before they reap what they sow, but be sure, they will reap.
Much of this principle concerning sowing and reaping is in relation to how we treat other people. If we sow righteousness towards others, then we will get righteous treatment back, but if we sow wickedness then wickedness awaits us.
Some may ask, “What guideline could I follow that would aid me in sowing righteousness?” The answer would be to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39). If you allow your actions to be motivated by what is best for another person or make decisions that enable you to meet the needs of someone else instead of focusing on yourself, you will most consistently sow righteousness. This doesn’t require you to give all of your money to the poor or even to live a dejected life. It only requires you to start focusing on others instead of yourself. Give somebody recognition. Show patience and mercy, try looking at situations from the other person’s perspective or even take time to listen to people and their problems are opportunities that each of us have to sow righteousness. It will not cost you one penny, but it will be an investment worth millions of dollars.
For you, the world of people is a field ready for planting. What kind of seeds will you sow?
To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: (Colossians 1:2a)
What is it to be faithful in Christ? Is it to abide by a doctrine of beliefs? Do I need to continually learn doctrine and make sure that my beliefs are correct? Doctrine is important, but looking back over my life, I can say that such a task has been a life-long endeavor. Doctrine may be important, but it does not make us faithful.
Is being faithful in Christ a matter of living a certain way or up to a certain code of behavior? We would all agree that God hates sin and that any aspect of sin in the life of a believer is besetting. But at what point of living would a person be considered as faithful? How much sin is allowed or how many times can a person fall before they are considered as unfaithful? If this were the standard for faithfulness, then nobody would be faithful, because everyone is still a sinner and falls short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
So, what is it to be faithful? The word faithful comes from the Greek word pistos which means faith or believe. To be faithful could be stated as to be believing. Those who are faithful in Christ are those who continue to believe in God and his testimony to men.
When the trial comes, they believe in the goodness of God. When they face great need, they believe that God will provide for them as he provides for the birds in the air. (Matthew 6:26). When loved ones die, they believe in look for his comfort. When they have been sinned against, they believe in God’s solution and forgive passing all vengeance to God. The faithful in Christ are those who exercise faith as they face situations in life. Never is it easy, but with Christ in us who is greater than all that is in the world, it always is possible.
To accomplish this, the step is simple: abide in the vine. What is abiding? It is to continue, to tarry, to stay, or to remain with Jesus. It is turning your heart and affection towards him. Jesus commended Mary as she demonstrated this important aspect of the believer’s life. To be faithful, you will need to sit at the feet of Jesus and have a love relationship with him. The earlier mentioned incorrect views were part of a duty relationship to Christ. Those you cannot always perform. God is more concerned with our hearts because when the heart is right, everything else will fall into place.
I don’t understand why God has allowed this to happen. It does not make any sense. It’s useless. Have you heard these terms before? Have you said these or similar words? One of my favorite songs that we sang in the nursing home ministry back in the early 80’s was Someday, He’ll Make It Plain To Me. There are some situations in life that we will not be able to understand until we get to the other side in glory, but there are many times that we will be able to make sense of events that do not seem to make sense. How we can gain this ability is found in Proverbs chapter two.
Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.
There is a blessing to be received for memorizing scripture, but as with all spiritual blessings it is dependent on the condition of the heart and not the action performed. When I was the principal of a Christian school, we had children memorize a portion of scripture each month. It was a mandatory obligation for which many waited until the end of the month to achieve. For those who did the task out of obligation, I believe that they received little or no benefit from the task because Proverbs 2:1-2 indicates that those receiving and hiding the word of God as a treasure are doing so in the hope of gaining wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Scripture memory out for obligation purposes falls short of this.
God later promises to those, whose hearts are crying out or seeking him as a hid treasure, that they will gain and find what they seek and also gain protection from God. It is after this that God shares that the result of receiving God’s word as a treasure will bring an understanding of every good path. From this we can be confident that if there is a way to know and understand God’s ways, it is through hiding God’s word in the heart of a person truly seeking him.
The enemy of hope is pride. It is a proud heart that raises itself up in trying to deal with matters too lofty for itself. It is a proud heart that refuses to adjust its behavior to what The Lord wants. As a dependent child submits himself to his nurturing mother, a prideful heart will not stand in awe before God and submit itself to him and his plan. A prideful heart cannot and will not wait on The Lord.
Trouble waiting on the Lord reveals a prideful heart that wants to take over. As anxiety builds, so is pride. A person resists submitting to God because they have already submitted to their own pride.
Pride still comes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18). Pride is not confined to the act of looking down at others. It is the attitude that people have after their hearts have been deceived into thinking that they can handle matters greater than their ability. Whether it be sin, raising children, managing finances, work, or any other area of life makes no difference. Pride moves man into the driver’s seat of his life and as long as he remains there, he will not experience hope.
Man does not need to do anything to get hope. He simply needs to remove himself and his prideful heart from the plan. When he does, The Lord takes over and with him comes hope.
Make sure that you wait and wait. Yes, wait and wait! For the Christian there are two aspects of waiting in his life. Regardless of how difficult life may become, The Lord wants you to wait and wait.
I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. (Psalm 130:5)
One aspect of waiting is found in the word hope. Hope is not something that a person desires or hopes will possibly one day happen. Hope is the expectancy of what we know will happen and is yet to come. We have the hope of casting off our mortality and putting on immortality. We have the hope of the Lord’s return, heaven, seeing The Lord, ruling and reigning with him, the wiping away of all tears and countless other promises in Scripture. These things will take place as promised, but until then, we need to patiently endure. When we patiently endure, we are hoping.
Another aspect of waiting is found in the term “wait”. To wait comes from the word that means “to bind together” or “to collect”. By waiting, a believer holds himself back from anxiously trying to solve the problems in life and allows The Lord to handle them. Philippians states it as, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” In today’s terms we could say to those trying to deliver themselves from the struggles of life, “Get a hold of yourself!” A famous addictions recovery program has captured the phrase, “Let go and let God.” What these phrases have in common is that an individual needs to stop trying and wait on God.
Ask yourself, “am I holding myself back from trying to deliver myself? Am I anxiously trying to bring about answers to my own prayers? Am I accomplishing God’s will in my own power or by my own efforts? If so, you need to WAIT for what God has determined to be your hope and WAIT on God by getting ahold of yourself and stop seeking deliverance by your flesh.