Author: Bro. Jess Cortez

Time Is Of The Essence, Share The Gospel

Time Is Of The Essence, Share The Gospel

Bible Verse: Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.

Reflection and Challenge

Every second that passes is a second that is gone forever. The Scripture teaches us to use our time wisely by making the best out of it. It can be read in the book of Genesis that when the earth became corrupt and violent, God decided to put an end to all people by destroying it and everything in it. It will be destroyed by the great flood.

Noah was given clear instructions by God to build an ark with specific dimensions (Genesis 6:13-16). He was commanded to bring into the ark pairs of living creatures including his family so they will live with him when the floods will come. God cautioned Noah that in seven days, He will send the rain for forty days and forty nights and that all living creatures on earth will be wiped out (Genesis 7:4).

Today, every one of us is a living proof that Noah had not wasted time in building the ark. It is not explicitly written in the Bible but some scholars say it took him near or about a few years lesser than a hundred to build it and he finished it on time. More importantly, he followed God’s commandment to have the pairs of living creatures including his family settle inside the ark.

The Great Flood

Noah respected God’s time and made sure that everything was in order. Otherwise, our ancestors (i.e. Noah and his family) did not make it and not even one of us is here today. Thanks to Noah’s diligence and respect in God’s time! He made it into the ark in seven and not in eight days or so!

Jesus is coming soon! We are running out of time. It is not good enough that we are assured of our personal salvation only. Let us use whatever time is left to bring others to Jesus too. Jesus did not give us the Great Commission for nothing. Use your time wisely and share the good news of salvation! And while we are still living here on earth, we should keep in mind that tardiness is being disrespectful of other people’s time. It is a sign of selfishness. It is not what the scriptures teach us.

We are being taught to spend our time wisely. That way, we will get things done and we will get there on time! The next time you commit to getting things done within a deadline or the next time you promised to be in a place on a specific time, refuse to be late. Think about the “Great Flood” that you may be caught into if you’re late!

Why Did Jesus Weep When Lazarus Died?

Why Did Jesus Weep When Lazarus Died?

Bible Verse: John 11:35 (NLT)

“Then Jesus wept.”

Reflection and Challenge

This is known to be the shortest verse in the Bible. It can be found in the story about “The Raising of Lazarus” (John 11:1-44). From the story, one of the many amazing works that we witness is how God allows things to happen for a good reason and for the glory of His name (John 11:4).

Before leaving for Bethany, Jesus knew that Lazarus’ sickness will not end in death but He plainly told His disciples that their dear friend Lazarus is dead. This, of course, is not to contradict His own words but to later have the people know that this had happened for God to receive glory.

The siblings, Lazarus of Bethany, Mary and Martha were loved very dearly by Jesus. However, it took Jesus two days after He was informed that Lazarus was sick before setting out to see him. When Jesus arrived at Bethany, Martha and Mary told Jesus that their brother Lazarus would still be alive had He been there (John 11:21, 32).


At that time, Lazarus had been dead for 4 days already. The siblings were very close to Jesus’ heart and He had told Martha that Lazarus will rise up from the dead and that He is the resurrection and the life (John 11:23, 25).

If Jesus knew beforehand that Lazarus had died and that He can raise him back to life, why then did He weep? One reason anyone can offer could be that Jesus felt compassion over His friends’ weeping, and the mourners’ wailing over the death of Lazarus had caused Him to weep.

This seems to be the readily available reason on the shelf because Jesus’ love and compassion can never be doubted upon. However, reflecting deeply on the Scriptures, we can see that the reason why Jesus wept comes from a rather profound cause: “UNBELIEF.”

*Read more about what Jesus is like in this article: What is the Character of Christ?

Martha and Mary expressed their faith in Jesus but their weeping and the mourners’ wailing shows otherwise. Martha heard Jesus’ assurance by His own words that Lazarus will rise again (John 11:23). Mary must have known Jesus well, and yet they seemed to be not living in what they knew Jesus can do.

Why did Jesus weep? He did so, knowing that even His closest friends did not fully believe in what He can do through the Father.

In times when we face our own trials and sorrows, do we also make Jesus weep? Do we truly and fully believe in Jesus and His deity? The next time you face some fearful things in life, just remember that there is someone greater than any of these that is within us – Jesus. Don’t make Jesus weep again! Praise His holy name!

The Lord’s Mercy Is New Every Morning

The Lord’s Mercy Is New Every Morning

Bible Verse: Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

Reflection and challenge

From Wikipedia’s definition of astrology, astrologers study the movements and relative positions of celestial objects as a means of divining information about human affairs and terrestrial affairs.

That is why with their birth signs, many people check on the newspaper’s daily horoscope, hoping to see the best of their “luck” for each particular day. The stock trader is vigilant on the stock market’s daily trend so they know well on which stock to invest or sell. An aggressive journalist will always be on guard for fresh and daily current events on streets and elsewhere to make a scoop for the day.

Thank God, as His children, we need not hurdle through the likeness of what was said above to experience a daily dose of His steadfast love and mercy. More doubtless than the sun rising from the East and its setting down on the West, God’s love and mercy is always new every morning!

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

In God, there is no recycled brewed coffee. Each day is freshly brewed and delivered with love! God’s blessings come in different forms and mediums because they are craftily formed for our needs. Today’s needs may differ from yesterday’s so don’t expect to receive just the same blessing today. Each day is uniquely created.

He is an omniscient God and He knows best! Because of His inexhaustible mercy, we have been forgiven, owned and taken care of. God’s love and mercy is the reason beyond why I write this and the same reason why you are reading it right now.

So, the next time you open your eyes in the morning and feel like starting to worry about the day, let God be God in your life. His overflowing love and immeasurable mercy are always new each day.

Trust and obey!

How To Be Content In Christ

How To Be Content In Christ

Bible Verse: Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

“I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”

Reflection and Challenge

Having Jesus in our life makes us live with a victorious spirit over the difficulties that we face in our daily lives. It is all because, in God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). This is absolutely true because God dearly loves His children. And if our earthy parents will do anything for our good, our heavenly Father does perfectly best.

Many if not all, reflect on this verse (Philippians 4:13) out of its context. They often interpret it to mean accomplishing things victoriously like winning a race, graduating in class with honors or even winning the heart of someone.

They imaginary and magically transform themselves by wearing their famous superhero’s cape and win them all with this verse. Once again there is nothing wrong in positively claiming that things will get done through Jesus!

However, reflecting on the subject verse and going back to the verse that precedes it (Philippians 4:12), the apostle Paul was talking about how he learned the secret of living in every situation, on either almost nothing or with everything. That is, whether he has a full or empty stomach, little or plenty, he can do everything through Christ who gives him strength.

*Related Article: Yes, I Know I Can Do All things Through Christ Who Gives Me Strength

Paul is actually talking about contentment rather than accomplishment. Do you sometimes feel that you want more resources to equip you in serving the Lord? We may sometimes say that if God would only bless me with this and that, I will be able to serve Him.

But the Lord wants you to be contented not complacent, thankful but not boastful. Trust in Him for He who is the source of everything will see you through to where and when He sends you.

Why it is Important to have Faith

Why it is Important to have Faith

Much have been written and said about faith and how it works in our Christian life. It is defined and described in so many ways, with each definition reflecting the very essence of its meaning. So what is faith? How does the Bible define faith and what is the importance of faith in the Christian life?

Christians are blessed to have the precise definition of faith in the Bible, the written word of God. Although the authorship of the book of Hebrews is still in question, the fact that it was established as canonical gives it the same authority as the other books in the Bible have.

Definitions of Faith

On one hand, the world defines faith as a firm belief in something for which there is no proof (ref: Webster dictionary). It is believing on something that we are not sure of because of lack or non-existence of any evidence to back-up the belief.

On the other-hand, in spirituality, (ref: Genuine Faith: The Faith that Saves), faith in God rests upon the best evidence, the infallible Word of God. The author goes further to describe that faith impels loving obedience and good works. However, most popularly defined in the Bible, faith is having the things hoped for happened, the evidence of things that we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

How Do We Receive Faith?

Contrary to what the world says, Christian faith, is a firm belief in God; not without proof but is undeniably founded on the unerring, incomparable richness of the living Word of God, which is the Holy Bible. Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the words about Christ (Romans 10:17).

Faith comes from hearing and hearing the word of God
Photo credits: RZIM

If faith comes from hearing the message, then as Christians, we should not hesitate to share the message whenever we have the chance to do so. While it is true that a deeper study about the Bible, the life and deity of Jesus Christ is highly recommendable in sharing the message, it is however not an excuse not to share the good news even if we neither have a bachelor’s, a master’s nor a doctorate degree in theology, or studies of divinity.

Apostle Paul teaches us that we do not need to be eloquently relying purely on acquired wisdom of man to share the gospel but by the guidance and anointing of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). Genuine faith is rooted on the powerful Word of God. The Word that has been given to us to be used for teaching, rebuking, correction and training (2 Timothy 3:16).

The Importance of Faith in the Christian Life

1) We receive salvation by grace through faith.

Our Christian life began the moment we received Jesus as our personal Savior. This confirms our salvation by His grace which we have received through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). While salvation is precisely a (free) gift from God by His grace, faith, the channel to which salvation abounds is in the part of man. It is our response to God’s invitation of salvation.

We can never please God without faith Hebrews 11:6) and without faith, we cannot receive the best gift that God has prepared for us. It is further written that faith without good deeds is dead (James 2:26). Good works are a result of our faith and the fruits of salvation.

“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

Sadly, in the lives of many people, despite hearing and witnessing the love and wonderful works of Jesus in their personal lives, it is still very difficult for them to truly believe and put their total confidence on Him. In the bible, Jesus has spent three years with His disciples. They were able to see Him face to face and personally interacted with Him.

Yet, when He appeared to them after His resurrection, one of His disciples (Thomas) couldn’t even believe that He came back to life until he saw Jesus’ nail-pierced hands. He needed to see Jesus’ nail-pierced hands and put his finger on His wounds to believe (John 20:24-29).

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” – John 20:29

We, the Christians after the life of Jesus here on earth, are blessed because we have not seen Him yet we believed. This has all started once in our life when we have heard the message about Christ, believed in His infallible words, and believed on His promises as they unfold right before our own eyes in our daily lives. We continue in our walk with Christ, looking forward to the salvation that we will experience in heaven which is yet to come based on His promises.

2) Through faith, we overcome the world that leads to a fruitful life.

Jesus has overcome the world when He died on the cross so that we may live. He has risen back from the dead for us. We should not be taking this greatest sacrifice for granted. He has won the victory with a price so that whoever believes shall overcome (1 John 5:4-5).

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10b

We can overcome all the things of this world; all the works of the devil through our faith in Jesus (1 John 2:16). The devil has already been defeated and has no more authority on us, for Jesus has paid the ransom with His own flesh and blood. We need not wait for heaven to experience victory in our lives for it is God’s purpose that we be blessed with a victorious life even we are still here on earth. He wants to bless us so that we can live life abundantly (John 10:10).

*Related Article: What is the victorious Christian life?

He has come to prepare everything for us and He wanted us to remain in Him, our faith to be rooted on His words that brings life, that through our trust and confidence in Him, we shall never fail to bear fruits in season (John 15:5; Jeremiah 17:7-8).

3) We overcome trials through faith.

In 1 Corinthians 10:13, we learn that each of us shall go through trials and temptations that are common to man. God allows these trials to come our way so that through all these trials, we are pressed closer to Jesus. The closer we are pressed, the clearer His image is inscribed in our hearts as we grow more like Jesus. Each trial is designed such that Jesus will see us through it. He never leaves us alone and through our faith in Him, we overcome trials.

In times of trials, let our prayers be for the asking of a renewed and strengthened spirit so there is nothing we can’t bear. The pain and troubles we go through are temporary and if we persevere in endurance with the spirit, the difficulties we face are nothing compared to the joy that awaits us (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

We will never learn what is in store for us and what we are really made of if we do not face these trials. An American author John A. Shedd once wrote, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” God has created us to be an overcomer and He is always faithful in His promises. There is nothing in this world that can trample us if we only believe and have faith in God. He has overcome the world and nothing can ever separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39).

When Jesus told Joshua not to be afraid of the enemies for they have already been given into his hand and that no one of them are able to withstand him (Joshua 10:8), God is literally speaking about the enemies that Joshua and his army will be facing in every war there is.

To us, the present day Christians, this “enemies” figuratively mean the trials that we have to face. God has already given them into our hands through our faith in Him and he who has faith in God overcomes the world!

Learning to have Faith as the Great People in the Bible did

Many people in the Bible have experienced the hands of God through faith by whom anyone can be inspired.

1) Noah and the Great Flood. Noah was instructed to build a huge ship in preparation for the great flood when there was no sign that it would rain at all. But Noah believed God and put his trust in Him, so his family and every kind of animal has been saved from the floods.

2) Abraham, by faith never doubted God’s promises. He was willing to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, believing God will raise him up from the dead (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3), for God has promised him earlier that through Isaac he will become the father of many nations.

3) Sarah who by faith was enabled to bear a child at an old age (Romans 10:10). Sarah remained faithful and believed God’s promise of an heir. For 25 years, she and her husband Abraham waited and indeed, she bore a son in the most unfavorable situation anyone could ever imagine, that is, being old and barren.

4) The Centurion’s faith in Matthew 8:8-13, was described by Jesus Himself as the kind of faith that He never saw existed in all Israel. The centurion needed not more that Jesus’ words to believe that his servant is healed.

5) The people, who by faith, crossed the Red Sea on dry land (Exodus 14:15-16; 21-22). The people were being chased by the Egyptian soldiers from behind and they are approaching a huge body of water, the Red Sea. God promised Moses that by his leadership and God’s blessings, they will escape from the hands of the Egyptians, and by faith, they were able to cross the Red Sea on dry land.

Other Significant Things Related to Our Faith

F – Fulfillment (Philippians 4:11-12). Under any circumstance, faith brings forth fulfillment in life.

A – Assurance (Ephesians 2:8-9). There is nothing more secured than the assurance that we have received by putting our faith in God. It is because of His love and grace for us, that He gave His only one begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

I – Impossible (Matthew 19:26 and Hebrews 11:6). It is impossible for man but for God, nothing is impossible. We need only to believe because without faith, it is impossible to please God.

T – Trust (Isaiah 26:3). We can have perfect peace if we only put our trust in God.

H – Hope (Romans 4:18-19). By faith, we see hope in hopelessness.

Conclusion

In ending, it is by God’s grace through our faith that we experience the greatness of God’s works in our lives. In the midst of difficulties that we encounter in life, let us put our trust and faith in God the way Abraham, Moses, Noah and many more did.

Let us use the examples of Joshua and Caleb who focused more on the positive side of the news rather than on the inconveniences from its negative side. For it is only in believing and putting our trust in God that we receive the gift of salvation. Through faith, we can overcome the world with Him and live a victorious life even while we are still here on earth.

The Weapons that David had

The Weapons that David had

A few years ago, I have talked about how David bravely fought Goliath, the Philistine giant of Gath (1 Samuel 17). Focused on the great battle, I have paid no attention on the stones that David brought with him that day. Going back through the same Scriptures today, I pondered on the five stones that the young David brought with him. If David was so certain he could kill Goliath with just one stone, why then the other four stones? Had David doubted if God was really on his side?

Others say that David was equipping himself in case the other four giant siblings of Goliath will step forward in retaliation if big brother gets defeated. Yet, some say that David was simply preparing in case the Philistines assault him in support for Goliath. The latter invites more skepticism than clarity on how David was thinking to fight against an army with the remaining four stones.

The Bible however, does not explicitly narrate why David had brought more than one stone with him, specifically five in numbers. With any of the above reasons, David nonetheless, carefully handpicked each stone from the brook and must have chosen those that were sound and round to make perfect ammunition. The stones are anyway his only weapons.

It was written that Goliath challenged the armies of Israel repeatedly for forty days and nights. If someone is brought forward to fight against Goliath and kill him, then they will be their servants. On the other side of the coin, if Goliath prevails against David, the people of Israel will be their servants (1 Samuel 17:9).

Saul and all Israel were dismayed and afraid upon hearing this because Goliath is so tall, mighty, and was having the physique of a seasoned experienced soldier designed to kill and to conquer (1 Samuel 17:11). Who will by any other reason not fear a vicious giant? Saul and the rest of the Israelite army were terrified and certainly losing hope.The battle belongs to the LordDavid was then a young shepherd who was made to run errands. Being the youngest among his siblings and inexperienced in war, David was sent by his father, Jesse in between feeding his father’s sheep back home and taking care of the needs of his three elder brothers who were in the battle camp (1 Samuel 17:15-18). Eliab, Abinadab and Shammah, were fighting in the front line against the Philistines.

It came to pass that one day, while David was checking on his elder brothers as instructed by his father Jesse, he over-heard Goliath’s challenge while the Israelites warriors were turning back with great fear. David expressed his protest from what he has heard and this had reached the attention of Saul.

Saul sent for David (1 Samuel 17:23-31). David told Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:32). Saul belittled David pointing out his youthful inexperience such that he cannot go against this man of war (1 Samuel 17:33). Against all odds, David was so dogged and he insisted. Finally, after Saul might have considered that so many lives were already lost in this battle anyway, the loss of this boy’s life will not hurt his statistics. Saul conceded, “Go and the Lord be with you.”

At this point, as the encounter between the young David and the villain Goliath is about to begin, let us name the stones not by their physical features but by the good element that each one would have represented.

1) The Stone of Faith

The battle was not actually between the Philistines and the children of Israel but the battle is the Lord’s (1 Samuel 17:47).

David believed the outlandish in the minds of men. By heart, he trusted that the Lord who delivered him from the paw of the lion and the bear from whom he protected his father’s sheep against, will deliver him as well from the hands of this Philistine (1 Samuel 17:37). Inexperienced, young and armed only with a sling and five stones, David depended more on his faith in God rather than on the things he had as his weapon.

David knew that he was not fighting his own battle but the Lord’s. With fullness of trust in God, he loaded his sling with the stone, and ran with all his strength towards Goliath. David needed to launch only a single stone to defeat Goliath (1 Samuel 17:50). Along with that stone is his full trust and faith in God (1 Samuel 17:45-46). The Lord will never fail those who trust and believe in Him!

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1

What about your faith in God when you face your own Goliaths? Every day in our lives, we are faced with monstrous Goliaths, big and fierce full as they may be. Goliaths transformed into bills to pay, broken family relationships, the loss of a loved one, a deteriorating health condition, or anything that brings uncertainty of a brighter tomorrow. Do we load our sling with the stone of faith just like David did or do we allow our Goliaths to cripple us down in defeat

2) The Stone of Courage

The young David is a true example of an inexperienced but brave warrior. In contrary with the rest of the Israelite armies, Goliath never intimidated him. With his comparatively weaker and ruddy appearance, David certainly seems to be the least favorite bet in this fight. Armed with only a sling and five stones against a giant armored with bronze helmet, coat of mail, bronze armor on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders (1 Samuel 17:5-6), David knew so well where he needs to get his courage from. God bestowed on him a pure heart where all his courage nested. David won the victory with just one stone of faith but he was armed with courage as well!

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6

How do you go about in dealing with Goliaths in your life? Do you have the same fortitude just like David had? Well, it takes a genuine faith in God to keep courage brewing in your heart. If God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?

3) The Stone of Reasonable Thinking

Going back a few scenes of what took place that day, in preparation for the battle, Saul geared up David with his own armor, helmet and a coat of mail. David fastened his sword to his armor but he took them off after he tried to walk. David took them off not because he thought that he did not need them; neither because they did not fit him. David took them off saying he cannot walk with them on him because he had not tested them (1 Samuel 17:38).

Here goes the third stone that David had; the stone of reasonable thinking. It was either David’s innocence or his determination to win this fight that did not make him settle for anything excessive or anything less than what he was sure of. Either way, he got around from creating a probable problem resulting from his inexperience. He was not comfortable with all that stuffy armor and sword but would rather use what he is very well familiar with, his sling. David was not armed with faith and courage alone, but with a reasonable thinking too.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – James 1:5

How do we battle against our own Goliaths? Do we use our reasonable thinking in wrestling against them? Do we conform to the things of this world in getting over our Goliaths even if we know that these are not fitting in the eyes of the Lord? Not everything acceptable in this world is pleasing to God. We have to use our reasonable thinking in dealing with our problems.

4) The Stone of Total Reliance in God

Perhaps anyone who was about to face a great battle would feel secure being armed with completeness of the must-have stuff of a warrior. David’s experience of being protected by God in fighting against a lion and a bear that took a lamb from his father’s flock brought him in total reliance to God’s grace. He has his full trust in God rather than on the King’s heavy armor of steel and sword. His faith, courage, reasonable thinking and total reliance in God paved his way to victory.

“My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121:2

When we face our Goliaths, do we rely more on the weapons made by man instead of total reliance in God’s loving kindness and divine protection? Weak as we are, we trust more on the things we can see and touch instead of trusting on the Almighty.

5) The Stone of Finality

David prevailed in the fight. With a single stone slung and struck, the giant fell to the ground. He did not leave his task unfinished. David stood over the fallen giant, took his sword, drew it out of its sheath and cut off the giant’s head (1 Samuel 17:50-51).

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:57

Whenever we face our Goliaths, we do not stop halfway to victory. We thrust in the whole armor of God, crashing down and finishing our Philistine giants (Ephesians 6:12-13).

Conclusion

In the story of David, we were taught that it takes faith, courage, wit but reasonable thinking, total reliance in God and finality in our own battles against the trials and challenges we face in our daily life, to win the victory. We should not look at how big or how difficult the challenge is ahead of us. Rather, we must focus on the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him despised the shame and endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2).

If God is for us, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37-39). Have a victorious life with Jesus!

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The Importance of Praying for Others

The Importance of Praying for Others

Prayer is the lifeblood of a Christian life, it sustains our walk with Jesus. While every Christian has his unique prayer lifestyle, prayers differ in quality from one another depending on the depth of our personal relationship with Jesus. However, without particularity, if we consistently soak into deeper experiences of a sincere prayerful life, the Holy Spirit not only empowers us in our prayers but in our whole Christian life. Through our earnest and unceasing prayers, we unleash tons of endless adoration, confessions, thanksgiving and supplications.

When praying becomes a mere recitation and not devotion, we are most-likely inclined to pray wholly for our own self. If we can only playback our prayers and listen, many among us will hear a parrot in our self with the first person pronouns “I,” “me,” “mine” and “my.”

Apparently, there is really nothing wrong in praying for oneself because in fact, the Bible teaches us to nourish and cherish our self, just as the Lord does the church (Ephesians 5:29). However, it is our unceasing perseverance in praying for others that aligns us with God’s will of a far-reaching and matured Christian prayerful life. It is in an intercessory prayer where we lift supplications and thanksgiving for others to God. It is transiently forgetting oneself and pleading to God for others.

While we tend to show our support in prayer for our friends and others, we shall also be cautious with the words that we speak. When comforting those who are going through trials and frustrations, it will be sensibly better to refrain from saying, “I will pray for you” if you really cannot or do not actually intend to do so.

Saying those words of encouragement may lighten the conversation at the moment but it turns up that it’s an empty statement if it was just said without sincerity. You have failed not only your friend but above all, you have failed God by with-holding His power from administering in the life of your friend. Remember that saying the right words with sincerity is like offering gold on a silver platter (Proverbs 25:11).

The Intercessors then and now

In the Old Testament times, the Levitical or Aaronic priests are the mediators between God and man. Under the Mosaic Law, Aaron and his sons were ordained to perform the priestly duties in the holy tabernacle (Exodus 28:1-3). They intercede for the people and are the only ones permitted to enter the holiest place. They assist in burning and offering sacrifices for the atonement of their own sins and for the sins of others. Their priesthood is passed on exclusively within the tribe of the Levites.

Under the New Testament, Jesus is the only high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:17; Hebrews 4:14 and Psalm 110:4). His holy priesthood is fitted only for the righteous King.

Jesus is our intercessor then, now and forever (Hebrews 7:25). He has been the offering once and for all, for the atonement of our sins. Jesus died and He has risen in resurrection for the salvation of mankind, our great priest, the only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). He is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).

Through His death and resurrection, He has clothed us with His robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10), and He has chosen our generation, a royal priesthood, a Holy nation, and His own special people (1 Peter 2:9). As Jesus’ followers today, we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).

Who must be praying for whom?

In the first letter of the Apostle Paul to Timothy, he encourages the Christians of the church in Ephesus that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority.

Praying for others is an important sacrificial ministry introduced to us by Jesus Himself (John 17:1-26). Invitations for intercessory prayer are often announced in churches, only to be ignored by many. Most, if not all members of the church shrug their shoulders in apology, taking it as an invitation intended exclusively for the so called “prayer warriors.” Is everyone not a prayer warrior? Anyone who from his heart believes that God does answer prayers would be an intercessor, an effective prayer warrior, if he wills.

Following the steps of Jesus, we too are ordained to pray for all men. When it is written “for all men,” it means we need to pray universally not only for our friends and relatives but we must pray for our enemies too. We pray for those who curse and persecute us (Matthew 5:44). Would God hear our prayers of destruction for our enemies? Certainly not! God in all His goodness will rebuke such desire and prayer (Luke 9:53-56).

We need to pray for and in submission to the authority of our community and church leaders whom God has appointed to lead us (Romans 13:1). God directs the hearts of them that He appoints (Proverbs 21:1). Let us pray for God’s wisdom to be upon them, that we may lead a quiet and a peaceful life. Our leaders need our prayers for enlightenment and direction. For it is written that a blind man cannot lead the blind (Luke 6:39, see also Matthew 15:14).

Why do we intercede for others?

Different people have different motives in praying for others and in some cases, naively demeaning the powers of the one true God. As an example, some people say that they pray for others to generously help God as He works in answering prayers. When intercessory prayers are answered, they boast of being part of the process. They are sometimes subtly slow in remembering that God knows the thoughts and plans that He has for everyone (Jeremiah 29:11).

In His Divinity, He does not need our contribution to make what He thinks is appropriate to happen. Remember that apart from God; we cannot do anything (John 15:5). With or without us, God He can make things happen, according to His will from eternity (Isaiah 14:24). Similarly, in His gift of Salvation, man’s only contribution is sin. More so, some of us pray for others with the hope of fast-tracking God’s answers. Have we forgotten that God answers prayers in his own time (Isaiah 65:24)? Do we know better than Him as to when He has to answer our prayers?

In many other instances, we seem to show we care for others. In times, they pray the least, we heroically step-in interceding, with thoughts of covering-up for them. Is God just like one of us who plays the games we play? There should be nothing such as deliberate delegation of prayer. Neither is there prayer by substitution.

What then is the righteous motive in praying for others? Praying for others should have the very basic reason of loving others. Second to loving God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind, is His commandment to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). If we could only love others just how the commandment says we should, it follows that selflessly interceding for them is easy as praying for our own self. Moreover, glory is brought back to God where it belongs, with the praises of thanksgiving from many whose prayers in their behalf are answered (2 Corinthians 1:11).

God does not change but the prayers of the righteous avail much.

As we move around expectant hearts in prayer for others, a popular question of all times can’t be helped being prominent. Can (intercessory) prayers change the mind of God? Many will turn their lips mum on this simply because of not wanting to create chaos more than clarity. Setting argument aside, let us try to seek answers from the scriptures and not from our own intelligence.

In Numbers 23:19; it is written that God is not man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent. He will do as He has spoken to make it good. We learned that He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and with Him, there is no variation or shadow for turning (James 1:17). His essential being, Deity, character and attributes will never change.

Change is the result of an addition, alteration or deduction. God has been, is and will forever be perfectly complete in Himself without a need to change. If He was made perfect only after the change, then His perfection doesn’t validate His nature being God. God does not need change while there is a lot of changing in us waiting to be done.

Do the prayers of the righteous matter? God hears the prayers of the righteous and avail much (1 Peter 3:12, see also James 5:16). He knows what is there in the beginning and what will be there in the end. The prayers of the righteous touch the heart of our ever loving and merciful God. Because of his great love for us, He allows intermediate events to change in between the beginning and the end but works on things in alignment to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11, see also Isaiah 46:10).

Under any circumstances, if the response to our prayers that is appropriate within His Deity, calls for mercy, reformation, rebuke, punishment, blessings or for whatever the fulfillment of His promises would require, that is surely what He will do.

Lastly, God is sovereign and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Our ways are not His ways. His thoughts and ways are higher than our own (Isaiah 55:8-9). Being such, there will and will always be questions left unanswered within the intelligence of man.

If there is one question here not to be left unanswered, let it be asked within us. Do you love God and would obey His commandment to love your neighbor as yourself? If your answer here is a “Yes” just like mine, continue praying for others with love!

 

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When God Tests Your Faith

When God Tests Your Faith

High above any other gauge that is used to test the quality of anything with measurable properties, God’s standard on testing our faith is way beyond comparison. When God tests our faith He may bluntly have us face the blank side of the wall without any clue on what’s waiting for us on the other side. His ways of putting our faith into the test is not within the limited boundaries of mankind’s comprehension.

Within man’s understanding, God’s sovereign ways may seem to be unreasonable and perhaps, sometimes felt to be unjustifiable. For what then is meant for Him to be the God of the universe, the Creator of heaven and earth, the King of kings if He makes no difference from the ways of men. Who are we to question His ways?

As believers and faithful followers of Jesus we face different levels of intensity on the testing of our faith. Yours maybe different from mine and different from the others. But every test of faith is a chance to show your trust, obedience and love for God. When God tests your faith, take it as an opportunity for you to achieve a most-deserved promotion in His kingdom.

When God tests your faith, He neither looks after your age or how long you have been born again. In the life of Abraham, at a biologically elderly age, he too was not spared from what I consider a paramount kind of testing for his faith. In Genesis 22:1-19 (paraphrased here below), Abraham’s faith in God is well described and teaches us how we too should respond when we face our own test of faith.

Abraham’s faith in God is Sensitive

It was most-likely that whenever God calls Abraham, He is into something really big! With his usual readiness getting into service, Abraham reported on duty to His master, Here I am!” (Genesis 22:1) He presented himself in promptitude as God called his name.

It could be a calling, a request, a command, an instruction that God has called out your name. We have to be always sensitive to God’s calling no matter what situation, circumstances or time we are in. He calls you for a purpose and that is to grace you with His blessings! Let our response be the same as Abraham’s, “Here I am!” (See also Isaiah 6:8.)

Abraham’s faith in God is Submissive

“Take, go and offer Isaac.” (Genesis 22:2) To Abraham at that time, God’s vivid instruction could have been similar to the reverberating sound of a gunshot in the air. I can only imagine the ticking of the clock frozen within that very moment. The instruction was perhaps beyond Abraham’s ingenious understanding.

However hard it was to understand, it was with God’s grace, the instruction never got over his submissiveness to God. Just like how it would be to any father of a beloved son, Abraham surely was pondering with a somewhat disturbed heart. Yet, his quiet response with submissiveness was on top of the situation.

Many among us while claiming to be followers of Jesus, submit discriminately to God’s instructions. We rather choose to submit only to that which will not hurt us. We tend to turn our eyes and our ears away from anything that could mean giving-up our precious possession, status in life and our pride. “Anything Lord, tell unto me and I will follow.” (See also Psalm 143:10.)

Abraham’s faith in God is Enthusiastic

Without further delay and without wasting any single moment, Abraham rose up early morning the very next day and nobody less than himself prepared the firewood and saddled his donkey for the journey to the offering place, the mountains of Moriah (Genesis 22:3).

What an enthusiastic manner of obeying God’s instruction! It was the same instruction which might have madly made his heart beat faster, that he is enthusiastically obeying that early morning of the very next day! Abraham knows God’s business so well. He knew who gives the orders and who carries them out. He knew that there was no point of lying back on his couch while hoping for God to change His mind.

Whenever God sends us the signal and raises His mighty hand, let us believe in Him and get it done. Never put aside for some other time what God wants you to do this very moment. Get yourself ready the way He wanted it to be and say, “I am ready Lord, let’s go!”

Abraham’s faith in God is Endurant

It would have only taken a bit of Abraham’s effort to pull the donkey tack and say “It’s over, let us go back.” Within the three-day journey to the mountains of Moriah (Genesis 22:4), every single second of it could have been an unbearable torment to Abraham. It is a long journey towards the place where he has to lay down his burnt offering, who is no lesser than his beloved son, Isaac.

All along the duration of the journey, his head must have been spinning around with thoughts on how he will make his way back later on to his wife Sarah without Isaac, their beloved son. Instead of turning back, he obediently endured all the pain and heartaches a father would undoubtedly have felt on what awaits them. The inevitable is a step closer on every move they make. Albeit the long journey, there is no point of return without carrying on his obedience to the God he believes in and serves.

Many amongst us will turn back, halfway to the place where the Lord is leading us. We can barely endure life’s torment along the rocky road we need to take. But we need to look forward to the glory that’s waiting for us rather than looking back at the torment we have been through. “I will keep pressing forward knowing that the Lord is waiting there at the end.” (See Phil 3:13.)

Abraham’s faith in God is Determined

Abraham is that much determined to obey what he was told to do such that he will take away any obstacle that may cut through his way. Ascending up the mountains would have been much easier with the help of his two servants to take the load of the firewood they bring. Knowing that his servants would surely get into his way and do whatever it takes to stop him from offering Isaac, he told them to stay behind (Genesis 22:5). Abraham got rid of the obstacles in carrying out what he has to.

Life is full of distraction, full of obstacles in getting things done the way we were told to. We tend to forget to focus on our goal and get influenced by our surroundings, by the people and the surrounding circumstances. Where He leads me, I will follow, no turning back.” (See Deuteronomy 5:32 & Luke 9:62.)

Abraham’s faith in God is Steadfast

Abraham’s steadfast faith in God gave him the strength to raise up the knife and aimed to stab Isaac after binding him on the offering altar (Genesis 22:9-10;). I can just imagine the pain he must have felt in his heart as he raises up the knife towards his very own beloved son. This he bears, with the strong faith in the One who told him to do as he did.

He believes that God will fulfill His promise that he will be blessed with many nations through Isaac. If so, how can he aim to kill his own son, the channel of God’s promise? Abraham believed that no matter what, God will restore Isaac to fulfill His promise! (see Hebrews 11:17-19). His duty is to obey and believe. The rest is up to God.

Our faith in God must be unconditionally steadfast. We cannot say “I believe” with a single spot of doubt in our heart for this is foolish in the eyes of God. When God says so, He means so. Lord, help me sustain my faith,” (see also Isaiah 41:10).

What about your faith in God?

When God tests your faith, do you spend more time focusing on complaining rather than obeying? Do you keep your mind busy thinking what God needs to do for you rather than thinking what you can do for Him? Just like Abraham, we too need to raise up the knife in our own test of faith and aim steadfastly without doubting that God is watching on how we really trust Him.

God saw how faithful Abraham was up to this point where he needed to give up his beloved son in obedience to God’s instruction of test. God, through his angel stopped Abraham from killing Isaac and provided a substitute offering by means of a ram (Genesis 22:11-14). With an enduring display of faith, God has affirmed His promise to Abraham to bless him with many nations through his son Isaac (Genesis 22:15-19).

Abraham clearly showed his obedience with faith. Why did God put Abraham into test when he has already proven to be a faithful servant of God? Only God knows the real answer to this. Based on the scriptures, we can only suppose that God tested him to know if He is still sovereign in Abraham’s life notwithstanding Abraham’s immeasurable love for his son, Isaac.

Abraham did not only obey but he firmly believed in the promises of God. Did God bless Abraham because of his obedience? God fulfilled His promise that Abraham and his offspring will be heirs of the world because of his righteousness that comes from faith (see Romans 4:13-14).

Recommended Resource: 

The Testing of God’s Sons – eBook
By Gregory S. SmithThere exists a general lack of biblical understanding for the idea of “testing” that emerges in the Old Testament as a significant theological theme. The faithful from both Old Testament and New Testament times are tested for their faith. This kind of experience often involves enduring hardship and difficult times. While often confused with the biblical idea of “temptation,” the biblical idea of testing stems from a metallurgical background and carries a unique covenantal function. Testing will be at the center of how God responds to the rebellion of his people and reveals God’s primary concern for the faith of his saints.

The Testing of God’s Sons focuses on the language of testing and explores the semantic range for the idea of testing that draws from both the biblical context, as well as the world of the ancient Near East. This study then focuses on the often overlooked Joseph narrative and its unique contribution to the theology of testing that is presented by the rest of the Pentateuch. Finally, the remainder of the biblical texts are investigated on the theme of testing. The last chapter shows the fact that God tests His sons – Adam, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Job, Israel and even Christ.

It is through the experience of God’s tested sons that believers are invited to more fully and deeply understand their own experience of testing.