This is where the proverbial “rubber meets the road,” or where the heart meets with true faith. Jesus’ disciples tried to cast a demon out of the man’s son but to no avail. The Bible says, “They could not cure him,” (Mt. 17:16, KJV). They didn’t get the results of their prayer on that day. Perplexed they asked Jesus about what happened. Jesus’ response was very simple. He told them it was “because of your unbelief.”
Sometimes in life, I think we tend to downplay the importance of our faith and what we believe. We hear about it so much that I think as Christians we have become desensitized to its power in both our spiritual and our natural lives. This is not what it should be since we are told in four verses of the Bible, “The just shall live by his faith,” (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38, KJV).
Our faith, our belief should be the marker for everything in our lives. Not just for salvation, but for every action and prayer. We know all the right words to say and all the proper “Christian” motions to make, but is our faith alive and put into full force action?
If you feel a little waning in this area and if you feel like Jesus is talking to you, here are some steps to build up your faith and belief:
1. Pray: Yup, that’s right! Keep praying. Jesus did not have an issue with their prayer; He had a problem with their lack of belief in their prayer. In Mark 11:24 Jesus said, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them,” (KJV, see also Mt. 21:22; Ja. 1:16). Continue to pray, yet make sure you believe in your prayer being heard and you believe in the One who hears your prayer and is able to be your help (more on this a little later). Many ask a lot of things of the Lord, but those that catch His attention the most are those who have faith when they ask. On several occasions, Jesus said it’s because of “your faith” that healing has taken place (Mt. 9:22; Mk. 10:52). Too many people focus on the right words to say during prayer when the real focus should be on Whom we believe. Do our heart’s match up with the words that are coming out of our mouths or are they just that, words, instead of a powerful instrument implemented by what we believe? Your faith matters more than your words.
2. Nourish: Every believer has to nourish their faith with a daily diet of the Word of God. “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart…,” (Jer. 15:16, KJV). We’ve all heard the phrase “you are what you eat” and no truer is it than here. Our natural bodies depend on us to eat properly for it to maintain its daily functions. Our spirit depends on us to fill it with the necessary spiritual nutrients to help our faith and belief thrive to be all that God has designed for you and me to be. A rich diet in God’s Word will supply the believer with encouragement, wisdom and truth to hold on to their faith and to build the spiritual muscle to believe more. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,” (Mt. 4:4, KJV).
3. Rest: Not only rest in our salvation but also in the fact that He heard (told you there was more 🙂 ). “For we which have believed do enter into rest…,” (Heb. 4:3, KJV). “I called on the LORD in distress; the LORD answered me…,” (Ps. 118:5, NKJV; see also my article “Know That God Hears!”). We have to trust in Him to handle our prayers. That’s what resting is all about. We prayed it, we committed it to Him, and we rest. Is this hard to do sometimes? Yes, but oh so needful. It’s disciplining ourselves like Jesus did when He spoke at Lazarus’ tomb saying, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me,” (John 11:41, KJV). He didn’t try to persuade God, He rested in the fact that He knew already that God heard Him. We have to discipline ourselves to rest in Him. Those that are in a continual state of worry are not resting. Rather, they are anxious over the conditions in their life. Paul said, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 4:6-7, KJV). Peace will cover the one who prays it and gives it to God allowing him/her to rest.
Is this a sure-fire way to have God answer your prayers the way you want? NOPE!!! Nonetheless, we still are to be people who believe when we pray. Unbelief will cause you and I to miss out on the amazing things that God wants to do in and through us. Don’t take that chance today. Don’t ever stop praying but do more than just pray – BELIEVE!
Self-sufficiency is a statement of pride. It’s the belief that whatever is going on and whatever we are facing or are trying to do is going to happen because of us. It says that I am more than enough by myself and, “I’ve got this.”
While self-sufficiency is a mark of pride, I see it also as a teller of fear. The fear to let go. The fear to give up control. The fear to not let another in your world to help you along the way because nobody can do it like you can and it’s hard to invest the word “trust” into someone else.
But, as a child of God, all that we have in our relationship with Him, is based on trust. That’s why it’s considered a walk of faith. Faith doesn’t know all the answers for today, better yet tomorrow. Faith can’t really grasp exactly how this is all going to turn out, but faith just presses on. Even though it doesn’t know all the ins and outs of everything, faith just continues to believe.
It believes in the One in whom the trust is deposited more than anything else. It is sure that somehow, someway, God is going to turn this thing around and make “all things work together for good,” (Romans 8:28). This faith is so confident that it knows that we can prepare for and learn about how to win in the day of battle; we can go through all the steps and check off the lists to each one that will secure our victory – but, ultimately it all means nothing because our “deliverance is of the LORD,” (Proverbs 21:31, NKJV).
It’s good to be proactive in life and want to get things done, for God has never been a promoter of the lazy and lackadaisical. But in our pursuit to “do,” we have to make sure we “don’t.” Don’t give pride a foothold and don’t believe more in self, than God. For only in Him and with Him can our true deliverance be found.
We don’t have to do life on our own. We don’t have to try to press through the days in our own power and strength. Rather, we are in a relationship with a loving, heavenly Father, who cares about everything we are going through and everything we are dealing with and He has the power to take control of it all because all power belongs to God (Psalm 62:11).
Father God, in your hands we commit every worry, every fear and every trouble. Father God, we lean and depend on Your grace and mercy. We thank You for all that You have already done and continue to do in each and every one of our lives. We know that You see all and know all. Help us to rest in You. Give us that peace which surpasses all understanding as we hold on to You and Your word and Your hope for this day and this week. Thank You that You love us enough to hear our prayers and it’s in Your hands we leave them. Thank You for being our all in all. In Jesus’ name we pray – AMEN!!!
Some days my life feels taken.
Overshadowed with fear, my faith feels shaken.
But You told me that I’m not forsaken.
In Your hands, I am molded and shapen.
Failures, mess-ups and disappointments
all try to rob me of my anointing.
Making me feel like the least of all,
but You declared my life has a mighty call.
Walking away is not an option,
I was brought in by Your holy adoption.
To make me more than what I see in self,
to rise me higher in spiritual wealth.
In You, I am rich to do a mighty work,
denying the frustrations that try to steal my worth.
I stand in faith upon that solid ground.
In Jesus Christ, where my life is found!
“And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,” Philippians 3:9
“Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bring his sheaves with him,” Psalm 126:5-6, NKJV
Good Friday or Holy Friday, no matter which name you call it by, it was a day of great tears and sorrow that ushered in a day of rejoicing.
From the Garden of Gethsemane where He prayed earnestly until His sweat became as great drops of blood (Luke 22:44), to the illegal trials at night that stripped away any rights He may have had in the human form, Jesus knew anguish. He knew more than just heaviness of heart. He experienced deep, physical pain – yet, the night was not over.
Had it stopped at the trials and mockery, some would say it was tolerable (though I wouldn’t). Let us not take lightly all that Christ endured on that night. For He not only bore the pain of stripes and nails, but He carried the weight of the world. He carried the soul’s destiny for every human that ever walked the face of this earth.
It was a time of great sadness. As a parent mourns over a wayward child, Jesus carried the burden of people in His bosom. Earlier He said, “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37, KJV).
Now, on this night of sorrow, spiritually He is doing just that. No one could ever put into words the pain of what it felt like to hang on that cross and bear the sins of the world. But, as He hung there, with blood pouring down, He was in the gathering process. That’s why He couldn’t come down because even as He was nailed and left to die, He with great sorrow and tears, was working at gathering that would eventually lead to rejoicing.
What a clear head and frame of mind our Lord kept through it all. Most of us would have gone into survival mode under such duress, thinking of self. Jesus went to survival mode, too. Not for Himself rather, “To seek and to save that which was lost,” (Luke 19:10, KJV).
As He hung there, He thought about all those that are captive by sin and needed a great deliverance. These people staring at Him as He bled knew a little something about being a people held captive. Their history repeats over and over again of how they were forced out of their promised land due to sin and negligence.
But God didn’t leave them like that. In each instance, He brought a plan of deliverance and salvation into the mix. When they cried out, He saved them and brought them back to their homeland. They shed many tears as the farmer scatters seed. Just like the seed, there comes a time where sowing stops and gathering begins and “shall doubtless come again with rejoicing bringing his sheaves with him.”
As He hung there, Jesus was doing both. Sowing: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit,” (John 12:24, KJV). He was also gathering: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself. This He said, signifying by what death He would die,” (John 12:32-33, NKJV).
Jesus was sowing the seed in tears and at the same time reaping with rejoicing. On this Good Friday; this Holy Friday, we are now the benefactors of that great work done on the cross. When God brought the children of Israel back from captivity, the nations said, “The LORD has done great things for them.” (Psalm 126:2, NKJV). Their response was, “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are glad,” (Psalm 126:3, NKJV).
Jesus brought us out of captivity on that Friday. Through our life of sinfulness, we have experienced many tears. Through the sins of others, we will sow many tears. Now, because of Christ, we can also “Reap Rejoicing.” “And, we are glad!”
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“Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” Acts 12:5 (read Acts 12:1-11)
Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Why is that? Because as breath is with the body, with each inhale and exhale one’s life is sustained; so is the prayer line that fosters that interpersonal relationship between God and man. It is not only life-sustaining, but it’s soul-sustaining keeping that glorious love connection betwixt the two opened and flowing.
Prayer is and of itself a discipline where one places themselves at the feet of the Almighty; to draw near to Him; to get to know Him more. Yet, prayer is often as well a plea of desperation when the times and trials of this life are too hard to bear. When we are at the end of our rope; or, when we just don’t understand what is happening or the road we should take – we pray.
We pray because deep within ourselves we know that try as we might, we can find no better help. Nor, is there any higher intervention than that which comes from God. Therefore, through prayer, we seek the release of His help and power into our problems, our lives, and the lives of those whom we intercede for.
Prayer is, and becomes, that connective key where God and man meet to converse on an intimate level, recognizing His greatness and sovereignty in the midst of our humanness and weaknesses.
And, this is what the church was hoping for when they offered up prayers on behalf of Peter who was now in prison. By this time persecution was not a new thing to the church. Throughout the Book of Acts, there are uprisings against the faith. The idea of the church enduring hardship was not going away anytime soon.
As a matter of fact, James, one of Jesus’s original disciples, was killed in the process by the sword (beheading, some say). Then, seeking, even more, favor among men, Herod proceeded further in attacking the church and imprisoning Peter also.
The Bible tells us, “Prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him,” (Acts 12:5). This is the epitome of what it means when the Psalmist declared, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD. . .” (Psalm 121:1-2a).
Pain and suffering were taking place in the church but hope was not lost because their hope was not in the circumstances that surrounded them – their hope was in God who reigned above them.
Therefore, they prayed!
Don’t tell me prayer doesn’t matter; that it doesn’t make a difference. Yes, it does! God will literally make chains fall off and set captives free through the power of prayer (as He does for Peter here).
Unbeknownst to Peter, God heard their prayers and He was working on his case. Peter, shackled and asleep between two soldiers, was about to experience a miraculous breakthrough of a lifetime. He may have been appointed to be kept under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each; but, Peter had just one God that would step in and free him from their midst.
See, it doesn’t matter how bad they have you wrapped up, God can break through it all. It doesn’t matter how many chains and shackles the enemy will try to place on you, prayer to the right Source; to God alone, will free you from their hold.
Peter was getting an up close and personal lesson in this area. God sent an angel to come to Peter in the night. With light filling the prison house the angel stood before Peter and aroused him from his sleep by hitting him on his side. He spoke, “Arise up quickly,” (Acts 12:7). And, immediately his chains fell off.
Through the initial intervention of prayer, God was literally breaking chains off of Peter to set him free! You have to get happy about that and feel it in your spirit what God wants to do for His people. God will move and instruct His heavenly hosts to work on your behalf as He did for Peter through the power of prayer. Never underestimate the power of God. He can do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” (Ephesians 3:20).
The church was praying corporately and God was listening attentively, and He was working it out. When the shackles fell from his hands, the angel then instructed Peter to get himself together and put his shoes on and to follow him (Acts 12:8).
Acts 12:10 tells us, “When they were past the first, and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.” Amazing! You have to admire the beauty of it all coming together. God not only freed him, but took him past one enemy, and then another enemy. He took him through the prison and out the huge iron gate unknown to anyone. This blew my mind. None of the enemies had a clue to what God was up to in freeing Peter. I don’t know if they were all in a heavy sleep or not, but God did it. He freed Peter.
Peter’s freedom was spawned through the prayers of the church. Yes, God could most certainly move without the intervention of anyone. But, here in these verses, a special note was made to stand out that when they prayed; when they got together collectively and on one accord to seek for Peter’s freedom, that’s when the miracle happened. God wants us to know the importance and the power of prayer. He said, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me,” (Psalms 50:15).
Prayer was a huge key at work in the moving and miracles of the first-century church and it should be a huge key at work in our current lives and ministries as well. Paul later teaches, “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting,” (1 Timothy 2:8). There is never a wrong time or place to pray. And, when you pray – BELIEVE! Believe that He hears, and believe that He will answer as He sees fit.
Your prayers DO make a difference. There is power in prayer! “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:7-11).
God made the impossible happen for Peter and He can do so in the church today. People can be freed. Chains can be broken. Ministries can flourish through the power of prayer. Prayer never hurts anyone, but it can always help everyone. We are told, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit,” (James 5:16-18).
What can you do through your prayer life?
Trust and believe that your prayers are never wasted; that there is power in prayer. Prayer can reach where physically we cannot. Prayer can go behind the veil into the throne room of God. Think about that for a second and let it sink in. Didn’t the book of Hebrews tell us, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)? This is done through prayer.
We are not alone in this life. Our way of viewing things and situations can become impaired in our day to day struggles. We may feel like we don’t have power to do anything; as if we are in the dark, but prayer offers a light of hope.
Whether falling on our knees or reverently and silently offering up with heart pleas and thanksgivings to God, your prayers matter.
We serve a God who wants to hear from us and invites us to pray. We will never know all the ins and outs of why God answers some prayers immediately, and why with some He chooses a different course. But, I do know this; prayer is never wasted, nor is it a waste of time. God hears each and every petition. He’s paying attention to the cause of His people. Don’t be discouraged if it seems like it’s not coming through for you like you want it to. God may have a greater course of destination in mind. Just hold on, keep the faith, and never stop praying. There is power in prayer!
One of the events most etched in people’s minds and history when recalling the events that occurred during this blessed time of the years was the cleansing of the temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46). It is during this time when Jesus had had enough! It was time to get the house of God cleaned up! Unashamedly and without regard for roving eyes and the tsk tsk tsking of the people’s lips, He flips tables over and starts throwing people out to get His Father’s house back in order. With holy force, He sought to reclaim what was rightfully God’s.
But, can I tell you, His fight didn’t stop there. He wanted more than a building to reclaim for God, He wanted people that rightfully belong to Him. He wouldn’t gain that by flipping over tables, rather He flipped over the gates of hell. He wouldn’t get there by driving people with wrong intents away, but with force, He drove the enemy of our soul away and crushed him under His feet. He wanted to win the temple of people’s heart for His Father and this fight could only be won on the cross.
The whips that were used against Him were nothing in comparison to the sting He was delivering to the enemy. The ridicule He experienced couldn’t overshadow the words of comfort and the prayers of forgiveness He offered as He hung there. The thorns that were placed on Him and the sword that pierced His side couldn’t contend with the piercing plea of souls searching for everlasting freedom the cross could provide. On the cross, He would remain until the victory to reclaim the lost and hurting world to His Father was won. On the cross, He would stay until the temple of the one who would believe in Him could be cleansed and made new that true worship and true fellowship with the Father could be restored.
When Jesus stepped in the place for us, He cleansed our temples with the only thing that could work: His Blood. His blood is the only thing that could turn the enemy of our soul upside down. His blood is the only thing that could deliver from the eternal death to come. His blood is the only way to reclaim the hearts of the people; the temple of their souls for the Father.
When Jesus cleaned our temple, He did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. More than a building was rightfully returned to God. You and I and everyone who believes were won by the cleansing power of the cross.
When Jesus cleansed our temple He did more than flip over tables. He took who we used to be and made us brand new. He turned our world upside down and gave us entrance into the kingdom of God, and we are so glad He did.
“Religion says earn your life. Secular society says create your life. Jesus says, ‘My life for your life.” – Timothy Keller
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
“Only the blood of Jesus can cleanse us, yet if we withhold ourselves from that blood, we will be unclean forever.” – Aiden Wilson Tozer
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Titus 3:5
“What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus; What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” – Robert Lowry
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7
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There is so much that goes on inside of us, outside of us, and around us, that can literally make our heads spin. There are so many if’s, and’s, and but’s that we deal with daily making us feel deflated, depleted, and downright drained. Sometimes, it just seems that things are out of control and we can’t get a handled on anything and we have mastered or accomplished nothing.
But, I take comfort in the words God spoke from the midst of the burning bush to Moses, His prophet. He said, “I AM THAT I AM,” (Exodus 3:14) and I am drawn into a world of sweet wonder at the love my God has for us.
The human heart can get so muddled and become so bogged down to the point that it can’t even express properly how it feels or what it wants to say. But, the great “I AM” doesn’t need our proper articulation of words to understand our deepest needs on the inside. In His beautiful care for us, He needs only to take a peek behind the scenes on the inside of our being to see what cares we bear.
He is our perfect heart inspector. When you feel like you can’t get it out – seek Him out because He already knows, in His loving sovereignty, how to deal beautifully with you.
God can be absolutely anything we need Him to be. But, God already is the great “I AM.” Those two words with only three letters cover us, lives inside of us through His Spirit, and helps us in our most desperate need.
So, if it’s tears that’s on the menu of your heart today, that come without explanation, the great “I AM” is the perfect set of shoulders to unload the heaviness of it all. If life just seems overwhelming at times. The great “I AM” is, well, greater than anything, any plan, or any thoughts against you. Whatever may seem to overpower us will never take over Him. He will always be in control. During every waking moment or any sleeping night, the great “I AM” will always be standing watch, guarding, and keeping us at those times when we can’t keep ourselves.
I smile when I think of the wonder of it all – the sweet wonder of Him. He really is the lifter of heart, mind, body, and soul. He is beyond anything we need Him to be. God, is simply, the great “I AM.” With a period at the end of it, it closes the case on exactly who He is.