Category: Christian Growth

The Christian’s Response to Trials

The Christian’s Response to Trials

I have yet to encounter someone who has been a Christian for many years and never experienced trials and difficulties. Trials are inevitable, and if you expect the Christian life to be smooth and easy, you’re in for a big surprise. But what should be the Christian’s response to trials?

When James, the half-brother of our Lord, wrote to the Jewish Christians, he told them to expect trials of many kinds, but they are to “count it all joy (James 1:1-2). What exactly did James mean? Should Christians rejoice and celebrate when faced with impossible situations?

Why Christians fall into trials

1) Some trials come simply because we are human.

Sickness or diseases, accidents, disappointments, even apparent tragedies are part of life. Everyone goes through any or all of these because it’s part of being human. The Christian might say, “But didn’t the Lord already conquer sickness and death?”

Yes, Jesus is the Great Physician; He is our healer (Exodus 15:26) and there is no doubt that He can heal not just some, but all diseases. Isaiah 53:5 also says, “… by his wounds, we are healed.” But that does not mean we can escape physical illness and death.

Although our soul and spirit are immaterial, our body isn’t. So while we are still living in this tent, our physical body (2 Corinthians 5:4), we are susceptible to pain, disappointments and any sickness or diseases. That is why we are to take really good care of our body and our health. We can do this by practicing healthy living.

*Read here: The Key Elements of a Healthy Lifestyle

2) Other trials come because we are Christians.

Before coming to faith in Christ, we belonged to the devil (John 8:44) and were part of his worldly kingdom (2 Corinthians 4:4). The very moment we repented of our sins and trusted in Jesus as our personal Savior and Lord, we became a part of God’s family (John 1:12) and became citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20).

Being on God’s side made us enemies with Satan and the world. Satan fights with us and the world opposes us, resulting in a life of battle. Satan knows he can’t win against God so he goes after God’s children, the Christians.

How Christians should respond to trials

James tells his readers, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2). In other translations it says, “Consider it pure joy…” or “Consider it an opportunity for great joy…”

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”

In Philippians 3:4-8, the apostle Paul used the word “consider.” First, he warns the believers about evil workers who teach that salvation is by works (Philippians 3:2 NLT). He then goes on to say that if salvation is based on human effort; he has every reason to be confident of his salvation (Philippians 3:3-6)

But because salvation is based solely on what Christ has done for us, whatever Paul thinks are his advantages over others became worthless. Here’s what Paul says in Philippians 3:7-8 (NIV):

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”

When Paul became a Christian, he evaluated his life and set new goals and priorities. Things that were once important to him became garbage in light of his experience with Christ. In the same way, when we face the trials of life, we must evaluate them in light of what God is doing for us.

Look beyond what you see
Photo Credits: Lionking2013.blogspot.com

To count all trials as joy is not to deny the difficulties and pain that they bring. We can cry, weep, mourn or grieve whenever trials and difficulties come. But we see beyond the difficulties to the good results that might come through trials. If we live only for the present, then trials will make us bitter, not better.

In the movie “Lion King,” when Mufasa showed his young son Simba the kingdom that he is to rule someday when he grows up, He told his son, “look beyond what you see.” God is telling the same thing to the Christians. The trials and difficulties you maybe experiencing now are temporary and they are nothing compared to the glory of being with Christ.

Jesus and the Cross

Crucifixion as a means of capital punishment is the worst during those times that the Romans who came up with it would not even consider imposing it on their own people. Crucifixion was the most painful and most shameful way to die, reserved for the worst offenders.

And yet, the Bible tells us that Jesus endured the cross and disregarded the shame. Why? Because of the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus knew that His suffering and death on the cross would result into something far greater – the salvation of mankind and their reconciliation with God

Faith is tested through trials which will result in endurance

Just a reminder, trials will not produce faith. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). But faith is tested through trials and will reveal what kind of faith we have. Is our faith genuine or not?

*Related Article: Genuine Faith Saves

“Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance {endurance}. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

God does not test our faith to prove if it’s the real deal or not because He already knows. There is nothing we can hide from God for He is all-knowing. Through trials, God wants to produce in us endurance, the same word used in Hebrews 12:1 when the writer exhorts the believers to “run with endurance the race that is set before them.”

In the Bible, endurance is not a passive acceptance of circumstances. It is the ability to remain steadfast in the face of suffering and difficulty. Endurance cannot be attained by simply reading the Bible, listening to sermons or even spending time on your knees. You must go through the difficulties of life, trust God and obey Him.

Endurance

The key theme of the book of James is spiritual maturity. God wants to build our character; He wants a finished product that is mature and complete. But He cannot do that without our cooperation. When we resist God, He chastens us into submission. But if we submit to Him, then He can accomplish His work in us.

Closing thoughts

They say that our values determine our evaluations. So if we value comfort rather than character, then trials will upset us. If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to consider trials as “pure joy.”

“Blessed is the one who perseveres (remain steadfast) under trial, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

Through trials, God wants to produce in us endurance and the ability to keep going even when things are tough. Knowing this, Christians can face trials joyfully because they know that the end result is endurance and spiritual maturity that will bring glory to God.

What kind of trials have you gone through and how did you respond to them? Please do share them by leaving a comment.


*Are you looking for Bibles, Christian books and reference materials, DVD’s, gift items and more? Visit Christian Books Distributors with their Bestsellers.

Why We Should Trust the Lord

Why We Should Trust the Lord

They say that you can never trust someone unless you know them. After all, why should we trust someone we do not know? It’s the same thing with God; we cannot trust Him unless we know Him. But other than that, why should we trust the Lord?

Reasons for us to trust the Lord

A. We can trust the Lord because He is trustworthy.

The Bible tells us that “God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should change His mind…” (Numbers 23:19). Whatever the Lord plans and purposes to do, He can bring it to pass because He is powerful.

Getting to know God by reading His Word and spending time talking to Him will make us trust Him more and more each day. We will continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord as we read, study and meditate on His Word. The more we know about God, the more we will trust Him.

*Related Article: How to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord 

B. We can trust the Lord because He is faithful.

Faithfulness is one of God’s attributes. Even at times when we are unfaithful, God remains faithful and He will never change (Deuteronomy 7:9; 2 Timothy 2:13). We read the story of the nation of Israel on how they repeatedly rebelled and turned away from God. And yet, every time they called on Him to deliver them from the hands of their enemies, God was always there for them.

Why? Because He made a covenant with Abraham that He will make his descendant as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sands on the seashore; God promised to make them a great nation and a blessing (Genesis 12:2-3; Genesis 17:4-7; Genesis 22:17).

God also has a covenant with those who trust in Him. God promises many blessings to us and we can be sure that God will fulfill them because He is faithful. He is faithful to the nation of Israel and He is faithful to His bride, the Church.

Here’s a beautiful song by the Free Believers in Christ Fellowship International (FBCFI) Concert Team entitled “Trust in Me.”  

Trust in Me Lyrics & Chords

Can we trust God in times of trials?

Absolutely! We can and should trust God even when things in our lives and around us do not seem to be going the way we want them to be. God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent; there is nothing that is hidden from His sight, nothing that He can’t do.

We all go through some rough times but we find comfort in knowing that God loves us, He cares about us and always has good intentions for us. Let us then “trust the Lord with all our heart, not leaning on our own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). God wants us to always trust Him in all circumstances.

*Read the story of Joseph: Is God in complete control of everything?

Are you having a hard time trusting the Lord? Please do share your life-changing testimony on how the Lord has worked in your life the moment you made the decision to trust Him completely.


*Are you looking for Bibles, Christian resources and study materials, gifts, souvenirs, CD’s, DVD’s and more? Visit Christian Book Distributors with their Bestsellers!

What the Bible can Do for You

What the Bible can Do for You

Next to the gift of Christ and the Holy Spirit, the Bible is the third greatest gift. The Bible can do so much for you because it possesses the transforming power that is nowhere found in any other books.

The Bible does not contain the word of God; the Bible is the Word of God. 2,600 times in the Old Testament, the prophets asserted that their words are the Word of God. A similar statement occurs in the New Testament and Jesus quoted the Bible as the genuine word of God to mankind in Matthew 22:31-32.

The Uniqueness of the Bible

The Bible is unlike any other book and has no equal in its uniqueness; it is the oldest book in existence, it was written by more than 40 authors on three different continents, in three different languages over a period of more than 1500 years.

“Many books can inform you but only the Bible can transform you.”

Although there have been a vast of books that were written over the centuries, few of them can truly be regarded as great. The uniqueness of the Bible does not prove that it is divinely inspired, but rather its superiority over any other writing.

Getting the Most out of the Bible

Because the Bible is God’s Word and not just “mere human ideas,” we should appreciate it. We are to read the Bible with reverence and respect, not carelessly, the way we sometimes scan a newspaper or speed-read a book. As you open your Bible and your heart, God will open His mouth and speak to you.

Psalm 19:7-9 gives us some characteristics of God’s inspired Words:

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever. The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.”

And because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the “master theme” of the Bible, we should treat the Bible the way we treat Jesus. Jesus is “the Bread of life” (John 6:48) and the Word is bread that nourishes our spirit (Matthew 4:4). The Bible is light ((Psalm 119:105) and Jesus is “the light” (John 8:12). Jesus is “the truth” (John 14:6) and the Word of God is truth (John 17:17).

Merely having the Bible before our eyes is no guarantee that we have its truths in our inner person. We should appreciate the Word of God because it is like bread (Matthew 4:4), solid food (Hebrews 5:11-14) and even honey (Psalm 19:10; Psalm 119:103).

We know that food does us no good unless we eat it and digest it. What digestion is to the body, meditation is to the inner person. If we want to grow spiritually, we need to welcome the Word of God into our hearts.

*Note: Memorizing verses that especially speak to you so you can think about them during the day is a good habit to develop.

Simply reading assigned portions of the Bible each day is not enough. If you want to experience its transforming power, you need to meditate on what you read (Psalm 1:2), study it carefully in light with what other verses have to say and then obey what God tells you to do (Joshua 1:8).

“Reading the Bible but not obeying it is like reading the menu but not eating the meal.”

The Word of God is “alive and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12). It can work in our lives as we exercise faith and obey what God says to us. If we are willing to learn and obey, the Holy Spirit who is the author of the Bible and lives within each Christian believer is our Teacher.

7 Reasons to Preach the Word of God

Jesus faced the multitude in Mark 2:2 and preached the Word of God. In the same way, Christians are to preach Christ as revealed in the Bible. We must insist on preaching the Word because it endures for time and eternity (Isaiah 40:8).

1) Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

2) Comfort comes from the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 4:18)

3) Conviction of sin comes through the preaching of the Word of God (Acts 2:14-37).

4) The New birth comes through the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

5) Assurance comes from the Word of God (1 John 5:13).

6) Cleansing comes from the Word of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).

7) Truth comes from the Word of God (Acts 17:11)

Final Thoughts

Make the Bible your constant guide and companion in life. Read it daily. Not just on Sundays but every day. If you want to be a new person, knowing and obeying the will of God and becoming more like Jesus, you must spend time daily yielding yourself to the transforming truths of the Scriptures.


*Recommended Resource:

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: Fourth Edition / Special edition – eBook
By Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart

Publisher’s Description

Understanding the Bible isn’t for the few, the gifted, the scholarly. The Bible is accessible. It’s meant to be read and comprehended by everyone from armchair readers to seminary students. A few essential insights into the Bible can clear up a lot of misconceptions and help you grasp the meaning of Scripture and its application to your twenty-first-century life.

Covering everything from translational concerns to different genres of biblical writing, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth is used all around the world. In clear, simple language, it helps you accurately understand the different parts of the Bible—their meaning for ancient audiences and their implications for you today—so you can uncover the inexhaustible worth that is in God’s Word.

Blessings in Psalm 119

Blessings in Psalm 119

Most Bible readers know that Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in Bible. However, only a few are aware that this chapter contains many blessings; it is also the chapter of the Bible that most magnifies the Word of God.

If we honestly and humbly apply the Word of God to our lives, God will surely share these blessings with us:

Note: Unless otherwise stated, all Bible reference texts are taken from the New King James Version (NKJV).

Joy

“I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches.” – Psalm 119:14

“Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.” – Psalm 119:111 (NIV)

“I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure.” – Psalm 119:162

*Joy is more than just happiness; it is an emotion resulting from the anticipation, acquisition or even the expectation of something great or wonderful, such as salvation or eternal life. It is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Psalm 119:111

Purity

“How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word.” – Psalm 119:9 (NLT)

*See also John 15:3 & Ephesians 5:25-26

*The word “purity” is synonymous with “holiness.” It means to be separated from sin and devoted to that which is good; to be morally clean and without blemish. Some may think that holy living restricts us from enjoying life to the fullest. On the contrary, living in purity allows us to live an abundant life – the life that Christ died for us to have before the world was corrupted by sin.

Hope

“Remember the word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope.” – Psalm 119:49
(NLT)

*The modern idea of hope is to expect or to wish for something, but without certainty of fulfillment. You desire for something very much but have no real assurance of getting it.

*In the Bible, the Hebrew and Greek words translated by the word “hope” indicates certainty; it denotes “a strong and confident expectation.” From a biblical standpoint, hope is synonymous with salvation and all the blessings that come with it (past, present and future), as promised in Scriptures.

Right Values

“Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me Your way.” – Psalm 119:37

“The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver.” – Psalm 119:72

“How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” – Psalm 119:103 (NIV)

“I hate and abhor lying, but I love Your law.” – Psalm 119:163

*Values are those things that we deem important, for they provide direction and guidance in spite of how we feel. Values are what give us the reason why we do things and why we act exactly the way we do; they could be restrictive because of the boundaries they place around behavior.

*God, being the standard of good, is the source of all the right values. God is the absolute of truth, goodness, love and justice. In a world without God, what we call “good” would have no ultimate referent.

Comfort

“Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles.” – Psalm 119:50

“The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver.” – Psalm 119:72

“How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” – Psalm 119:103 (NIV)

“I hate and abhor lying, but I love Your law.” – Psalm 119:163

*God is a God of all comfort. Although He allows us to go through trials in order to build up our character, He Himself will comfort us. And the comfort that God gives will not only enable us to endure trials but so that we can comfort those who need comforting as a result of the troubles they’re facing (See 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

New Life

“My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to Your word.” – Psalm 119:25

“I have suffered much, O Lord; restore my life again as You promised.” – Psalm 119:107 (NLT)

*What does it mean to experience new life? Here’s an article that expounds on the topic of regeneration: Born Again: A New Religion?

Peace

“Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.” – Psalm 119:165

“My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to Your word.” – Psalm 119:25

“I have suffered much, O Lord; restore my life again as You promised.” – Psalm 119:107 (NLT)

*Peace can be defined as “harmony, tranquility or security.” Everybody wants peace, yet only a few seem to find it. The world offers empty promises of peace, but true and lasting peace only comes through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace (John 14:27; Isaiah 9:6).

John 14:27

Freedom

“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out Your precepts.” – Psalm 119:45 (NIV)

“My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to Your word.” – Psalm 119:25

“I have suffered much, O Lord; restore my life again as You promised.” – Psalm 119:107 (NLT)

*Freedom could mean many things to many people. It could be viewed from a political or financial standpoint. What is freedom from a biblical standpoint? Freedom is not the right to do as one pleases. Rather, it is the power and capacity both to will and to do as one ought.

Integrity

“Remove from me the way of lying, and grant me Your law graciously.” – Psalm 119:29

“My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to Your word.” – Psalm 119:25

“I have suffered much, O Lord; restore my life again as You promised.” – Psalm 119:107 (NLT)

*When we speak of integrity, it always comes down to the issue of a person’s character, not just his words. As opposed to hypocrisy, integrity points to a consistency between what is inside and what is outside, between belief and behavior, our values and our practice, our attitudes and our actions, our words and our ways.

Wisdom

“You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts.” – Psalm 119:98-100

*Wisdom is defined as the ability to discern or judge what is right and true. The Bible tells us that wisdom comes from above; it’s a gift and it begins with the fear of the Lord (James 1:5; Proverbs 1:7).

Encouragement

“I weep with sorrow; encourage me by Your word.” – Psalm 119:28 (NLT)

*Encouragement is very important because, without it, hardship becomes meaningless; life feels pointless and burdensome. The word of God is the greatest source of encouragement; it helps us through times of testing and discipline and gives us the will to carry on while waiting for the Lord’s return.

Guidance and Counsel

“Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.” – Psalm 119:24

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NLT)

*God cares about each of us and wants to direct our lives. He has given us the Bible so that we might know His will and purpose in all areas of life. By God’s own direction, we are to entrust our way to Him for His direction and leading.

A Song

“Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.” – Psalm 119:54

*The better we know the Bible, the more we will appreciate the great hymns of the church.

Conclusion

In closing, let me just say that in order for us to enjoy these blessings as promised by God in Psalm 119, we must not only read them; we must put them into action. James, the Lord’s brother, tells us to be “doers” of the word and not “hearers” only so we do not deceive ourselves (James 1:22).

How to Grow in the Grace and Knowledge of Our Lord

How to Grow in the Grace and Knowledge of Our Lord

The most important thing in the life of a Christian is to grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Yes, we were saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), but grace does not end there. And salvation (or eternal life) involves knowing God (John 17:3). So how do Christians grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord?

As Peter writes his final epistle, he was concerned about the false teachers that were plaguing the churches and wanted to encourage the believers to persevere. So Peter repeats what he has emphasized throughout his letter on the danger of being misled by the doctrinal errors of these false teachers, and exhorted them to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

“You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 3:17-18

What does it take to grow?

Before we look at how and what it means to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, we need to consider several truths about growth in general.

1) Growth is dependent on life.

Where there is life, there must be growth. But you must be born before you can grow. This principle is just as true spiritually as it is physically. The Bible tells us that we were all born into this word spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13), and that is why we all need to be born again (John 3:7). Only God can impart to us a new life.

2) Growth is never an option, it’s a necessity.

Growth is normal when there is life. Unless a child has a serious health problem, he will grow and not remain a child his entire life. The same is true for the Christian; he must keep growing in order to maintain steadfastness. God wants Christians to grow up in every way like Christ and not to remain as children (Ephesians 4:14-15).

3) Growth is always gradual, not instant or automatic.

Have you ever seen a baby grow into adulthood in just a matter of days, weeks or even a few years? You don’t bring a baby home from the hospital and expect him to do what a 20-year old can do. Growth is a process; it takes time to mature and develop.

In contrast to what some people think that one can become “holy” instantly through some powerful experience with God, spiritual growth is gradual. It requires cooperation with God and the application of spiritual diligence and discipline.

4) Growth is not easy, it’s difficult and painful.

A baby crawls first before he can walk. And once he gets the hang of walking, he still falls down a lot. He even falls flat on his face sometimes. It’s the same way with spiritual growth. There are a lot of tough lessons that we only learn by trial and error. Sometimes we thought we “got it,” only to realize later on that we haven’t really learned the lesson so we have to go through it again.

I – Grow in the Grace of our Lord

Grace is God’s unmerited favor by which He saves and sustains anyone who places their trust in Him. In other words, grace is not merely God’s way of drawing us to Him in the beginning. It is also the way we grow and remain steadfast in our faith in Christ.

The new birth is not the end; it is just the beginning. So how do we grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? To grow in grace means coming to a greater understanding of God’s holiness, justice, and sovereignty, which in turn allows us to see more of our rebellion, selfishness and pride. We do not only come to see more and more our unworthiness as the object of God’s grace, but we also see more and more how great His undeserved favor and love were that drew us to Himself.

Grace: the unmerited favor of God

Growing in grace involves developing the 7 Christian character traits that Peter wrote about in 2 Peter 1:5-7: virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness and love. These traits must be produced by the Spirit of God. (See also Galatians 5:22-23.)

“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”       

God gives these character traits to us, but we need to develop them by regular Bible study and prayer, fellowship and service, confession of sin and practicing good stewardship.

Although some unsaved people possess amazing self-control and endurance, these virtues point to them and not to the Lord, so they get the glory. But when God produces the beautiful nature of His Son in the life of a Christian, God receives the praise and glory.

We can grow in the grace of God (spiritual growth) and develop these Christian character traits because we were made in the image of God. This growth takes place through the power of God and the precious promises of God.

II – Grow in the Knowledge of Our Lord

In his epistle, Peter refers to Jesus as “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” three times (2 Peter 1:11; 2:20; 3:18). In doing so, Peter gives emphasis to the fact that you cannot separate Jesus Christ as Savior from Jesus Christ as Lord.

Peter is saying that the moment you place your trust in Christ as Savior, you are yielding all of yourself that you know to all of Christ that you know. When you become a Christian, you are to progressively grow in submission to Christ. And as a result, you will see more of who He is and more of who you are through the Word of God.

Knowing God means establishing a close, intimate relationship with God through Christ

Becoming a Christian involves knowledge and understanding. Such knowledge of Christ includes both facts about Him, as revealed in Scriptures, and knowing Him personally. Growing in the knowledge of our Lord does not only involve reading the Bible in order to know what He has revealed about Himself; it also involves establishing a personal relationship and intimate fellowship with the Lord Jesus.

How to Grow in the Knowledge of Our Lord

1) Upon establishing a personal and intimate relationship with God through faith in Christ Jesus, we grow in the knowledge of our Lord by continually seeking Him.

Since God alone is the author of our knowledge of Himself, only He can reveal Himself. We cannot possibly know God if He does not reveal Himself to us. The knowledge of God is received by those who continue to seek Him and call upon his Name (Jeremiah 29:13; Jeremiah 33:3).

2) Growing in spiritual wisdom and understanding involves complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit to illuminate our minds to the truth (John 16:13).

The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to teach and transform believers. As we read, study, memorize and meditate Scriptures, the Holy Spirit not only illuminates our minds to the knowledge of God but He also equips us to instruct others in the knowledge of God.

We cannot ignore the handbook God has given us and expect to gain knowledge of Him in some other way. A patient study of Scriptures enables us to hear God’s voice and to learn about how God views Himself, ourselves and others. We will also know how God wants us to serve Him in order to accomplish His purposes.

3) Growing in the knowledge of our Lord involves faithfulness and obedience to Him.

This is the part where the believer exhibits in his life the knowledge of God he received by living a life that is worthy of God. This means that the way a believer conducts himself and lives his life must correspond to the character of Christ. Christians grow in the knowledge of God by living in complete submission to and obedience to God.

4) Growing in the knowledge of our Lord requires patient endurance and a teachable spirit.

The Christian life is for long distance runners, not sprinters. If you want to grow in the knowledge of our Lord, you need to be open to learn from God’s Word and the Spirit. Christians who think they know it all have no more room for growth.

God does not reveal Himself and everything we need to know about Him all at once. We must learn to be patient and wait upon Him. We need to continue to persevere in God’s Word and abide in Christ. And that requires patient endurance on our part. The good news is that, God will give us strength to endure.

Conclusion

Did you know that you can be a Christian and never grow up? A famous quote by Maya Angelou says, “Everyone grows old but not everyone grows up.” This is not only true in the physical sense; it’s also true in the spiritual sense.

Hebrews 5:12-13 (NLT)

“You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right.”

Growing in the grace and knowledge of God is a process, it’s not automatic.  There is no instant pill you can take today that will make you spiritually mature tomorrow. There is no shortcut to spiritual growth.  It takes time, effort and intentional pursuit.

So how can you tell if you’re growing in the grace and knowledge of God? When you are learning more and more through God’s Word how He wants you to live and when the character traits of Christ become more and more evident in your life, then you are definitely on the right track.


*Recommended Resource: Growing Your Faith: How to Mature in Christ – eBook
By Jerry Bridges

When you’re gripped by the astonishing fact of Christ’s love for you, you desire to draw close to Him. But what can you do to deepen your relationship with Jesus? What does He expect of you, and how can you be more like Him? In Growing Your Faith, Bridges presents the essential elements of Christian life in a highly readable, surprisingly practical form.

You’ll learn how to feed your spiritual life through taking in the Scriptures, rely on the Holy Spirit in obedience and prayer, trust God during life’s trials, and contribute your unique gifts to serve others. Whether you’re a new Christian seeking direction in growing spiritually or a time-tested saint looking for a refresher, Growing Your Faith offers a solid foundation for genuine growth in spiritual maturity.

 

Keeping the Fire of the Holy Spirit Burning

Keeping the Fire of the Holy Spirit Burning

True born again Christians have a personal relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Luke 3:16). But how should Christians keep the fire of the Holy Spirit burning in their lives? How do Christians stay on fire for the Lord?

Jesus taught His disciples the importance of having the Holy Spirit because it’s through the Holy Spirit that we may become witnesses from our Jerusalem (home base) to the ends of the earth. Before Jesus was taken up to heaven, He commanded His disciples not to depart from Jerusalem but they should wait for the Holy Spirit to baptize them (Acts 1:4-5).

Perhaps you have been on fire for God before, but now you do not seem to remember anymore how that felt like; you are left wondering if that fire that once burnt in you can ever be rekindled.

Planetshakers’ Live Conference in Manila, Philippines

Yesterday, January 13, 2018, I was blessed to have attended the Planetshakers’ Conference in the Philippines, held at the Araneta Coliseum. I’d say the event was a victorious one, glory be to God.

We arrived at the venue just before 7 AM thinking we’re early, only to see a very long line of people, mostly youths, waiting to get in. Contrary to what I was expecting, the place was packed with people waiting to jam in worship with the Australian City Church music band and to listen from God.

While in line, I had the opportunity to converse with their senior pastor Russel Evans, who took some time to check out the people waiting to get in, a couple of hours before the event kicked off.

 

Keeping the fire of the Holy Spirit burning
Pastor Russel Evans and wife Sam

It was also a blessing to have met in person a fellow believer in Christ whom I came to know through our Bible Sharing group on Facebook.

Everybody had a blast during the praise and worship and we felt the Holy Spirit’s awesome presence all over the place. As I looked around the jam-packed coliseum, I saw how everybody was having a great time singing, shouting, jumping and dancing for the Lord.

But to me, the greatest take away was the message delivered by the youth pastor of the Planetshakers City Church during the first session, and it is this message that I will be sharing with you in this blog today.

Keeping the fire of the Holy Spirit burning
Youth Pastor Andy Harrison

How to keep the fire of the Holy Spirit burning

Youth pastor Andy Harrison talked about the fire of the Holy Spirit working in the life of every believer. And he mentioned three things Christians can and should do to keep the fire of the Holy Spirit burning in their lives.

A – Fuel the fire of the Holy Spirit by regularly reading the Bible.

Just as fire needs fuel to keep it burning brightly, spiritual passion also needs fueling or re-fueling to keep it burning bright. The spiritual fuel is none other than the Word of God – the Bible.

You may notice that people who are no longer on fire for God do not have time for the Scriptures. They have lost their passion for the Word. If you are in this situation, it’s time to replenish your spiritual energy with the Word of God in order for you to get back to normal.

Keeping the fire of the Holy Spirit burning

It’s important to fuel your fire by staying with the Word. Feed your fire. Don’t depend solely on your pastor or worship leaders in your church. You got to have a fire feeding device of your own. Go the extra mile for God by making it a habit to read the Bible every day.

When a Christian does not take in spiritual food by reading the Bible daily, his spiritual fire will grow dim and flickering. You need the Word of God if you want the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn afresh in your heart.

B – Maintain fellowship with other believers.

You’ve got to stay where the fire is. Being in fellowship with believers who love the Lord and are on fire for God will keep you on fire.

You may have heard or read the story of a certain believer who used to be on fire for God. But after sometime, he stopped going to church so his pastor went to visit him in his house and found him sitting before a roaring fireplace.

The pastor sat next to the man but did not say a word. Suddenly he reached over and pulled a red-hot coal out of the fire and laid it on another side of the fireplace. Within a few minutes, the red-hot coal became a smoldering ember and eventually a cold white ember emitting no heat.

As they both observed what just happened, the man looked at the pastor and said he would be back in church. It’s evident that when you separate a coal from the rest, it will die.

Keeping the fire of the Holy Spirit burning

It’s the same thing with Christians. Believers need each other to keep the fire of the Holy Spirit burning in their lives. Some Christians think they do not need to go to church. They think they will do just fine on their own. However, the Word of God warns us against forsaking the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25).

Spiritual growth is never a lonely route and that is why Jesus established the church. The church is a community of believers who worship together, work together, serve together and grow together to lend each other support.

We need other Christians in order to grow. We need regular interaction, fellowship and mutual support. We are to encourage and edify one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Christians who choose to isolate themselves do not grow, they are seldom strong and effective.

Keeping the fire of the Holy Spirit burning

By the way, you should be careful as who you hang around with. The old saying, “Birds of the same feather flock together” is true. You may think you won’t get influenced by non-Christians but the Bible is very clear in saying that, “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV).

This is not to say you must stay away from unbelievers. By all means you should befriend them so you will have the opportunity to share the gospel to them. But you must know where and when to draw the line. If you really want to keep your spiritual fire burning, be with Christians who are on fire for the Lord.

No matter how small or big your church is, as long as they love the Lord and they preach the Word, I encourage you to attend your church and support it faithfully.

C – Be a candle and go light your world.

The Word of God says Christians are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). Christians are candles, and as such, we should go out there and light the world. Believers in Christ are commissioned to share the Gospel into all the world (Matthew 28:19-20).

What if you’re the only Christian in your family? It doesn’t matter as long as you keep your light burning because one candle released can fill the whole house. When the fire of the Holy Spirit is burning bright and clear in your life, you’ll be able to help the people in the dark see clearly.

Keeping the fire of the Holy Spirit burning

Always keep your fire burning because the more the flame burns, the less wax is produced. The wax symbolizes the sins, filth and weaknesses in your life. When the fire of the Holy Spirit is burning brightly in your life, you will be walking and living under the will of God.

More than anything else in the world today, we need a demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us keep the flames burning and take the fire of God’s Spirit to a lost and dying world.

Conclusion

One of the most noted and greatest events in the history of mankind was the Day of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit was poured out; tongues of fire sat upon the disciples and they spoke in other tongues (Acts 2:1-4).

In order to keep the fire burning, we need to constantly be tapping into the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We should not put out or extinguish the fire of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

How is the fire of the Holy Spirit in your life? Is it burning bright and strong? Or is it flickering and may die out soon? You may want to examine yourself. Do you feel tired? Have you lost your spiritual appetite? Are you still energetic in serving God and others?

When God Seems Far Away

When God Seems Far Away

As a Christian, it is inevitable that you will most likely have seasons of your life when you feel far from God. There are times when you simply feel like Jesus is far away for no reason at all. You find it difficult to pray. Or you pray and cry out to God but it seems that God is deaf because He doesn’t answer. You’ve lost motivation to get into His Word or you read your Bible but it does not speak to you. You seek God but it seems as if He has hidden His face from you.

If you have experienced either of these situations, let me assure you that it is completely normal. I don’t know a single Christian who hasn’t felt this way in one way or another. There will be times in the life of every Christian, when even though you are walking by faith and there is no known sin in your life, God seems far away.

You’re Not Alone

David, the man whom God called “a man after My own heart,” had that experience which he expressed in Psalm 13:1-2. There is no indication in these verses that David sinned and yet out of the depths of his heart he repeats four times the haunting cry, “How long?” While David’s enemy was about to get him, God seemed unavailable (Psalm 13:3-4). It seemed as if God had forgotten David.

Jesus understood more than David did how it meant to be forsaken by God. Jesus’ last three hours on the cross as He was bearing upon Himself the sins of the world, was characterized by silence and darkness and God’s seeming deafness to the pleas and cries of His Son (Matthew 27:45-46). Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1 as an expression of the worst horror of human misery; namely, the feeling of being forsaken by God.

When God Seems Far Away

Often times we overlook the fact of Jesus’ humanity. On the cross, Jesus expressed the ultimate cry of desolation and despair which is enough for us to know that He understands how painful and heart breaking this experience can be. The cry of desperation is our response to how our circumstances look to us – God seems so far away and has forsaken us.

Has this ever happened to you? You desperately called out to God for help, but He seemed to be on an extended vacation. What are you supposed to do?

Call to the Lord and Trust in His Unfailing Love

Psalm 13:5-6 tells you what to do when God seems far away. David stopped crying out in anguish. Instead, he praises the Lord and finally rests in the joy of knowing that God will answer him. When God seemed far away, David learned to call to Him and trust in His unfailing love.

Did the Father forsake His Son and remained distant? No! Perhaps God looked away from the sin Jesus carried when He was dying on the cross but did not actually abandon Him. Jesus was innocent and had done nothing to forfeit the favor of God.

When God Seems Far AwayIn times when it seems God has turned His back, we must learn to trust the fact that He loves us with an unfailing love. Let us have confidence in God’s promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), even though it may seem that way for a while. There will be times when we have to wait for God’s answer to our petition and we are uncertain how long it would take. But the problem is that we are often in a hurry when God isn’t but His timing is always perfect.

Seek God especially when He seems Far Away

It’s very unfortunate that many Christians do not grow to maturity because when God seems far away from them, they do not call out to Him. Instead, they just shrug their shoulders and go right back into the world. Let us learn from David who called to God despite feeling being forsaken by Him. We must seek God especially when He seems far away.

When God Seems Far AwayDid you know that the real test of your faith is not when God’s presence is real and when you see God at work in your life? The real test of your faith is when God seems far away and you are left wondering why. Do you seek God when you come to the point where you can no longer feel God’s presence near you? Or do you look somewhere else for a quick fix?

Seek the Lord and You will Find Him

God gives us a divine promise that when we seek God with all our heart, we will find Him (Jer. 29:13; Deuteronomy 4:29). Jesus also promised not to cast out anyone who comes to Him (John 6:37). So even though God seems distant, just keep seeking Him. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

Oh and by the way, while you’re seeking God, you might feel as if you’re doing all the seeking but the truth is, God Himself has seeded within you the hunger for Him. Your longings for God are proof that He is actively working in your life. It might seem like this is due to the influence of friends and circumstances, but in reality God is just using them as means.

Keep an Awareness of God and the Enemy at All Times

When God seems far away
Photo Credits: The Beacon

When I gave my life to Christ, I gained the most wonderful and most powerful Friend in the whole wide world. However, I also gained a fearsome foe – Satan and his demons. Yes, Satan is nothing compared to God as he’s not as smart and not as powerful; he is nevertheless, a superhumanly powerful, evil genius. He uses the power of deception to fool new believers into doubting God’s power and reality in their lives by trying to manipulate their feelings.

As a new Christian, I felt nothing at first. Although I enjoyed the music during praise and worship and loved the messages/sermons delivered by the speakers, I did not really feel like I was in contact with God. I looked around me and saw people crying, singing, worshiping in tongues and enjoying God’s presence. And I thought, Why am I not feeling it? What is wrong with me?”

I only realized later on that it will take some time for a new Christian to receive more and more evidence and awareness of God’s presence. Like the growth of a tree, much of God’s work is not immediately obvious. It takes time to realize that God is right here with us and is actually working in us and through us. Well, the enemy will do anything in his power to deceive us but other than the power of deception, he can do nothing else.

As I continued to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus, I began to feel His nearness and constant presence in my life. I learned that communication is key to keeping God close at hand. Spending more time with God will keep us conscious of His love and His presence with us all the time.

Feelings Vs. Reality

We may feel different when we go from a valley to a mountaintop experience, but little or nothing in us has actually changed. All that happens when we’re on a peak is that we can see further with our own eyes. Being highly conscious of God’s love will keep us aware of His constant presence in our lives. One important thing we need to realize is that feelings and spiritual reality often do not coincide.

When God Seems Far AwayIn times when we can’t see God’s love and goodness and we feel nothing, we need to learn that although the weather changes, people change or feelings change, God remains solid rock, totally true and dependable forever. God wants us to learn to trust Him rather than trusting our emotions. God has promised to love us, be with us, forgive us and hear our prayers, but not once has He promised we will “feel” anything. So stand on the promises of God and not on what He has not promised.

Despite what we feel during periods of spiritual loneliness, God’s faithful presence with us is an unchanging and eternal reality. We are never alone because Jesus promised that He will be with us always even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20). This doesn’t mean we will never feel like God is far away because throughout Scriptures we see experiences of spiritual loneliness.

Conclusion

In times of difficulty, men reason, If there is a loving Father God, why does He seem far away?” “Why does He allow bad things to happen?” 

The story of the disciples on the boat at sea gives us a picture of the natural reaction of humans when we feel like God isn’t there (Matthew 8:23-27). The disciples are on a boat, and a storm suddenly appears. What did they do? They immediately panicked because Jesus was asleep. They woke Him up and Jesus rebuked them as if He was saying, “Guys, did you think I wasn’t present just because I was asleep? I was still there with you and I was fully aware of the storm.”

God will never leave your side, even when you feel like He’s so far away. He wants to assure you that He is with you, He has always been and He always will be. He will never leave your side – whether you feel that way or not. What a comfort that no matter how we are feeling, good or bad, God is above it all.


Recommended Resource:

When Heaven Seems Silent: How to Wait on God’s Promises Through Pain, Disappointment, and Doubt – eBook
By Mark and Tammy Endres

We know God’s plans and timing are perfect—but what do we do in the meantime? Why does God make us wait, knowing it can be so difficult? Why doesn’t He act when time seems to be running out? Why does He answer some prayers in a moment and yet fulfill other promises after having us wait days, years, or even decades before the promise comes to pass?

Mark and Tammy Endres have asked these questions and more. Though Mark was born with only one functioning hand, God has told them—again and again—that His plan is for complete healing. In When Heaven Seems Silent they share the lessons they have learned as they wait—lessons that have forever changed their perspective of God and how He works in the lives of His children. Through their inspiring story you will discover how to:

·          Hear God’s voice
·          Overcome disappointment
·          Wait without anger or offense
·          Face your emotions
·         Hold on to God’s promises, and much more!

 

Do You Need to be Baptized in Order to be Saved?

Do You Need to be Baptized in Order to be Saved?

Water baptism is an important topic that often arouses much controversy and confusion. Many Christians around the world are asking whether or not water baptism is necessary for salvation. Do you need to be baptized in order to be saved? Some say that baptism is a requirement for salvation while others say it is not. But what does the Bible teach?

What is Water Baptism?

Baptism comes from the Greek word “baptizo,” which comes from bapto, meaning “to dip,” “to immerse,” “to plunge under” or “to change the identification of.” Among the Greeks, when a piece of white cloth was to be dyed, it was plunged under the colored liquid until changed into the color of the dye.

The idea of identification is central to the meaning of baptism because when an object is dipped or immersed, it becomes totally identified with the substance in which it was placed. When John the Baptist baptized Jesus, he publicly identified Him who was sinless with sinners in anticipation of His death and resurrection as their sin-bearer. Jesus referred to His own impending death as a “baptism” which He had to undergo (Mark 10:38-39; Luke 12:50).

Did you know that the rite of baptism was a ritual in the Jewish culture from the beginning? Ceremonial washing of priests and the dipping of temple utensils into water was part of the law. For instance, before a priest takes his office as priest, he is first baptized in order to dedicate and identify him in his position. The baptism of the priest set him apart to take part in the temple and worship sacrifices while the baptism of the utensils set them apart for a specific use in worship.

In the same way, the baptism of John the Baptist was an Old Testament economy baptism which only signified the participant’s willingness to confess his sin. John’s baptism was not for salvation because when the Jews came to him, the Lord Jesus had not yet paid the price for sin. John the Baptist’s baptism was for repentance (Acts 19:4).

Be baptized to be saved? 

Although there are some verses that seem to indicate the necessity of water baptism in salvation, the Bible clearly tells us that salvation is a gift that is received by grace through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ; no external act is necessary for salvation because it is only by divine grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:22-30; Galatians 2:16; Philippians 3:9).

If we are saved by faith, then we are saved by faith when we believe and not when we get baptized. Otherwise, we are not saved by faith. To require anything else in addition to faith in Jesus Christ for salvation is a works-based salvation. It’s like saying that Jesus’ death on the cross was not sufficient to purchase our salvation.

If baptism is necessary for salvation then anyone who receives Christ on his deathbed and who confesses Jesus as Lord and Savior of his life would go to hell if he doesn’t get baptized before he died. And also all babies who die go to hell since they weren’t baptized. Because when we say that baptism is necessary, there can be no exceptions – otherwise it isn’t necessary.

To say that one needs to be baptized in order to be saved is to say we must add our own good works and obedience to Christ’s death in order to make it sufficient for salvation. So how do we deal with some verses that seem to indicate that baptism is necessary for salvation?

The Necessity of Water Baptism in Salvation

There is a belief that’s been going around for quite some time now which teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation; it’s called “baptismal regeneration.” Those who hold to this view are quick to quote 1 Peter 3:21 (NIV) as proof text because it says, “baptism that now saves you.” But is this really what Peter was saying? If this were so then Peter would be contradicting many scripture passages that show people being saved prior to being baptized or without being baptized at all.

A closer look at 1 Peter 3:21 shows that Peter is not actually saying that water baptism saves. He says, “Not the removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal to God for a clear conscience.” Water can only remove dirt from the flesh but it is the blood of Christ which removes the filth from our hearts because, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22).

The apostle Paul in Titus 3:5 seem to be saying that God saves us through the washing of regeneration, but in the immediately preceding words he says that “God saved us not by the works of righteousness we have done.” How can Paul say something contrary to what he just said earlier in the same verse?

Does the New Testament teach that one needs to be baptized in order to be saved?

If everyone who comes to Christ must be baptized in order to be saved, we would expect to find it stressed whenever the Gospel is presented in Scripture. But that is not the case. The apostle Paul never made water baptism any part of his Gospel presentation. Paul gives a concise summary of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and there is no mention of baptism.

Paul even said in 1 Corinthians 1:17 that “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel.” (It is important to note that Paul only baptized a few.) If baptism is part of the Gospel and is necessary for salvation, Paul would have made it a central theme of his ministry. If one needs to be baptized in order to be saved, why didn’t Paul baptize every one of those who received the Gospel message?

What good would it have done for Paul to preach the Gospel but not baptized? No one would have been saved! Clearly, Paul understood that water baptism is separate from the Gospel, and hence in no way efficacious for salvation.

What about Peter? Yes, Peter mentioned baptism in his sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). But when he spoke from Solomon’s portico in the Temple, he made no reference to baptism (Acts 3:12-16). Instead, he linked the forgiveness of sin to repentance (Acts 3:19).

Mark 16:16 is another verse that is often quoted to prove the necessity of baptism in salvation. Aside from the fact that many textual scholars think that Mark 16:9-20 are not an authentic part of Mark’s Gospel, verse 16 is actually a proof of the opposite.

Reading the verse more carefully, one should notice that the basis for condemnation is not the failure to be baptized, but only the failure to believe. Baptism is mentioned in the first part of the verse because it was the outward symbol that always accompanied the inward belief. Water baptism is certainly important and required of every believer. However, the New Testament does not teach that baptism is necessary for salvation.

Conclusion

Sixteen years ago today I was water baptized, four months after I got saved. Did I have to be baptized in order to be saved? No! And you don’t either. Saying that we need to be baptized in order to be saved is dangerous because it is saying there is something we must do to complete our salvation. We cannot rest our hope of salvation on something that we can do for ourselves. We must recognize our need of a Savior and accept the Lord Jesus’ finished work for our redemption.

If water baptism were not necessary for salvation, why then would one be baptized? Baptism is the symbol of what has already occurred in the heart and life of one who has trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is an important step of obedience that every Christian should take as an act of testimony to others and a public declaration of the reality of our personal identification with Christ.

Scripture is also clear that genuine saving faith results in obedience. Thus, every true believer who has opportunity will be baptized in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism is the result of salvation, not the means to it.

If you have a different understanding, I encourage you to study the Bible for yourself to see what it really teaches about water baptism and salvation. We must rely on Scripture alone as our authoritative standard, not Church tradition.

 

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!

 

*** For a list of hundreds of Bible translations, Christian resources and books, music, DVDs, toys, gift ideas and more at amazingly affordable prices, please Click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.