I have learned, that as humans, we don’t really know what we want some of the time. Oh, we have goals, desires, and aspirations, but often how to attain them becomes skewered in our thinking. We may pray for God to move this obstacle out of the way or transfer that particular issue over there, and when He does, we are just not happy or totally satisfied with the results. Sometimes things don’t look or feel like we thought it should.
That’s because as humans we have to realize our limitations. We are not all-knowing. We can barely get through one day with all our faculties intact, let alone for us to try to tell our own end from the beginning and what we think our tomorrows and future should look like.
We can pray about things that bother us and concern us but ultimately we have to be willing to let God lead. And, sometimes we even have to pray that He would help us to follow that leading. When He leads, we don’t always understand the outcome, but then again, if we did, it wouldn’t be the walk of faith, filled with trust in our God that we are called to walk.
Our thoughts can lead us into the land of wondering, but it is our daily prayer that our hearts will follow God in the pursuit of what He has in store for our lives. The Bible tells us, “The LORD knows the thoughts of man, that they are futile,” (Psalm 94:11, NKJV). Some other translations relate that word “futile” found in the NKJV as “worthless” (NLT), “vanity” (KJV), and “meaningless” (HCSB) just to name a few.
In other words, our thoughts about a situation compared to God’s cannot be matched. Did not the Bible tell us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts,” (Isaiah 55:8-9)? What He knows about a circumstance far surpasses anything our intellectual capabilities can begin to even imagine. With that being said, our thoughts take a back seat to His sovereign leading.
As hard as it may be to let go of the wheel and allow God to steer, it is something we must do if we are to drive in the right direction and course for our best and most successful life in Him. We have to end the constant back and forth tug of war for control of our lives and submit to the One who is in control of our lives.
“Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end,” John 13:1
Eventually, the love of friends fades. As years go by we grow up and move on with our lives. Even some familial relationships can wane with the passing of time. But, there is one love that never quits on you. His promise was to never leave you nor forsake you, Heb. 13:5. He showed His devotion to His disciple right up to the end. And daily, He shows His devotion to each and every one of us by continually being there for us, loving us, interceding for us and hearing us when we call.
I am personally amazed at His undying devotion to us. Through all of our faults, shortcomings, and mess, He still stays committed to us even “to the end.” This is a source of comfort and reassurance for them that are His. Despite the tragedies of life or how much we feel like we are not measuring up, we have a Savior, nay a friend that sticks closer than a brother, Pro. 18:24.
The times and tides of life may ebb and flow, come and go, but Jesus is a solid source never to be moved. Somebody said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over!” And, since we are here today alive and with breath in our bodies, guess what, it’s not the end. Bolster your faith today in this great truth that no matter what it may look like right now, Jesus loves you to the end! God bless you!
Dealing with defeat is more than just being discouraged. Defeat has a way of getting deep down within the spirit of man and making them feel crushed beyond measure. It’s more than a heavy load. It’s carrying the weight of disappointment, hopelessness, and pain without seeing any real way of being able to experience the least bit of victory in the end. Therefore, the shoulders slump forward without the strength to be lifted up.
How does one go one when they think they have no more power for the press of this life? There is nothing you and I can do to overcome on our own. A humanistic way of thinking will formulate plans over and over again but they come to nought. Or, any measure of peace we think to feel becomes fleeting and never lasting.
In Jesus Christ, we have our ultimate source of victory. He said, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” HE IS THE DEFEATER OF DEFEAT. He is the power that stands aright with no competition to put Him down. He is our way when there seems to be no way. Our comfort when the love of people is few and far between.
There is NOBODY like my JESUS! Ain’t that the truth! He’s my comfort when I am comfortless. He’s my fortress when I am surrounded by enemies. He’s my strength when everything within me feels weak. He has overcome anything and everything this world has thrown at Him and He stands ready to overcome for you, too.
We are far from defeated. We are more than conquerors. Everything that tries to convince us otherwise is a bald-faced lie from the enemy. We are secured in Christ. Christ has already won all the competitions of this life. He has already overwhelmed the enemy. He has taken this world by storm and we rest in the realm of His power, strength, and love.
To say that Christ has won is an understatement. He has literally crushed, obliterated, and stands on the head of every adversary we may face today. The world may think they have won but Jesus will flip the script on them every time and show who He really is. He has “disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross,” (Col. 2:15; NIV). His enemies are being made a footstool at His feet (Hebrews 10:13; NIV). He is the King of all kings and Lord of all lords and will conquer everything and everybody that tries to war against Him (Revelation 17:14).
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, WE ARE ON THE WINNING SIDE! There is no defeat for a child of God. We have too much victory available to us through the name and the blood of Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Redeemer, and our Victor.
He has already overcome and we will overcome with Him! Be of good cheer.
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.
“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!
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 on the end of it, it closes the case on exactly who He is.
Being called to the front of the assembly to receive awards of excellence was one of my greatest joys in my private elementary school. One year I excelled in every category, so instead of receiving multiple name calls of recognition – I was given one all-encompassing award. I remember not liking it one bit. An over-all award meant specifics were not being named in front of my peers and others, and I didn’t have the pleasure of playing the role of jack-in-the-box in my seat with my constant popping up and down to receive individual accomplishments.
As we get older in life we realize every achievement does not need to come with applause or recognition (at least, not here on earth anyway). But, in heaven, your works are going to be rewarded. You and I are going to be decorated in glory. These rags of humanity will be replaced with robes of righteousness. As a soldier being medaled for victories, we shall be adorned and dressed in the finest of the heavenlies, telling our story of overcoming. We made it through and now He speaks, “My reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be,” Revelation 22:12.
Take heart. What you do today may escape the notice of man but the eye of the Lord sees it all. And, when we get to that heavenly city we will have all the recognition we will ever need. For it is there we receive the greatest thing no earthly prize can give: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord,” Matthew 25:21, 23.
And, that’s all the glory one needs to be decorated with.
“The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat,” Proverbs 13:4
All of us have goals and dreams, or at least, we should. All of us “desire” things we would like to see accomplished in our lives. But, desire can only get you so far. There has to be a proactive approach in order for one to see the fulfillment of these aspirations come to pass.
I love the Bible because it gives us so many true to life examples of these valued lessons. For instance, in 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat and his people were getting ready to be attacked. The enemy had come against them and “Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the Lord,” (vs. 4).
I want you to look at this picture Scripture represents. It’s one of great sadness. In verse 13, it describes “All Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.” It’s as if they were saying, “If not for us, Lord; then please remember our wives and children.” Awwww!!!
God’s response was, “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s,” (vs. 15).
“That’s what I’m talking about! We don’t have to fight! Woo-hoo! Let’s go home and watch some TV!”
I’m playing. We all know they didn’t have TV, but what they probably had was a sense of relief that they didn’t need to proactively do anything to win the battle. Time to hit the couch!
While God did declare the battle was His, He has never been the promoter of laziness. Too many people want the victory without ever really doing anything. Too many people want to reach the next level without ever having to walk up the stairs to get there.
It’s too much work! Too many people get in prayer lines and the like; want God to do everything without themselves ever putting a hand to the plow to till something up.
God works in miraculous ways. God is a prayer answering God. Jehoshaphat and his people will find both of these to be true. He’s going to work a miracle and they are going to get a tremendous answer to their prayer. But, God has something that He wants them to do. He said, “To morrow go ye down against them . . . ye shall find them,” (vs. 16).
Then God reiterates, “Ye shall not need to fight in this battle,” (vs. 17).
Then, He proceeded to tell them, “set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you… go out against them…,” (vs. 17).
Hold up! Wait a minute! If the battle belongs to God, I don’t understand why I have to go down there and set myself up like I am sure enough going to fight these people. Huh?
Because God said so. That’s why many of us lose out. We want to sit on the couch instead of getting up and following the instructions He gives. The “sluggard” wants the glory without the work.
In opposite of that, he that is diligent pushes forth to follow through. Sometimes it’s a hard thing to do. These people were put in the terrifying position to get in battle formation before the enemy; in front of people who were ready to annihilate them. Gulp is right!
Yet, they maintained their ground believing God’s promise. Verses 18-22a tell of the people actively praising God. Then, the tables turned on the enemies, (vs. 22b). “Every one helped to destroy another,” (vs. 23), and “none escaped,” (vs. 24).
The result they received was due to their diligence to follow through with the Lord’s instructions. “Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches with the dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away: and they were three days gathering the spoil, it was so much,” (vs. 25).
You may not have to go fight an enemy but you have a goal to reach that will only come by diligence and obedience to God. I’m not promising you riches, but know this; any time you are diligent to work with God you will see success at the end.
Seek the Lord, He will help you to receive that “expectant end” Jeremiah speaks of, Jeremiah 29:11. Then, we can rejoice like Jehoshaphat because we saw the fruition of hard work pay off.
“The soul of the diligent shall be made fat.”
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes . . .,” Proverbs 3:5-7a
“Oh, that could have gone better than that!” Hindsight is a kicker. I’ve heard it said before that hindsight offers perfect 20/20 vision. I don’t remember where I heard or saw that phrase but I could not agree more. Staring down the road once traveled, seeing it littered with the trash of mistakes and bad choices changes one’s perspective.
What if we looked back and the view looked a little neater? What if the pathway that has led us to where we are today is paved with more order rather than chaos? Unfortunately, for most of us when we turn around to see where we have come from our humanness shines through. All of the frailties of life in this flesh mar the perfection that we wish to see. The good thing is you and I am not alone in this one. For only one man has been born with this perfection and lived it to the fullest, the Lord Jesus Christ. For the rest of us, it remains a goal. A pursuit for the life where the good and wise choices we make outweigh the bad and disastrous ones. Oh, what a day that will be!
The thing is that goal is not far off. God has given us assurances in His Word for a better outcome. As long as we remain on this side of glory we will continue to struggle with our flesh and the mistakes it makes. But God has given us a five-step plan to help keep us on the right track less littered. First, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart.” Some mistakes are made through lack of trust. The urge to jump in and do something often hinders God’s plan and miracles He wants to perform. Not only that, when situations become so intense for someone and when the tendency to jump in is there, there is usually little thought given to the actual outcome or consequences which in and of itself births more mistakes. Ask Sarah and she will tell you her story of trying to help God fulfill his own promise, Gen. 16.
Secondly, Scripture says, “Lean not unto thine own understanding.” When someone leans on something it is for support. It is to help them steady their own self and to keep in balance. But, here in this verse, it shows one who has a self-sufficient nature and refuses to believe that help can come from anyone other than themselves. Not only is this way of thinking against God, but it also gives individuals who possess it a limited view of the world. This, in turn, causes mistakes to be made that could have been avoided had they had a broader view of things with a little outside help.
Third, it states, “In all thy ways acknowledge Him.” God is Sovereign over all creation. He was and is and is to come, (Rev. 1:8). In other words, He is everything that we have ever needed and still do. Acknowledging Him is a respect issue which actually ties in with the trust we see in the first step. The respect comes from recognizing that no matter the plan or goals we set, He has the final say. He can bless it and move it along or veto it right where it stands. But, because we are acknowledging Him and bringing it before Him, we are saying, “Lord, I trust you with this.” Boy, does He love that! For instance, no natural child should go out, be gone all day and all night and into the next day and never bother to “acknowledge” to his/her parents their plans. It’s a respect issue that helps bind together the trust in that relationship. The same is true with God.
Fourth, it says, “And He shall direct thy paths.” He will show you the good way, the blessed and prosperous way because the proceeding steps were followed through. One thing is for sure if God is leading the way and we are following His directions that pathway is going to look a lot more orderly. Direction in life means everything. There are already too many people wandering aimlessly without a point of destination or purpose. They’re headed nowhere because they have no direction. God wants better for us. When He directs, go that way.
Finally, a re-assertion of the main problem, “Be not wise in thine own eyes.” Don’t look at His directions and think that you can come up with a better plan. I can tell you this, we may not always understand what He is doing, but our job is to “be not wise in our own eyes,” and follow His marching orders. Think back, what if the children of Israel had not marched around Jericho as instructed. Entrance in the Promised Land would have been prohibited again!
Just because we don’t understand what the plan is to bring down these walls before us, it doesn’t mean we can’t see success in the end. Our victory will come in following His directives. And that, my dear, will help us every day to be wise in the choices we make.