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Here we are in the midst of the quarantine and social distancing because of the Coronavirus. Not only has the virus hit many people physically very hard throughout the world, but the social isolation that goes along with it has also hit many people very hard mentally as well.
I have a prayer cabin in the woods of the small farm I live on. During my prayer time this afternoon, as I was paging through the Bible that permanently resides in it, I found a small printout of a devotion from 2009 that I totally forgot about for 11 years. As I read it, it spoke volumes to me especially during this most trying time where everything we once thought stable is being shaken.
It made me realize that success in God’s eyes can be totally different than success we want to see in our eyes. May you be blessed by this devotion during these hard times the same way I was blessed by it. Here it is:
GOD’S MEASURE OF SUCCESS
by David Wilkerson
August 21, 2009
Success in God’s eyes is being totally fulfilled in ministering to him. Such servants aren’t striving to “make it” or seeking earthly security. They only want to know their Lord and to minister to him.
Think about the 100 prophets hidden by Obadiah (1 Kings 18:4). They lived an isolated existence in caves for at least three to four years, during a severe famine. These men had no outside ministry. They were completely out of the public’s view, forgotten by most people. They couldn’t even share in Elijah’s victory on Mount Carmel. No doubt, the world would call them failures, insignificant men who hadn’t accomplished anything.
Yet God had given these devoted servants the precious gift of time. They had days, weeks, even years to pray, study, grow and minister to the Lord. You see, God was preparing them for the day when he would release them to minister to his people. Indeed, these same men would shepherd those who returned to God under Elijah’s ministry.
Years ago, the Lord blessed me with this gift of time. Before I ever pastored a church, I went into the woods and preached to the birds and trees. I had no plans, no agenda, no dreams. I only wanted to get to know God’s heart. So I prayed daily, seeking the Lord and ministering to him. And I marked my Bible from cover to cover. I was hidden, not seen by anyone. But God knew my address all along.
My advice is, “Quit looking for ministry. Spend your time seeking God instead. He knows where to find you. He’ll summon you when he sees you are ready. Forget what others are doing. Strive to be a success at God’s throne. If you’re ministering to the Lord and praying for others, you are already a success in his eyes!”
The date is late March 2020. The Corona Virus and financial woes are upon us. The future for many is totally uncertain.
Let’s go straight to Scripture and see what God has to say so that we do not get caught up with the vast array of opinions, both secular and Christian, that are bombarding us.
The Book of Job is our template to see that God is totally in control:
“All right, you may test him (Job),” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence. (Job 1:12 NLT)
We learn from reading further on, that Job’s possessions and children were taken from him. This was his response:
He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!” In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God. (Job 1:21-22 NLT)
As you read on through ’round 2′, Satan was granted further permission by God:
“All right, do with him as you please,” the Lord said to Satan. “But spare his life.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence, and he struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot. (Job 2:6-7 NLT)
After all that Job went through, he remained faithful to the Lord and the Lord blessed him:
So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He also gave Job seven more sons and three more daughters. Job lived 140 years after that, living to see four generations of his children and grandchildren. Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, full life. (Job 42:12-13, 16-17 NLT)
My point is that we must not concentrate on where the world’s woes are coming from. We know that they are coming from Satan. Instead, we must concentrate on what the Lord is trying to accomplish through it. Is this a day of reckoning, a last great awakening, or both?
But before we do that, I want to give some more Scriptures that testify to God’s sovereignty over the powers on earth and in the heavens:
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:28 NLT)
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. (Romans 13:1 NLT)
What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31 NLT)
It all boils down to this:
In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10 NKJV)
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV)
Salvation of souls is ‘Number 1’ to the Lord. Not our comforts! Not our bank accounts! Not our possessions! Not our lifestyle! Nothing!
Our spiritual well-being far outweighs our physical well-being. Actually, there is no comparison:
So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet. (Matthew 18:8 NLT)
What is happening to our world may well be a day of reckoning, for every drop of innocent blood must be paid for:
But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!” (Genesis 4:10 NLT)
“And I will require the blood of anyone who takes another person’s life.” (Genesis 9:5a NLT)
But I believe it can also be a last Spiritual Awakening before the Tribulation period. If it is, we as Christians must rise to the occasion. Everything that can be shaken is already being shaken—->our world, our nation, our government, our financial system, our churches, our jobs, our families, our stability. The Lord is shaking us to wake us up out of our slumber. Now is the time for churches to stop playing church and be the church. They must stop relying on their fancy music and eye candy programs and turn their reliance upon the Holy Spirit alone. Now is the time for everyone that calls themselves a Christian to be a Christian. We must live a life of humility. We must live a life of holiness. We must purge ourselves of all pride, jealousy, and self-reliance. We must be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now is also the time not to live in fear. The Lord revealed to Paul the sufferings he would have to go through. But the Lord was with him every step of the way. The same Lord will be with us every step of the way:
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he (Paul) is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15-16 NKJV)
Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent. (Acts 18:9 NKJV)
The Lord’s promise to His Church is the same as what it was 2,000 years ago:
And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:23-24, 29-31 NKJV)
The Lord’s assurance to each one of His children is also the same as what it was 2,000 years ago:
For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance. (1 Thessalonians 1:5 NKJV)
And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5 NKJV)
So what do we do? This is what Jesus, through Paul, tells us:
And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Romans 13:11-14 NKJV)
God offers us His peace so we can live all our days free of fear, worry and anxiety. He wants us to walk in the Spirit, with no more heavy burdens.
But the problem is we are living in a world that is in desperate need of the peace that only Jesus Christ can offer. Fear, anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies are rampant. Alcoholism, drug addictions, opioid abuse, and suicides are all around us.
The world defines peace as: “The nonwarring condition of a nation, group of nations, or the world. It is a state of mutual cooperation between people or groups, especially in personal relations.”
The Bible tells us that God’s peace, goes much deeper than that. As a matter of fact, the Bible has a lot to say about this godly peace. The best example I can start off with is the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces. They go into an area of the world in order to halt hostilities by show of force. But we as Christians are called by the Bible to go far beyond peacekeeping. We are called to be peacemakers. Unlike peacekeepers, peacemakers do not need a physical show of force. They instill a true and lasting peace through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Lives are not just protected by necessary physical intervention. Lives are changed from the inside out to achieve an eternal harmony:
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9 KJV)
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. (James 3:18 KJV)
Jesus warned us that the world’s peace will be at enmity with God’s peace. The world, through Satan, is at war with the Gospel:
“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.” (Matthew 10:34-35, 37 NLT)
Carter Conlon from Times Square Church gives an excellent and very timely teaching on the voice of the devil compared to the voice of God entitled “Get The Devil Out Of Your Head”. Click on the following play button to listen to it:
Jesus offers a higher peace that the world could never offer. It is offered to everyone who loves Jesus with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength (Luke 10:27). It is an inner peace, not an external peace that can fade away:
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27 KJV)
Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you His peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all. (2 Thessalonians 3:16 NLT)
The Jews only had a taste of this peace in the Old Testament times. It was a foreshadow of the peace to come through Jesus Christ:
The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace. (Psalm 29:11 KJV)
The following is a blessing the Levitical Priests were to pronounce over the people:
“May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26 NLT)
But because of Jesus, not only Jews, but Gentiles, can now fully experience God’s peace:
But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. (Ephesians 2:13, 17 NLT)
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. (Romans 5:1 NLT)
It is very interesting that when Jesus sent His disciples out to minister to the villages, He gave them these instructions about peace:
And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. (Matthew 10:12-14 NKJV)
On the evening of the resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples that abandoned Him during His most crucial hour only three days prior. What is truly amazing is that Jesus not only once, but twice pronounced peace on them:
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:19, 21 ESV)
Jesus literally was the Prince of Peace:
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. (Isaiah 9:6-7a NLT)
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:13-14 KJV)
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1 KJV)
You must put yourself in the boat with the Apostles. You have already seen the miracles Jesus has performed. But now you are witness to the instantaneous peace He instills on Creation. This is truly a wake up call that He is not only the Prince of Peace, but He is the God of Peace:
And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:39-41 ESV)
Because of Jesus, who is the God of peace, we are called to walk in God’s peace:
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. (Philippians 4:9 KJV)
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. (Colossians 3:15 KJV)
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14 KJV)
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3 KJV)
We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (Luke 1:74, 79 NLT)
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Romans 8:6 KJV)
God’s peace was so important to Paul that he opened up every single Epistle he wrote with a blessing of peace:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7b KJV)
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:3 KJV)
Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:2 KJV)
Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:3 KJV)
Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:2 KJV)
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:2 KJV)
To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Colossians 1:2 KJV)
Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:1 KJV)
Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:2 KJV)
Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Timothy 1:2 KJV)
To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (2 Timothy 1:2 KJV)
To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. (Titus 1:4 KJV)
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philemon 1:3 KJV)
Not only was godly peace so important to Paul, but Peter and John also opened up some of their writings with a blessing of peace:
Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. (1 Peter 1:2 KJV)
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2 KJV)
Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. (2 John 1:3 KJV)
John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne. (Revelation 1:4 KJV)
Like Peter, Paul, and John, Jesus’ half brother Jude also opened up his letter with a blessing of peace:
Please put yourself in the boat with the Apostles. You have already seen the miracles Jesus has performed. But now you are witness to the instantaneous peace He instills on Creation. This is truly a wake up call that He is the Prince of Peace:And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:39-41 ESV)
Even after the women with the issue of blood for 12 years was physically healed, Jesus knew she needed a blessing of peace to make her complete:
Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” (Mark 5:33-34 NLT)
Now let’s delve into this godly peace. Isaiah calls it a perfect peace. This peace is so remarkable that no matter how chaotic things get around us, we can experience it. It surpasses all understanding:
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! (Isaiah 26:3 NLT)
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV)
Even fear will melt away:
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV)
This godly peace only comes by means of the Holy Spirit working in the life of the Christian:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 KJV)
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. (James 3:17 KJV)
There is coming a time very shortly that the world will grasp desperately for peace. Because only true peace exists in Jesus Christ alone, the world will fall for a false peace:
For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. (1 Thessalonians 5:3, 11 KJV)
For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way. Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed. (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 NLT)
And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword. (Revelation 6:3-4 KJV)
“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matthew 24:21 KJV)
How is God’s Inner Peace Achieved?
This article would not be complete without getting to the most important question of all, “Are you a Christian and do you still lack inner peace?” This question may seem invasive, but we must get to the heart of the matter, because it can be life changing. We have learned that God is the God of peace and that God offers an inner peace that surpasses all understanding to every single Christian, no matter what outside circumstances they are going through. As we delve further into Scripture, we learn that inner peace is reliant on holiness that comes through faith. Or in blunt terms, “If you are lacking God’s inner peace, your holiness, brought about by faith, is not where it should be.”
God’s message about holiness isn’t about outward things. It is about faith. The path to holiness is not through human ability, but through faith. He makes it very clear and simple. This is His wonderful answer to the anxious cries of multitudes of Christians who lack inner peace and thirst for the understanding of how to be holy—->we are holy as we rest in His holiness! So now is the time to put off all reliance on the flesh and make this your declaration: “I claim my holiness that is in Jesus Christ. I am a part of His body and my Father sees me as holy because I am in Christ!”
Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. (Romans 6:19 NLT)
God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. (1 Thessalonians 4:7 NLT)
Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:21-22, 24 NLT)
Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God. (2 Corinthians 7:1 NLT)
Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14 NLT)
Remember, this work is a heavenly work brought about by submission to the Holy Spirit:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV)
In order to avoid any confusion, we must take into account that holiness is the state, while sanctification is the process. Sanctification is a lifelong process (from the time one is saved) of being made holy only through the merits and justification of Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit that is then reflected in man. Sanctification cannot be attained by any works-based process, but only through the works and power of the divine.
Jesus prayed this prayer the night before He was crucified for every believer who would ever come to Him to be sanctified:
“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify (make holy or set apart for sacred use) them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” (John 17:15-20 ESV)
Think of the correlation between God’s inner peace and sanctification with this analogy:
Sanctification is like a train you are taking to your destination. You are anxious before your train comes, wondering if you will make your scheduled destination. Once your train comes in on time and you get on board and the train moves ahead, a peace comes over you. As long as you stay on board the train and don’t get off at any of the stops, all is well. But if you decide to get off at one of the stops along the way to take care of a tempting issue, anxiety returns. Now you find yourself wondering if you will be able to get on board another train and make your destination on time. All this worry and lack of inner peace, all because of a needless act that lacked faith to stay on board.
Now for the key to obtaining a ticket for this train that ensures God’s inner peace. It involves one last set of questions that go hand-in-hand with sanctification and holiness: How do you look at sin and evil? Do you look at sin as something that only must be avoided and hopefully you won’t fall into it? Or do you look at it the way God does with a righteous hatred?
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. (Romans 12:9 ESV)
Do not bring any detestable objects into your home, for then you will be destroyed, just like them. You must utterly detest such things, for they are set apart for destruction. (Deuteronomy 7:26 NLT)
If you begin to look at sin and evil the way God does, your train is approaching. I can hear the whistle now. Get ready and board and stay on board!
Stay on the path that the Lord your God has commanded you to follow. (Deuteronomy 5:33 NLT)
Click on the following PDF for further correlation between sanctification and inner peace:
First, let me explain what I mean by rhetoric. Rhetoric is simply natural oratory which uses language to persuade the natural mind to act in a predetermined way. One of the best examples is Winston Churchill, who was able to rally the British Empire during their darkest hour of World War II.
Notice what it says on the picture of the pulpit above. It says “Preach the Word” not “Speak the Word”. Bottom line being: “Reliance ALONE upon rhetoric and natural oratory skills has no place here!”
Before I elaborate further, I would like for you to read the following two PDF’s from John Piper who is able to explain much better in depth than I can:
Let’s face it, two of the most important benefits of going to ‘church’ on Sundays is to be in fellowship with other believers and to hear a message preached that hits home and has spiritual impact. If the message isn’t labored over during the week by the speaker to be timely, tailored, on-target, spirit filled, and God directed—why even have a speaker behind the pulpit? Why not set up a projector and tune into one of the vast choices technology gives us access to today?
When I get up and leave after ‘church’ is over to face the world, I do not want to be the same person that I was when I came in. I want the sermon that was preached to challenge me to move to higher ground. I want something where I find myself mulling over for days afterwards. I want something that causes me to look into my spiritual mirror where I can see all my rough edges that need to be addressed. I need conviction, not condemnation. I need spiritual encouragement, not just human motivation.
The one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. (1 Corinthians 14:3 ESV)
There should be a definite distinction for adults between all three main segments of the typical going to ‘church’ on Sundays: Sunday School Class, Sunday Worship Time, and the Sunday Sermon. Sunday School Class is for growing in the knowledge of the Word. Sunday Worship Time is for breaking up any fallow ground in us and allowing the Holy Spirit to minister His gifts. The Sunday Sermon is for closely connecting us spiritually to the God who created us and died for us through the preaching.
Our personal prayer and bible reading during the week are our fuel and oil that keeps our engines running as Christians. But, ‘church’ time is for tuning our engines and to keep them from running rough.
If your spirit is empty by Wednesday from what was preached on Sunday, you need to evaluate the situation. Is it ‘you’ where the problem is, or is it that you are a ‘victim of rhetoric’?
The following three portions of Scripture are from Jesus’ last week on this earth before His death. They concern a donkey, a room, and a jar of perfume:
As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.” (Matthew 21:1-3 NLT) (see also Luke 19:28-35 Mark 11:1-7)
On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?” “As you go into the city,” He told them, “you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with My disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus told them and prepared the Passover meal there. (Matthew 26:17-19 NLT) (see also Luke 22:7-13 and Mark 14:12-16 NLT)
Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While He was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over His head. The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to Me? You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me. She has poured this perfume on Me to prepare My body for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” (Matthew 26:6-13 NLT) (see also Mark 14:3-9 NLT)
What I want to do is look past the gifts of the donkey, the room, and the jar of perfume and look at who supplied them. Unfortunately we have no names. All we know is that they were a man, another man, and a woman. They were most likely ordinary people with no title or notoriety. What is important is that Jesus knew who they were and that they would not be forgotten. They would be rewarded greatly for their kindness and faithfulness. How do I know this? Take note of Jesus’ own words on the subject:
“When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:2-4 NLT)
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:21 NIV)
The whole idea of obscurity is so contrary to human nature. Yet this is where our greatest reward lays:
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:19-21 NLT)
The heart of the matter is our motivation. Everyone likes to get a pat on the back and hear, “Job well done!” But if worldly recognition is what motivates our good deeds, we are barking up the wrong tree:
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6 ESV)
When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but He did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him. (Genesis 4:2a-8 NLT)
There is controversy with Bible Scholars as to why God did not accept Cain’s gift. Was it because there was no blood in Cain’s offering? Was it because Cain did not offer his best? Or was it solely because of Cain’s attitude rather than his gift itself? Furthermore, how did Cain know his offering was not accepted? Was it because fire came down from above and consumed Abel’s offering and not his?
Whatever the reasons might be in answer to these questions, one thing we know for sure is that Cain knew exactly what was expected of him, because God said to him, “You will be accepted if you do what is right.” Even more important is that God loved and cared enough for Cain that He warned him, “But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” Bottom line is that Cain knew what to do, but refused to do it. Instead of stopping there, Cain did the unthinkable. Cain killed his brother.
I repair machinery for a living. My results are almost 100% that it ends in success. I find this very gratifying to see a machine that became broken, back up and running after I fixed it. Where my frustrations lay is with people that are broken. When people are hurting in their life because of the bad decisions or wrong paths they have taken in life and I want to help them get things right, I find this extremely frustrating. I lay the truth out to them. They will shake their heads “yes” that they fully understand and are in complete agreement. But somewhere along the line, the enemy (Satan) muddies the waters up. Confusion and doubts enter the person’s mind.
God then reminds me about His dealings with Cain. God says, “How do you think I felt when I warned Cain, but he refused to listen to Me, his Creator?” This is when I have to realize that we all have free will. Our God is not a puppeteer. All he asks of us is to freely love and obey Him and to love people just like He does:
But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them. (1 Corinthians 14:3 NLT)
The bottom line means that we must never give up or become weary in well doing, no matter how many people we sadly see go by the wayside:
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:9-10 KJV)
Let us be ‘Cain Caring’ just like God was. God could have zapped Cain on the spot just like He later did to Er in Genesis 38:7. Instead, God in His mercy placed a mark on Cain so he would not be slain:
And Cain said unto the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.” And the Lord said unto him, “Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him. And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. (Genesis 4:13-16 KJV)
May we never stray from the Lord’s presence like Cain caused himself to be. And if we see someone else who has strayed from the Lord, may we do everything in our power to bring them back into His presence!
“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” (Luke 15:4-7 NLT)