We love the open invitation of Jesus to “Ask and it shall be given unto you” found in the sermon on the mount. In the same way, I am moved to persistent hope given by Jesus when he taught that men ought to always pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:10) Even David said he would have despaired if he had not believed that he would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Yet is there a time when we should stop praying for something? Is there a time when our desires are clearly on a collision course with God’s revealed will and what we need to recognize is what Solomon said “There is a time to give up as lost”? Ecc 3:6
The answer simply is YES!
Surrendering to the undesired will of God may come as a crushing heartbreak of a young man or woman who watches the love of their life walk down the aisle with someone else. Or it may come through the painful perception that God has chosen not to heal you or someone you love of a life threatening disease.
There are a myriad of ways that God can simply whisper “Enough my child” to our persistent passionate plea for answered prayer or renewed hope.
Consider the following example from the life of Moses…
“I also pleaded with the Lord at that time, saying, ‘O Lord God, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as Yours? ‘Let me, I pray, cross over and see the fair land that is beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’ “But the Lord was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me; and the Lord said to me, ‘Enough! Speak to Me no more of this matter.” Dt 3:23-26
Even someone as close to the Lord as Moses still was told “No” by God when it came to his desire to cross over the Jordan and see the promised land of Canaan.
Then I realize when God says “No” to us we are actually in pretty good company.
The Lord also said “No” to David when he asked that God heal his infant son 2 Samuel 12:16)
And again God said “No” when David asked to build God a temple. (1 Chronicles 17:4)
The Lord said “No” To Paul when he wished to be healed of his thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:8-9)
The Father even said “No” To Jesus when in the garden he asked if there was any other way than Calvary’s cross (Matt 26:42).
The bottom line isn’t will God say “No” to you. No matter how long you have walked with Him, love Him or seek to reflect Him. There are “Nos” in your future. The question is what do you do when He says it to you? Do you become angry? Do you walk away from the Lord in depression?
A pastor and his wife had one child. Their boy had become ill and the couple and their church family had begun to pray earnestly for the Lord’s healing in their precious son’s life. The man of God was sure God would heal his child. Many caring believers from church stopped in to encourage them to keep believing that God would intervene. Several even assured them that they were confident of God’s plan to heal their sick child.
Yet, the boy became worse and worse until it became very apparent he had only hours to live. The father went into the boy’s room and prayed at his bedside as he lay agonizing in fevered pain. Finally, the father walked out of his boy’s room. He saw his wife in the dimly lit hallway with tears streaming down her cheeks. The man said to his wife “Dear, we are not going to let God take our son…” Then he paused. Then through his own tears he finished, “We are going to give him to Him instead.”
Your greatest act of worship may actually be what you do when God say “No.”
As the world is reeling in the tragic loss of life in Paris, we pray for comfort for the families of the deceased, healing for the wounded and peace and security for a nation suddenly in the grip of suicidal terrorists within their own borders.
It is an unpopular idea that tragedies and acts of savage aggression are appropriate times to call people to repentance. This is seen as insensitive to those who are suffering and as a naïve perspective on both the causes of such evil acts as well as their remedy.
Yet, as we approach Thanksgiving, we should be reminded of another Presidential Proclamation made by Abraham Lincoln just a few months prior to establishing this national holiday. In March of 1863, Lincoln called a divided, war-torn nation to a day of prayer and fasting. In that proclamation, there is a bold profession of faith in God and the holy scriptures. Then within the proclamation there is a clear connection made between the sins of our nation and the ongoing Civil War tragedy itself.
Here are some choice excerpts:
• “Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations…”
• “…whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”
• “…insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People?”
What our national sin may be is actually then laid out in black and white by the President of the United States:
• “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”
Prideful, prayerlessness and ingratitude in response to God’s gracious blessings is pointed to as the possible root cause of the Civil War itself. Then a call is given to the nation to stop what they are doing, go to church, and fast and pray for forgiveness and healing of a broken nation.
• “It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness… All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.”
Two years later the Civil War ended, peace was secured and the nation began to heal.
Is it too simplistic to believe the war on terrorism will be won on our knees or not at all?
Jesus was asked in his day about an incident that was stealing the current headlines:
“Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:1-3
The mistake of those in Christ’s day was in looking to blame the victims for the evil acts of the perpetrator and interpreting their suffering as evidence divine personal judgment. Jesus says that the “take away message” from such a terrorist act (or any calamity for the matter see Lk 13:4-5) isn’t to focus on the guilt of the victims particularly but to realize our urgent need for repentance personally.
“Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
In other words, acts of savage terrorism that produce universal shock should be taken as a “wake up call” to humble ourselves spiritually as individuals and ask God to forgive us.
May God help each of us hear God’s“alarm clock” and refuse to hit the snooze button yet again!
He was just a lad and he was tired. As he lay in bed ready to fall asleep, he heard it for the first time. It sounded like his master, Eli calling him. “Samuel!” the voice called. Samuel got out of bed and ran to where Eli was. “Yes master, you called?” Eli said “I didn’t call you, go back to bed.” After this happened twice again, Eli, the High Priest realized God was wanting to reveal himself to the boy Samuel.
Eli told Samuel how to respond if he ever heard “the voice” calling his name again. Eli said “When you hear it say “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Indeed, that instruction was right on the money. When Samuel heard his name called later that night, he realized God was speaking to him personally. He didn’t need to ask anyone else to interpret what God was saying to him. In fact, Samuel began regularly hearing from God after this as God would reveal to him what was on God’s heart and what he wanted Samuel to speak to others.
Spiritual sensitivity isn’t something we are born with. Jesus said “That which is flesh is flesh”. We need to become spiritually aware of God’s voice and learn to discern how to receive it personally. A Good proverb to live by is “To know God’s choice, you must hear God’s voice.”
If you want to hear God speak to you more. Approach your prayer time and Bible reading time with the same approach as the boy Samuel. Ask God to speak to you personally. Perhaps even more important, make it clear to God you are listening as “a servant” and not as a spectator or even merely as a student. A servant has only one reason to listen to his master – and that is to obey.
Paul wrote if we want to discern God’s unknown will for our lives, we must present ourselves completely to God as living sacrifices first (Rom 12:1-2). Consecration precedes revelation.
So then, my brothers and sisters, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Rom 12:1-2
It didn’t have a steeple, a cross, or a pastor for that matter. No opening song, offering or sermon. It was the smallest church I ever attended! In fact, we didn’t even realize we were in church!
The two of them walked down that dusty road on their way to that town on purpose for some unknown reason. This day, it certainly would not be about the destination, it would be all about the journey. As they walked, they talked. There was nothing special about their conversation that day either, at least not until “He” joined them. They didn’t recognize Him as He began to walk with them. He appeared to be just another traveler on their road that day. They simply walked on and talked.
The conversation turned to what had occurred recently in town. These were facts the two friends were surprised the stranger seemed completely ignorant of. They admitted they had believed Jesus of Nazareth was the long awaited Messiah. That is, until the Romans had crucified him last week. Now they were just discouraged and heartbroken.
The Stranger told the two that they were not believing all that was written concerning the Messiah in their Bibles. He said, the Messiah was predicted to come and die and only then, to enter His glory. This kind Teacher then opened their minds to the Scriptures as He led them through passages they had read but never fully understood before. It was all there! How had they missed it?
As they arrived at the fork leading to their destination, the wise Stranger appeared to be going further. They begged Him to stay with them because it was so late in the day. He agreed. As they sat to break bread, their Guest, took the bread and broke it in order to give it to them. As He did, they suddenly recognized the Christ they had been discussing theoretically was actually right there with them personally. Then suddenly, He vanished!
Jesus had said “Where two or more are gathered in my Name, there am I in their midst.”
Now, It may have happened as you spoke of Him with your spouse at the breakfast table, or discussed what heaven will be like with your grandchild. It could have happened when you paused to thank God for an evening out with friends while you all were still in the car or any of a myriad of other times and places.
The “where”we are, Jesus made clear, is the utterly unimportant. The “how” we are, where we are, is the all important. Gathering “in His Name” invites the presence of the invisible Savior to manifest Himself to everyone present. In fact, It’s more than an invitation, it’s His solemn declaration: “There I Am, In your midst.”
A little boy wrote his letter to God. It was brief and to the point. “Dear God, I went to church last Sunday. It was okay, but it would have been better if you had been there!”
You see, gathering in His Name can happen any “where” we are or it can fail to happen “everywhere” we are!.
Enough said. I think we now know what to do.
In the book of Numbers the very first thing we read is that God ordered a census of the fighting men of Israel. Now mind you, these men had been slaves in Egypt and although they were now “saved” they had not engaged in much warfare.
There is a clear intention on God’s part that every man see himself as a soldier and one who is ready to fight the enemy on behalf of himself, his family and all of God’s people.
Among all of God’s people, God “counts” each one who is “able to go out to war”. That phrase is used 14 times in the chapter. Are you one that God would recognize as able to enter the spiritual conflict and fight? Each family of God’s people were represented by someone that could and would fight! It appears nearly all the men of every tribe were involved.
1. They were mature (over 20 years old). These were not children and no one was forcing them to battle. So too we must be spiritually mature to engage the enemy successfully! The mature see the need of spiritual battle and are the “young men” to whom John writes “You are strong, you have the Word of God abiding in you and you have overcome the wicked one”. 1 John 2:14
2. They were able to fight – so then, they were not injured, sick or disabled. We must be spiritually healthy, and willing and able to enter the battle and engage our enemy. Paul wrote “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”Eph 6:12
3. They understood they would be fighting for more than merely themselves. Their battle was not merely their own. They fought for their families and all of God’s people. That means we do more than pray about our own problems and provision. We intercede for our families and all the brethren. Once suited up with the armor you need to know what to do next: “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” Eph 6:18
E.M. Bounds wrote “Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still.”
Can we count on you to get into the fight? Lord, count me in!”
One of the characteristics of the ministry of Jesus was spiritual authority.
“He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes” (Mat 7:29)
This same Jesus quality was seen in the apostles as they stood for the Lord.
“Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” (Ac 4:13).
Read the following text:
27 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. 29 It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. 30 So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers in the congregation returned to him; and Moses spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the sons of Israel came near, and he commanded them to do everything that the LORD had spoken to him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, 35 the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him. (Exodus 34:27-35)
Notice Moses becomes the mouthpiece of God to the nation of Israel. He speaks with divine authority. However, this is the result of his first having first spent time in God’s presence significantly, receiving God’s Word personally and spending time speaking with the Lord intimately.
Spiritual authority always flows out of spiritual intimacy. There simply are no shortcuts, or workarounds.
Then, the spiritual intimacy must be refreshed on a regular basis for the glow to continue. Like those glow sticks that must be recharged by exposure to a light, so we must go regularly before the One who is Himself Light and allow Him to renew and increase our ability to reflect Him and to shine Him to others.