Do You See Him?
But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
The disciples ought to have known Jesus; they had heard His voice so often and gazed upon that marred face so frequently that it is incredible they did not discover Him. Yet is it not also with you? You have not seen Jesus lately. You have been to His table, and yet you have not met Him there. You are in a dark trouble this evening, and though He plainly says, “It is I, do not be afraid,” yet you cannot discern Him. Sadly, our eyes are kept from seeing Him. We know His voice, we have looked into His face, we have leaned our head upon His shoulder, and yet, though Christ is very near us, we are saying, “I wish I knew where I could find Him!”
We should know Jesus, for we have the Scriptures to reflect His image, and yet how possible it is for us to open that precious book and have no glimpse of our loving Lord! Dear child of God, are you in that state? Jesus feeds among the lilies of the Word, and you walk among those lilies, and yet you do not behold Him. He is accustomed to walking through the glades of Scripture and communing with His people, as the Father did with Adam in the cool of the day, and yet you are in the garden of Scripture but cannot see Him, although He is always there.
And why do we not see Him? This must be ascribed in our case, as in the disciples’, to unbelief. They evidently did not expect to see Jesus, and therefore they did not know Him. To a great extent in spiritual things we get what we expect from the Lord. Only faith can bring us to see Jesus. Make it your prayer, “Lord, open my eyes, that I may see my Savior present with me.” It is a blessed thing to want to see Him; but it is far better to gaze upon Him. To those who seek Him He is kind; but to those who find Him, He is dear beyond expression!
How to Avoid Divine Discipline 2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17
At the cross, the penalty for transgression was paid in full, and sin’s power over us was broken. Nevertheless, we still struggle with ungodliness in our lives. So how can we avoid behaviors that lead to divine discipline?
First, we can pursue God wholeheartedly. As we diligently study the Scriptures and apply them to our lives, we will learn what pleases and displeases Him. Second, we can join an evangelical church and find godly people who will hold us accountable for our actions. Sometimes the right advice is all that is needed to prevent a misstep.
To avoid the necessity of the Lord’s discipline, we can also practice spiritual self-examination. This can be done individually (1 Cor. 11:28) and corporately. Examining our thought life, speech, and actions in light of Scripture uncovers areas of ungodliness. First John 1:9 instructs us to confess our iniquities to the Lord. Genuine confession means to agree with God that His way is right and what we are doing is wrong. Repentance is to follow confession–this involves changing our actions and attitude so they line up with God’s Word.
Because we aren’t perfect, not all discipline can be avoided. When we sin, we need to humble ourselves quickly, admit our wrong behavior, and adjust our ways.
Believers needn’t fear God’s discipline. Our Father never responds to us with wrath or condemnation. His correction may hurt, but it brings great spiritual benefit. We’ll find it easier to avoid pitfalls that lead to divine discipline if we pursue a lifestyle of righteousness and godliness (1 Tim. 6:11).
His head is the finest gold; his locks are wavy, black as a raven.
Song of Songs 5:11
Comparisons all fail to set forth the Lord Jesus, but the spouse uses the best she can find. By the head of Jesus we may understand His deity, “for the head of Christ is God”;1 and then the mold of purest gold is the best conceivable metaphor, but all too poor to describe one so precious, so pure, so dear, so glorious. Jesus is not a grain of gold, but a vast globe of it, a priceless mass of treasure such as earth and heaven cannot excel.
The creatures are mere iron and clay—they will all perish like wood, hay, and stubble; but the ever-living Head of the creation of God will shine on forever and ever. In Him is no mixture, nor smallest taint of alloy. He is forever infinitely holy and altogether divine. The wavy locks depict His manly vigor. There is nothing effeminate in our Lord. He is the manliest of men—bold as a lion, strong as an ox, swift as an eagle. Every conceivable and inconceivable beauty is to be found in Him, though He once was despised and rejected of men.
His head the finest gold;
With secret sweet perfume,
His curled locks hang all as black
As any raven’s plume.
The glory of His head is not shorn away. He is eternally crowned with peerless majesty. The black hair indicates youthful freshness, for Jesus has the dew of His youth upon Him. Others grow weak with age, but He is forever a Priest like Melchizedek; others come and go, but He remains as God upon His throne, world without end. We will behold Him tonight and adore Him. Angels are gazing on Him—His redeemed must not turn their eyes away from Him. Where else is there such a Beloved? Oh, for an hour’s fellowship with Him! Be gone, you intruding anxieties! Jesus draws me, and I run after Him.
11 Corinthians 11:3
Responding to God’s Discipline HEBREWS 12:5-7
Sin always leads us away from God and hinders His work in our lives. The Lord will not allow sinful patterns of behavior to continue without divine correction. The purpose of His discipline is to train us in personal holiness (Heb. 12:10).
Some Christians equate the word discipline with punishment. But Scripture tells us that Jesus took our punishment upon Himself at the cross. He paid the required price for all sin and experienced God’s wrath on our behalf so that we might be forgiven. Once we receive Christ as Savior, we are a new creation and no longer under condemnation (Rom. 8:1).
Discipline by our heavenly Father is corrective, not punitive. He uses trials and circumstances to turn us away from unholy practices and teach us the way of godliness (1 Tim. 4:8). So when experiencing His discipline, we should understand that we have sinned, examine our wrongdoing with the Holy Spirit’s help, and take His correction seriously. Instead of losing heart, recognize that the Lord is treating us as a loving Father would–looking out for our best interests and disciplining us for our own good. Instead of fighting the process, we are wise to cooperate with God and keep our eyes fixed on the promised harvest of righteousness and peace.
Not all hardships are a result of sin; they can also derive from natural disasters, mental or physical illnesses, or someone else’s actions. But if your troubles are a result of your own ungodly actions, then confess them and accept the discipline of a loving Father to His precious child (Isa. 43:4).
Changeless in a Changing World
We have all become like one who is unclean.
The believer is a new creature; he belongs to a holy generation and a peculiar people. The Spirit of God is in him, and in every respect he is far removed from the natural man. But for all that the Christian is still a sinner. He is so because of the imperfection of his nature, and he will continue as such to the end of his earthly life. The dirty fingers of sin leave marks on our cleanest clothes. Sin spoils our repentance, before the great Potter has finished it upon the wheel. Selfishness defiles our tears, and unbelief tampers with our faith.
The best thing we ever did apart from the merit of Jesus only added to the number of our sins; for when we have been most pure in our own sight, still, like the heavens, we were not pure in God’s sight; and as He charged His angels with folly, so He must charge us with it, even in our most angelic frames of mind. The song that seeks to emulate the angels’ melodies has human discords in it. The prayer that moves the arm of God is still a bruised and battered prayer, and only moves that arm because the sinless One, the great Mediator, Jesus, has stepped in to take away the sin of our supplication. The most golden faith or the purest degree of sanctification to which a Christian ever attained on earth has still so much dross in it as to be only worthy of the flames.
Every night we look in the mirror we see a sinner and need to confess, “We have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” How precious then is the blood of Christ to hearts like ours! How priceless a gift is His perfect righteousness! And how bright is the hope of perfect holiness in heaven! Even now, though sin dwells in us, its power is broken. It remains, but it no longer reigns; we are in bitter conflict with it, but we are dealing with a vanquished foe. In a little while we will enter victoriously into the city where nothing defiles
The Burden of False Guilt JOHN 14:26-27
Guilt is an emotional response to wrongdoing. We experience it when we break man’s civil law or God’s commandments. But what about those times when no law was broken, and yet we feel as if we did something wrong? That is false guilt, an unnecessary and often crippling emotion.
False guilt may come from a traumatic childhood in which the young person blames himself for problems over which he had no control. This pattern of blaming oneself can carry over into adulthood. Perhaps we face criticism for failing to meet the expectations of employers or family. Their verbal abuse can wear us down until we see ourselves as unworthy or useless. We end up feeling guilty for not meeting someone else’s expectations.
Some of us are perfectionists who try to do everything right the first time. Since no one can always do things flawlessly, guilt is a frequent companion. Yet we have not violated any scriptural law. If we find ourselves thinking, I should have done more or I could have performed better, we may be falling into the perfectionism trap. There are instances when our efforts are not what they should be, but that isn’t a reason for guilt. If there is no breaking of God’s law, then our negative feelings are not based in fact.
Christians will make errors in judgment and experience conviction as a result. First John 1:9 tells us to turn to God and confess our sin. If there’s no biblical or civil basis for guilt, then ask the Lord to help you disconnect from the feeling of false guilt and replace it with the peace Jesus promised.
The Purpose of Living
All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again.
Everything on earth is on the move; time knows nothing of rest. The solid earth is a rolling ball, and the great sun itself is a star obediently fulfilling its course around some greater luminary. Tides move the sea; winds stir the breezy ocean; friction wears the rock: Change and death rule everywhere. The sea is not a miser’s storehouse for a wealth of waters, for as by one force the waters flow into it, by another they are lifted from it.
Men are born to die: Everything is hurry, worry, and vexation of spirit. Friend of the unchanging Jesus, what a joy it is to reflect upon your changeless heritage, your sea of bliss that will be forever full since God Himself shall pour eternal rivers of pleasure into it. We seek an abiding city beyond the skies, and we shall not be disappointed. The passage before us should teach us to be grateful.
The ocean is a great receiver, but it is also a generous distributor. What the rivers bring, it returns to the earth in the form of clouds and rain. The man who takes everything but makes no return is out of joint with the universe. To give to others is still sowing seed for ourselves. He who is so good a steward as to be willing to use his substance for his Lord shall be entrusted with more. Friend of Jesus, are you rendering to Him in proportion to the benefit you receive? Have you been given a great deal? Where is your fruit? Have you done all you might? Can you not do more?
To be selfish is to be wicked. Suppose the ocean gave up none of its watery treasure; it would bring ruin upon our race. God forbid that any of us should follow the ungenerous and destructive policy of living for ourselves. Jesus did not please Himself. All fullness dwells in Him, but from His fullness we have all received. Oh, to be like Jesus and no longer live for ourselves!
Dealing with Guilty Feelings JOHN 5:24-26
Believers in Christ often wrestle with discouragement and shame over things they have done wrong. Some may be especially grieved about mistakes made prior to receiving Jesus as Savior. But what does Scripture say about God’s view of our guilt?
Until we were saved, our fleshly nature led us to rebel against the Lord and choose our own way. This sinful state separated us from Him and placed us under His wrath (Rom. 2:5-8). All of mankind was guilty before God (Rom. 3:23), but when we trusted Jesus as Savior, we were cleansed by His blood (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:14). He took us from a state of guilt and separation from God to one of forgiveness and acceptance by the Father. Our shame was removed, and Christ’s righteousness was credited to our account (Rom. 5:17). Though we may have to bear the consequences of our action, we are no longer guilty before God.
If we allow shame over previous deeds to continue, we will experience a divided mind, one that focuses too much on the past. Some of us may doubt God’s love and ask, How could He care for someone like me? Others may feel unworthy to be His child–and as a result, draw away from Him. Guilty feelings can weigh us down, sapping our energy for today’s tasks and dampening our enthusiasm for the future.
We have all made mistakes that we regret. But we have a heavenly Father who has completely forgiven our sins and removed our guilt through His Son Jesus. If you are still dealing with feelings of shame, meditate on what was accomplished at the cross, and let God’s truth set you free.
She Happened to Come
So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech.
She happened to come. Yes, it seemed nothing but an accident, but it was divinely ruled over! Ruth had gone out with her mother-in-law’s blessing, under the care of her mother-in-law’s God, to humble but honorable work, and the providence of God was guiding her every step. Little did she know that among the sheaves she would find a husband, that he would make her the joint owner of all those broad acres, and that she, a poor foreigner, would become one of the ancestors of the great Messiah. God is very good to those who trust in Him and often surprises them with unexpected blessings. Little do we know what may happen to us tomorrow, but this sweet fact may cheer us—that no good thing will be withheld. Chance is banished from the faith of Christians, for they see the hand of God in everything. The trivial events of today or tomorrow may involve consequences of the highest importance. O Lord, deal as graciously with Your servants now as You did with Ruth.
How blessed would it be if, in wandering in the field of meditation tonight, we should happen to find ourselves in the place where the Lord Jesus will reveal Himself to us!
O Spirit of God, guide us to Him. We would rather glean in His field than carry home the whole harvest from any other place. We would follow the footsteps of His flock, which would guide us to the green pastures where He dwells! This is a weary world when Jesus is away—we would survive easier without sun and moon than without Him—but how divinely fair all things become in the glory of His presence! Our souls know the virtue that lives in Jesus and can never be content without Him. We will wait in prayer tonight until we “happen” to come to a part of the field belonging to Jesus in which He will reveal Himself to us
The Danger of Anger EPHESIANS 4:26-27
Yesterday we learned how to deal with lingering anger in our lives. Today we’ll discover God’s principle for preventing long-term resentment. The key is to deal with this dangerous emotion promptly.
It’s important to realize that believers can have moments of anger and still remain right with God. Yet anger that is allowed to linger and fester is an opportunity for Satan.
He quickly plants justifications in our mind: That person deserves to be yelled at. You shouldn’t be treated that way! God understands that you’re frustrated. By handing people excuses to build a defense for harboring fury, Satan creates a stronghold in their lives. It is a foolish man or woman who hides behind that wall (Eccl. 7:9).
We are not to lay even one brick for the Devil’s stronghold. Instead, believers must respond to provocation by forgiving others as God forgives. His mercy is unconditional; there’s no wrong that He does not pardon. Believers cannot stand before God and justify harboring long-term anger. So we must release it at once through forgiveness.
We can further protect ourselves by identifying frequent irritants. When those situations (or people) loom, we should pray that God makes us quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19). That is the spiritual fruit of self-control in action.
Anger produces only rotten fruit–sour relationships, a poor witness, etc. The wise believer takes a two-fold approach to dealing with it. First, heed the Bible’s 300-plus warnings about this dangerous emotion and be vigilant against it. And second, forsake your anger in favor of forgiveness.
Times of Temptation
Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.
When is the Christian most liable to sleep? Is it not when his temporal circumstances are prosperous? Have you not found it so? When you had daily troubles to take to the throne of grace, were you not more awake than you are now? Easy roads make sleepy travelers. Another dangerous time is when all goes pleasantly in spiritual matters. A Christian did not fall asleep when lions were in the way or when he was wading through the river or when fighting with Apollyon. But when he had climbed halfway up the Hill Difficulty and came to a delightful spot, he sat down and promptly fell asleep, to his great sorrow and loss.
The enchanted ground is a place of balmy breezes, filled with fragrant odors and soft influences, all of which tend to lull pilgrims to sleep. Remember Bunyan’s description: “Then they came to an arbor, warm, and promising much refreshing to the weary pilgrims; for it was finely wrought above head, beautified with greens, and furnished with benches and settees. It also had in it a soft couch, where the weary might lean.” “The arbor was called the Slothful’s Friend, and was made on purpose to attract, if it might, some of the pilgrims to take their rest there when weary.”
Depend upon it—it is in easy places that men shut their eyes and wander into the dreamy land of forgetfulness. Old Erskine wisely remarked, “I like a roaring devil better than a sleeping devil.” There is no temptation half so dangerous as not being tempted. The distressed soul does not sleep; it is after we enter into peaceful confidence and full assurance that we are in danger of slumbering. The disciples fell asleep after they had seen Jesus transfigured on the mountaintop. Take heed, joyful Christian, easy days are close neighbors to temptations: Be as happy as you will—only be watchful!
The Spirit’s Applying Work
He will take what is mine and declare it to you.
There are times when all the promises and doctrines of the Bible are of no help unless a gracious hand applies them to us. We are thirsty but too faint to crawl to the water-brook. When a soldier is wounded in battle, it is of little use for him to know that there are those at the hospital who can bind up his wounds and medicines to ease all the pains that he now suffers: What he needs is to be carried there and to have the remedies applied. It is the same with our souls, and to meet this need there is one, even the Spirit of truth, who takes the things of Jesus and applies them to us.
Do not think that Christ has placed His joys on heavenly shelves so we may climb up and retrieve them for ourselves; rather He draws near and sheds His peace abroad in our hearts. Christian, if you are tonight struggling under deep distress, your Father does not give you promises and then leave you to draw them up from the Word like buckets from a well. The promises He has written in the Word He will write afresh on your heart. He will display His love to you and by His blessed Spirit dispel your cares and troubles.
Let it be known to you, if you mourn, that it is God’s prerogative to wipe every tear from the eyes of His people. The good Samaritan did not say, “Here is the wine, and here is the oil for you”; he actually poured in the oil and the wine. So Jesus not only gives you the sweet wine of His promise, but He holds the golden cup to your lips and pours the lifeblood into your mouth. The poor, sick, worn-out pilgrim is not merely strengthened to walk, but he is lifted up on eagles’ wings. Glorious Gospel that provides everything for the helpless, that draws near to us when we cannot reach it ourselves—it brings us grace before we seek grace! There is as much glory in the giving as in the gift. Happy people who have the Holy Spirit to bring Jesus to them!
Forsaking Anger EPHESIANS 4:30-32
A righteous life has no room for lingering anger, whether in the form of rage or resentment. Fury that hardens in our hearts becomes a stronghold for Satan.
The fleshly method for “curing” wrath is to either let it out (rage) or suppress it (resentment). Neither is effective for solving problems or making an angry person feel better. God’s way of dealing with this dangerous emotion dissolves it and sets the believer free. As today’s passage reminds us, we are to “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from [us], along with all malice” (v. 31). But to do so requires that we recognize it’s there.
Whether we are annoyed at ourselves, another person, or God, we have to own that feeling. Pretending that the emotion doesn’t exist or that we’ve somehow risen above anger is useless. If you’re angry, admit it and then identify the source. Knowing who or what ignited the initial fury can prevent people from misdirecting irritation onto the innocent.
Here are some questions to help in identifying a source of anger:
- Why am I angry?
- At whom am I angry?
- What caused me to feel/act this way?
- Where or when did this feeling start?
- Have I been angry a long time?
Once we know the source of our anger, it’s time to forgive, no matter what. Fury and unforgiveness often go together, and they’re heavy baggage that will drag you down. God calls us to set them aside and take up love and kindness instead. Forsaking anger means walking in His will with a light step.
Claiming a Promise of God 2 PETER 1:3-4
God’s promises are very precious. Not only do they remind us of His personal interest in our lives, but they also provide hope and encouragement during difficult times.
Before claiming a promise, we must check ourselves in three areas: faith, obedience, and patience. First, we must trust Jesus as our personal Savior and live on the basis of our belief in Him. Obeying God is also necessary. If we willfully continue to disobey the Lord, then He is not obligated to fulfill His promise (1 Peter 3:12). Finally, patience is another requirement. God operates on His timetable to accomplish His purposes according to His perfect plan. Waiting on Him is necessary.
At times it will seem as if a divine promise is not being fulfilled. When that is the case, take a second look at the biblical passage to be sure it applies to you. Then verify that you have met any conditions, and examine whether there is a genuine need. If you are still convinced the promise applies, then you can look a little deeper at your request. Will the Lord be honored when this promise is fulfilled? Can He answer this prayer without harming others or hindering His will in their life? Will this help you grow spiritually? These additional questions will assist you in claiming a promise of God.
The Holy Spirit is our instructor, who will teach us about the Lord’s promises. He wants to build our faith through Scripture, provide the strength necessary to obey, and develop in us the fruit of patience. These qualities help us as we look to God to fulfill His promises.
Jesus’ Sweet Voice
Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God?'”1 The Lord cares for everything, and the smallest creatures share in His universal providence, but His particular providence is over His saints. “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him.”2 “Precious is their blood in his sight.”3 “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.”4 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”5 Let the fact that He is the Savior of all men but is specially the Savior of those who believe cheer and comfort you.
You are His peculiar care, His royal treasure that He guards as the apple of His eye, His vineyard over which He watches day and night. “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered.”6 Let the thought of His special love to you be a spiritual painkiller, a soothing balm to your woe: “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”7 God says that just as much to you as to any saint of old. “Fear not . . . I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”8 We lose much consolation by the habit of reading His promises for the whole Church instead of taking them directly home for ourselves.
Believer, grasp the divine Word with a personal, appropriating faith. Imagine that you hear Jesus say, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”9 Imagine you see Him walking on the water of your trouble, for He is there, and He is saying, “Do not fear—it is I.” These are sweet words of Christ! May the Holy Spirit make you feel them as if they were spoken to you; forget others for a while—accept the voice of Jesus as addressed to you and say, “Jesus whispers consolation; I cannot refuse it; I will sit under His shadow with great delight.”10
1Isaiah 40:27 2Psalm 34:7 3Psalm 72:14 4Psalm 116:15 5Romans 8:28 6Matthew 10:30 7Hebrews 13:5 8Genesis 15:1 9Luke 22:32 10See Song of Solomon 2:3
The Promises of God HEBREWS 10:22-23
Our heavenly Father has made many promises in the Bible. But there is confusion among Christians about which verses we can claim as a definite commitment from God. Three questions are useful in evaluating whether divine promises apply to our own situation:
1. Is this promise limited to a specific person or circumstance, or does it apply to all believers? For example, the pledge made to Abraham and Sarah about giving birth to a child (Gen. 18:10) is restricted to them, whereas Hebrews 13:5 contains a guarantee to all Christians that Jesus will be with them forever.
2. Are we asking the Lord to meet a need or a desire? A need is something that we must have in order for God to complete His work in our lives. A desire is something we want for satisfaction or enjoyment. If we lose our job, then an essential–an incoming wage–is missing. But if we want a new position for personal reasons, it’s a desire.
3. Before fulfilling a promise, does the Lord require some action on our part? Proverbs 3:5-6 is a conditional promise, which pledges God’s direction on the basis of our trust in Him. On the other hand, Jesus’ assurance of His presence with believers (Heb. 13:5) is unconditional; it does not depend on anything we do.
By evaluating Scripture on the basis of these questions, we will know which promises apply to our situation. What confidence we’ll have in asking our Lord to fulfill them in our lives. For, as 1 Corinthians 1:20 (NIV) says, “No matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.”
Do Not Withhold
Do not withhold.
Although this message was sent to the south and referred to the offspring of Israel, it may profitably be a summons to ourselves. We are naturally backward to all good things, and it is a lesson of grace to learn to go forward in the ways of God. Reader, are you unconverted, but do you desire to trust in the Lord Jesus? Then do not withhold. Love invites you; the promises assure you of success; the precious blood prepares the way. Do not let sin or fear hinder you, but come to Jesus just as you are. Do you long to pray? Would you like to pour out your heart before the Lord? Do not withhold. The mercy-seat is prepared for all who need mercy; a sinner’s cries will prevail with God. You are invited—in fact, you are commanded—to pray; come therefore with boldness to the throne of grace.
Dear friend, are you already saved? Then do not withhold from union with the Lord’s people. Do not neglect the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. You may be of a timid disposition, but you must fight against it, for fear that it will lead you into disobedience. There is a sweet promise made to those who confess Christ—do not miss it, in case you should come under the condemnation of those who deny Him. If you have talents, do not withhold from using them. Do not hoard your wealth; do not waste your time; do not let your abilities rust or your influence be unfelt. Jesus did not withhold; imitate Him by being head of the line in self-denials and self-sacrifices.
Do not withhold from close communion with God, from boldly appropriating covenant blessings, from advancing in the divine life, from searching out the precious mysteries of the love of Christ. Do not, beloved friend, be guilty of keeping others back by your coldness, harshness, or suspicions. For Jesus’ sake go forward yourself, and encourage others to do the same. Hell and the united bands of superstition and infidelity are ready for the fight. Soldiers of the cross, do not withhold!
One Big Request JOHN 15:16
Yesterday we looked at God’s promise in John 14:14. Too often people take the verse to imply, “If you ask anything, I will do it.” They overlook the most essential phrase: “in My name.”
Asking in Christ’s name has two meanings. First, believers are welcome to make requests that align with God’s purpose and plan. To do that, we need to ask Him if our prayers match His will. God has several ways of assuring followers that they are on the correct path. For instance, He may increase right desires or decrease wrong ones. Another possibility is that He will use His Word to redirect a Christian’s steps or confirm that he is going the right way. God always makes His will plain to the man or woman who seeks to know it.
Second, invoking Christ’s name means that we desire to glorify Him instead of ourselves. James gives this warning: “You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). To understand that, let’s consider those who are trying to pray their way out of a financial hole. The question is, Does a person want to get out of debt so that he has more for himself or so that he can use the excess in God-honoring ways? Motives are apparent to God. He will not offer help until our heart is right.
In the name Jesus Christ, there is abundant power. However, calling upon Him in prayer is not a magic charm to get what we want. Rather, it is a signal that we are laying down our personal desires and our own way of getting things done. In so doing, we commit to follow God and bring honor to Him.
Songs from God
God, my maker, who gives songs in the night.
Any man can sing during the day. When the cup is full, man draws inspiration from it. When money is in plentiful supply, any man can praise the God who provides an abundant harvest or sends home a loaded ship. It is easy enough for a tuneful harp to whisper music when the winds blow; the difficulty is for music to carry when no wind is stirring. It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but it takes a skillful singer whose song springs forth when there is not a ray of light to read by. No man can make a song in the night by himself; he may attempt it, but he will find that a song in the night must be divinely inspired.
Let everything go well, then I can weave songs, fashioning them from the flowers that grow upon my path; but put me in a desert, where no green thing grows, and with what shall I frame a hymn of praise to God? How shall a mortal man make a crown for the Lord without jewels? Let this voice be clear and this body full of health, and I can sing God’s praise: Silence my tongue, put me on a bed of suffering, and how will I then chant God’s high praises, unless He Himself provides the song? No, it is not in man’s power to sing when everything is against him, unless an altar-coal shall touch his lip.
It was a divine song from Habakkuk that filled the night when he sang, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”1 So, since our Maker gives “songs in the night,” let us wait upon Him for the music. Chief musician, let us not remain songless because we face affliction, but tune our lips to the melody of thanksgiving.
Making Big Requests JOHN 14:12-15
Jesus Christ issued a bold statement when He said, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Since it is against the nature of our Triune God to break a promise (Titus 1:2), we know that the Lord will fulfill that pledge.
So when we make a big request and nothing happens, the problem isn’t with God. Believers are called to live a righteous life. The Lord won’t overlook spiritual laziness to give us what we want. He has two requirements for answering petitions:
- Approach God in complete dependence on Christ’s merits. The Savior’s blood paid for our right to enter the Father’s holy presence. His sacrifice at Calvary took away our sins and clothed us in righteousness, which allows us to stand unashamed before the throne. We don’t earn favor through works or get prayers answered because we are super-spiritual. God responds because His Son sits at His right hand, interceding for us.
- Approach God in holiness–that is, separated from all known sin. God said that He would not hear those who “regard wickedness” in their hearts (Ps. 66:18). If He were to answer prayer when we are willfully living in sin, then He would be sanctioning our transgression. Therefore, believers must turn away from their wrongdoing before making big requests.
God is always faithful. He is willing to give you what you need and to bless you richly besides. But this is no something-for-nothing offer. The Lord demands righteous living from His followers. Those who live according to God’s will can trust Him for anything they ask in His Son’s name.