Faith Needs Prayer (Matthew 26:35-41)

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.

Three Sources for Forgiveness

Each of us have experienced wounds in our lives, which were caused by other people. Sometimes these actions were accidental and other times they were purposeful acts driven by the wicked sin nature that resides in everyone.

Freedom from these wounds can only occur through forgiveness. Forgiveness is not based on the works that a person does so as to earn it. Otherwise it would not be forgiveness, but instead the payment of debt that was met. Forgiveness means to send, to leave or to put away. When a person forgives, they are breaking the tie between themselves and the person who sinned against them. In other words, they are leaving it or letting it go.

What gives a person the ability to forgive or release someone from a debt against them? There are three sources: the source of pain, the source of mercy and the source of one’s love for God.

Countless people have been hurt by someone and after carrying the burden of hurt for so long, finally decided to forgive the offender and let the issue go from their lives. This decision resulted from their pain. It was not caused by faith or any virtue, but merely from pain and the desire to be free from the source of it.

The two other sources for forgiveness are the spiritual virtues of mercy and love. It is by these virtues that the Psalmist petitions God for forgiveness. (Psalm 51:1) Forgiving out of mercy comes from recognizing the struggle of the offender and reaching out to them in forgiveness because of it. The forgiveness is not condoning the wrong, but recognizes the person’s fallen state and releases them from personal debt because of it. Those forgiving out of the source of mercy have insight into the needs of the offender and are moved to meet that need. This type of forgiveness occurs most often among friends, family and spouses, but will also be manifested towards others by individuals filled with the Holy Spirit’s power.

The final source of power for forgiving is love for God. The pain a person has may continue to hurt and never get to the point where it moves them to forgive, let go or move on and they may never develop the insight necessary to forgive in mercy. These occasions require another motive or source for forgiving and this source is love or specifically love for God.

God, in his tender mercy, has forgiven us. It was his love that moved him to create, implement and submit to his plan for redemption. Although it would be extremely difficult and very rare for a person to forgive because they love their offender, it is possible to access this great motivation to forgive someone who has been wounded greatly. Since the greatest of qualities that a person can have is love, the same love can move a person to forgive. The difference is that the focus of love is on God and not the offender. Love for God will create a desire to be in his will, an obedience to his leading, a yielding for him to receive glory, and a submission of faith. A heart in this condition can forgive because the focus is not on the event or the offender, but on God. When they forgive, they are putting the care of the matter into the hands of a righteous and just God and are able to let go and finally leave the matter behind them. However, this love can only come about by abiding in God. When we abide in him, we as a branch tap into the vine of his strength and enable it to produce the love that can move someone who has struggled for years to finally forgive.

Forgiveness is never easy, but God has provided all that we need in order the be victorious and conquerors in life. (1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 8:37)

Waiting on the Lord (Psalm 40:1)

It is important to wait patiently before the Lord. When you do, you are performing three important acts.

When you wait on the Lord, you knowledge him as your sovereign Lord. By that, you recognize that he is in complete control of all events that take place and regardless of how they appear, you believe he will use them for good and his glory.

When you wait on the Lord, you are exercising your faith and when I say exercise, I mean exercise. Each time that you place your faith in the Lord, you are strengthening it and also developing the closeness of your relationship with him. Your relationship with God is what gives your faith strength. This comes from his word (Romans 10:17) and also his joy (Nehemiah 8:10).

When you wait on the Lord, you are relying on his love. God is love and everything that he does for you or allows to happen is motivated by that love. When we cannot understand or see the workings of his love in his actions, it is then that our faith must moves us to wait on the Lord.

Waiting on the Lord will always bring his results. When we fail to wait on him, we act on our own independently of God. These actions are works of the flesh motivated by the emotions that we experienced in the trial.

So instead of allowing your emotions to drive you to disobedience, instead allow God’s working through your faith to lead you to rely on him who on countless times has guided, comforted, carried and loved you. He did not fail you then and he will not fail you now.

Brace Yourself!

Brace yourself! This is the phrase that we use to prepare ourselves for some impending negative event. It may be physically holding on to something in preparation for jolting or even a collision. It could even relate to preparing yourself for news that may move you emotionally.

As bracing yourself may seem to work in the physical world, it does not work in the spiritual. However, what will work is if the Lord braces you.

1 The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee;

2 Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion; (Psalm 20:1-2)

In this time of distress for David, he is looking for the Lord to send him help and strength. The strength he is seeking is comfort and to be held up. Another meaning for the word strength would be to brace. David is not bracing himself for the trial that he faces, but he is asking the Lord to brace him.

When I think of the Lord bracing us for trials, I picture a parent with a child. Imagine a small child in the arms of a father as they face a frightening experience like a thunderstorm. With each flash and bang of the storm, the child buries their head in the father’s chest as the father tightly braces the child. The father’s embrace may not be able to stop the storm, but it does bring security and strength to the child.

As we face the storms of life, God wants to brace us for them. He may not choose to remove the storm, but with his tender embrace, he will provide us the comfort and strength that we need.

Thankfully his loving embrace in these times is based on his mercy and grace. Because of this, we can always count on the father to be there for us. As you face storms in life, bury your head into the chest of your heavenly father and experience his strong loving embrace.

Brace Yourself!

Brace yourself! This is the phrase that we use to prepare ourselves for some impending negative event. It may be physically holding on to something in preparation for jolting or even a collision. It could even relate to preparing yourself for news that may move you emotionally.

As bracing yourself may seem to work in the physical world, it does not work in the spiritual. However, what will work is if the Lord braces you.

1 The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee;

2 Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion; (Psalm 20:1-2)

In this time of distress for David, he is looking for the Lord to send him help and strength. The strength he is seeking is comfort and to be held up. Another meaning for the word strength would be to brace. David is not bracing himself for the trial that he faces, but he is asking the Lord to brace him.

When I think of the Lord bracing us for trials, I picture a parent with a child. Imagine a small child in the arms of a father as they face a frightening experience like a thunderstorm. With each flash and bang of the storm, the child buries their head in the father’s chest as the father tightly braces the child. The father’s embrace may not be able to stop the storm, but it does bring security and strength to the child.

As we face the storms of life, God wants to brace us for them. He may not choose to remove the storm, but with his tender embrace, he will provide us the comfort and strength that we need.

Thankfully his loving embrace in these times is based on his mercy and grace. Because of this, we can always count on the father to be there for us. As you face storms in life, bury your head into the chest of your heavenly father and experience his strong loving embrace.

When You Just Can’t Go On

Sometime back when I worked in the steel mill, I was a part of a crew of men that worked on changing the motor of a large crane. The work took place over the 200 foot tempering furnace, which created an extremely hard-working environment. The crew worked in 15 minute intervals because of the fatigue caused by the heat and after short periods of rest, we were refreshed, renewed in strength and ready to go again.

Life can have a fatiguing effect on our hearts, just as the heat did on our bodies in the steel mill. The effect is not so much the heat of the day, but the wearing away upon the heart by life‘s struggles. Health, financial, domestic and work issues can bear upon the heart of man causing him to stoop and even fall. But God has promised to be with us, provide comfort to our hearts and the strength that we need.

He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength (Isaiah 40:29)

The power that we need is not in us nor does God couple his power with ours so that the total is enough for us to endure. We must remember that he is our strength. (Psalm 46:1; 81:1)

As long as we continue trying to rise above life and the burdens that it bears upon us, we will continually fall which leads to greater anguish in the soul. But when we rest in him, we gain his strength. Resting in him does not mean a time of leisurely repose for the recovering of strength, but more like how God rested from his work of creation on the seventh day. He was not tired from his labor: his resting was him ceasing from work.

When we rest in Jesus, we cease from our own work—whether physical or soulish— and allow him to do his work in and through us. We give up our strength so that we may gain his strength.

So instead of trying harder to overcome, give up and then look to God so that he may do in you what you are unable to do.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalms 46:1)

Sing aloud unto God our strength: (Psalm 81:1)

Protect Yourself !!!

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.