Obedience to God – Psalm 81:11-16

Victory Comes Through Obedience

11 “But my people would not listen to me;
Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
to follow their own devices.

13 “If my people would only listen to me,
if Israel would only follow my ways,
14 how quickly I would subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes!
15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
and their punishment would last forever.
16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Learning to Listen

Listening to God is not one of the stronger qualities of mankind.  For millennia, we have ignored the commands of God and have gone our own ways.  For us, obedience seems to be a fleeting concept, just out of the reach of men, beckoning to us yet remaining elusive with the draw of every other manner of pleasure, satisfaction, and fulfillment.  The flesh, the world, and the devil intentionally sabotage every effort at obedience through their incessant cries for attention.  Their efforts are like delicious chocolate dangled in front of the faces of children with obedience like plates of broccoli, brussel sprouts, and kale in warm butter and garlic just outside their reach.  As children, we know what we like, and we grab what we can, not realizing the error of our ways until it is too late.

God beckons to us to listen to Him and obey Him.  Obedience and faithfulness of our hearts have been two of His primary tasks since Adam and Eve.  They were given only one command, yet even then they could not even be obedient in that.  Given the option to partake in the forbidden fruit, we often give in to our desires in a moment of weakness, unable to resist the sumptuous and easy bait lying in front of us.  But God desires that we ignore the bait, and desire Him more.

Choices have Consequences

And when we continually fail to develop self-restraint and self-control, we spiral out of control and allow our desires to control us, rather than the opposite.  Cain, in a fit of rage when his offering was rejected by God, lashed out at the only one he could – he murdered his brother Able, who provided the accepted offering.  And so murder was born into the world of men.  As we mature, we learn more and more that there are consequences with our actions.  We may ignore them, or emotionlessly calculate the risks versus the rewards of them.  And when we do so repeatedly, without seeking God, He gives us over to our stubborn hearts.

How terrible is it to be ruled by our every desire.  When people are ruled by their emotions, they make horrible decisions.  They injure and kill their neighbors.  They burn down their neighborhoods.  They steal and rob from others.  The strong quickly overpower the weak and lord their power over their victims.  And as they continually allow themselves to be fueled by their emotions, there is no end to the depth of their depravity.

Veritable Victory

God gives us hope in the form of a promise.  When we are obedience, we will experience victory.  We will have victory over our sin.  We will have victory over our enemies.  And our enemies – also the enemies of God – will experience the punishment in the form of judgment by God for what they have done.  We cannot expect God to punish our enemies while we are participating in the exact same behavior that they are.  God does not show favoritism among men.  Victory can only come through obedience and submission to God.

Do you want your enemies to be brought to justice?  Do you want an end to your torment?  Do you want to have victory regardless of our your circumstances?  Be obedient to God who gives victory not only over our enemies by also over our own sin nature.  It is only then that we can live in a way that truly glorifies God and brings Him honor.  No matter the end result of our circumstances, obedience and submission to God are the only way to ensure our victory over our own nature.

Lest we forget, Jesus Christ was completely obedient to God and fully submitted to His Spirit, yet even He had to suffer on the cross for us.  But his victory was OVER death, and his reward was to sit at the right hand of God, given the world as His footstool, to reign in everlasting glory.

Rich Reward

God also promises to reward us for obedience and submission to Him.  When we, AS A PEOPLE, submit ourselves to God in obedience, He brings peace and prosperity to our nation:

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

No longer will we suffer under economic duress.  No longer will we be pursued by our enemies.  God will bring peace and prosperity:

When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them.

And as mentioned in this Psalm, He will also do the following:

But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I allowing my stubborn heart to overpower my desire to be obedient to God in submission to His Spirit?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me in Your word the importance of obedience and submission, and the nature of my heart.  You have given me a heart of flesh for a heart of stone when I believed You and your word.  Help me to keep my heart from hardening in this time of great trial and tribulation.  Soften it so that it would be more receptive to Your gentle nudging.  Give me the desire, patience, and ability to carefully listen to Your voice.  And when I hear You through Your word and Your still small voice, give me a heart like Abraham so that on that very day I would be completely obedient to Your will and desire.  Strengthen me and keep my heart from going cold due to the increase of lawlessness in the world.  Protect me from my enemies and from myself, for each day it becomes harder and harder to do what is right.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Victory with God – Psalm 60:9-12

God And God Alone Is The One Who Brings Victory

9 Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
10 Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us
and no longer go out with our armies?
11 Give us aid against the enemy,
for human help is worthless.
12 With God we will gain the victory,
and he will trample down our enemies.

Divine Direction

David asks a very interesting question:  Who will be able to lead David and his men to their objective and goal, and bring them to the fortified city to do battle?  David knows the answer to this question, for it is God and God alone who gives true direction and victory over the enemy.  David’s use of rhetorical questions should comfort us and give us instruction, for we too should ask ourselves questions that help us to remember our training in times of difficulty.

When faced with any type of difficulty, we should always seek God first in prayer.  For it is God and God alone who can answer those prayers, provide the information needed to overcome our difficulties, and provide the strength and resources to be victorious.

Reinforcements Rejected

David acknowledges that God had been withholding his protection and provision because of the sin of the people.  This is very serious, and cannot be overstated enough.  We need to remember that when just ONE member of the body is in pain, the whole body is in pain.  Each and every one of us must do our part to ensure that we are not hindering the progress of the rest of the body.

God has withheld his blessing from His people before just because ONE person was sinning.  Imagine that – the entire nation of Israel was denied victory in battle because ONE person was sinning!  It is important that we remember that sin affects not only us, but those around us as well.  Let us search our hearts daily to see if there is any wrongdoing within us, and ask the Lord God Almighty for His help in overcoming it and to repent of it.  None of us should ever want to be the stumbling block for the rest of the body…

Plea for Progress

David pleads with God for help in overcoming his adversaries.  We need to always go to God with our concerns and needs.  Even though God already knows them, and is preparing the answer to the prayers we have not yet even prayed, we must do our part in this by being obedient to God and submitting ourselves through prayer in humility.  God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.  Let us follow the example of David and humble ourselves before God, asking Him for the victory.  Let us trust in God and God alone for all victory.  And He will lift up our heads.

Recognizing Refuse

David also acknowledges that the help of man is worthless.  When faced with any issue, God greatly desires that we come to Him first, for He is all-knowing and all-powerful.  He desires to bless us with His grace and mercy, and teach us more about His character through our dependence upon Him through our trials and difficulties.  God desires that we deepen our relationship with Him during these times.

When we seek out men for help before God (and God may very well send us to others for advice, strategy, and resources, but only once we have sought Him out earnestly in prayer), we are in effect saying that God cannot help us, so we have chosen to men to help us.  This is greatly disrespectful towards God, given His clear instruction throughout scripture showing us that He desires to be the first consulted.  David recognizes that the help of man without the express prior approval and selection from God is utterly worthless.  One angel of God could wipe out every army on Earth.  Why would we seek out men and their strength when God can bring to bear LEGIONS of angels to assist us in our needs?

Heavenly Help

David now confirms what he already knows – that victory belongs to God and God alone.  It is only with the help of God that we will be truly victorious.  God has brought to bear great and mighty assistance to those in need, and will do so again.  It is God and God alone who can do this.  We cannot remind ourselves enough of this, for the truth shall set us free, and drawing close to God is always beneficial.  It is then that He gives us His peace and opens His storehouses of provision and protection to His people:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When I face difficulties, who or what do I go to first for help?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show me again and again in Your word that You desire that each of us come to You first for all of our needs.  Forgive me Father when I go to others first who are wise.  You have all of the answers, and are sovereign over all creation.  It is You who provide victory and assign wise counselors.  Help me to stop listening to the world, the flesh, and the devil, who want to keep me from You and Your help and rely on myself and others.  Give me the desire to always seek You first in all things.  You have provided wise counsel and leaders to guide us, but it is You who are first in everything.  Blessed be Your name forever and ever, Amen.

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Message from God – Judges 3:19-23

A Grave Message From God

19 But on reaching the stone images near Gilgal he himself went back to Eglon and said, “Your Majesty, I have a secret message for you.”

The king said to his attendants, “Leave us!” And they all left.

20 Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his palace and said, “I have a message from God for you.” As the king rose from his seat, 21 Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. 22 Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. 23 Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.

Mysterious Message

God used the Judges of Israel to lead the people out of oppression from their enemies.  Israel had turned her back to God, and they needed to be disciplined.  God would often discipline them by sending them into captivity.  God’s hand would be against them, and no matter what the Israelites did, their enemies would conquer them and force them into servitude.

God had heard the cry of the Israelites, and sent them Ehud, a left-handed man.  Being left-hand dominant was a bit difficult in those times.  After relieving themselves of their scat, people at that time would wipe their behinds with their non-dominant hand.  For most people at that time, it would be their left hand.  So God, with a bit of a sense of irony, sent a left-handed man to do what no right-handed man could do.  Because of the scarcity of left-hand dominance, the guards would not check the right side of a person for weapons, for it would be very awkward for any right-handed person to quickly access the weapon to defend themselves, and no one would willingly wipe themselves with the hand that they ate with.  Because of this blind spot, God was able to use a left-handed man to deliver a “secret message” to Eglon, king of the Moabites, oppressors of God’s people at that time.

Judged with Justice

God’s message was justice.  Ehud successfully smuggled a knife into the palace on the right side of his body, and, when alone with king Eglon (who was vetted by his guards and thought Ehud was unarmed), pulled out a large knife (a cubit long, about 18 inches) and successfully delivered the message of justice from God to king Eglon. This message was very effective, because the king had grown obese and was unable to defend himself.

Although God will often use other nations to discipline His people, after the discipline is over, God has a tendency to destroy the nation that was used to oppress His people.  Even though they had been chosen by God as a rod of discipline, God keeps his word – those that bless Israel are blessed, and those that curse Israel are cursed.

Exquisite Escape

God is a God of justice.  If this assassination was not God-appointed, He would have surely made certain that His Judge would have been caught and put to death for murder.  In this case, the death of King Eglon was decreed and approved by God for the deliverance of His people from this wicked nation.

Ehud was able to successfully leave the palace, and to gather the Israelites together to rise up against the nation that had oppressed them.  God had given the country of Moab into their hands, and they took possession of the fords of the Jordan:

28 “Follow me,” he ordered, “for the Lord has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands.” So they followed him down and took possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab; they allowed no one to cross over. 29 At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not one escaped. 30 That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I doing anything that would require God to discipline me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are full of grace and mercy.  You have spared my life when I was still a sinner.  Forgive me for my sins, and train my heart in the way it should go.  Help me to be fully submitted to the Holy Spirit, so that I would not need to be disciplined.  Help me to have the same love for Your people, the Israelites, that You have.  Help me to always bless them and not curse them.  May the enemies of the Israelites receive the full measure of Your wrath and your anger in the day that You deliver them from their oppressors.  Help me to have the strength and courage to stand for Israel even when the leaders of my country refuse to honor You and them.  Remember me in my distress, Lord God, when my government acts in ways that deserve Your wrath, cursing, and destruction.  Help me to advise them and, if given the opportunity, to elect leaders that will honor You rather than themselves, culture, or Your enemies.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Victory in Jesus – Joshua 6:1-5

Obedience Is The Key To Victory

1 Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.

2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”

Overcoming when Overwhelmed

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by what God has asked you to do?  Does it feel like God has placed you in front of Mount Everest with a plastic spoon in your hand and tells you to move the mountain?   This is by design.  If we could do things in our own strength, how would God be glorified?  He wouldn’t – everyone who saw would say, “Wow – what talent!”  rather than “That could only have been accomplished through the power of the Lord God Almighty!”  Joshua must have felt the same way.

Let’s set the stage:  The Israelites, after forty years of wandering in the desert, have just successfully crossed the Jordan during FLOOD STAGE on dry land.  God began the Exodus with a parting of the waters, and ended it with another parting of the waters. Moses is now with the Lord, and Joshua has called the nation of Israel to be circumcised and dedicated to God.  Joshua is now facing his first battle; here was one of his first tests in leadership.  And the people of Israel are at Jericho, one of the most fortified and defensible cities they had ever seen.  The walls were insurmountable.  They might as well have been made from armor-plated concrete for all the good it would do for the Israelites to try to overcome.

But God (always notice the “but God” in any spiritual victory…) had already prepared the city to be conquered.  They had heard that God had dried up the Jordan, just as He did to deliver the Israelites out of the hands of Pharaoh.  And knowing this – that God was for the Israelites and against them – their hearts melted, and they no longer had the strength and conviction to defeat the people of God.  If God is against you, how can you prevail?  You cannot.

Powerful Perspective

Then, the commander of the army of the Lord appears, sword drawn.  Joshua questions the man, who announces himself.  Then, the Lord makes a statement to Joshua:

See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.

From the perspective of God, who sees everything from the end to the beginning, the victory has already been accomplished.  In God’s mind, it has already occurred.  There is finality in it, because God DOES know the future, and sees it as it is, rather than as we see it (with uncertainty).  We are bound by time and space; God created both of these things, and is outside of them, with an eternal perspective.  Meanwhile, the city wall still stands, and the fortified city still stands.

He then gives Joshua some very specific and, in the eyes of the world, what would appear to be idiotic instructions – to march around the city for six days, then on the seventh day to march around it seven times, blow the trumpets, and shout.  So, have you ever shouted at an inanimate object before in anger?  Did anything change with it after you shouted, “Stupid car!” or “Worthless dishwasher!” or ?  If so, you are one of the rare people!  It may help us to vent our anger and frustration, but typically does nothing to improve our situation.  In the eyes of men, overcoming this city would have been nearly impossible.  It would only be through the hand and power of God that the city would be conquered.  Especially by just walking around it, blowing trumpets, and shouting.

Obedience Overcomes

And, when we are given instructions that don’t make sense to us, this is our crisis of faith:  do we follow in obedience, or look at our circumstances.  It is only when we are submitted to and obedient to the instructions of God that we will overcome.  It is then, and only then, that God will give us victory in our impossible situation, bringing glory to Himself, and showing the world that the Lord God Almighty, YHWH, is the only one true God, and is to be feared, worshiped, and obeyed.

In obedience to His word, He brings about victory and supernaturally displays His sovereignty over all creation.  He is able to make the wind and waves obey Him;  Every living creature is at His beck and call; time itself is in His hands, and the Sun, Moon, and stars obey his every command.  By His command, man has been brought forth in life, and the dead have risen.  Bushes ignite in flames but are not consumed. His faithful have been thrown into the fiery furnace and returned without even the smell of fire on them.  Lions mouths were shut and opened at His command.  Death itself was conquered through the obedience of His One and Only Son.  Nothing is impossible for God, and victory comes to the obedient.

Remember that taking a fortified city at that time came with great risks.  If you got too close to the walls, archers would turn you into a pincushion.  If you managed to get past the barrage of arrows, you would them be subject to a couple of different attacks.  Once you got up against the wall, they would often pour boiling oil or tar on you.  They may then fire some flaming arrows down at you, and you would burst into flame.  That will generally ruin your day.  In addition, they would often hurl stones at you.  From a sufficient height, a stone the size of a basket ball could effectively crush you.  There were great dangers in venturing this close to the city’s fortifications.  Yet that is what God told them to do.  Obedience to God always yields reward.

Faithful Followup

And when we are obedient to God – regardless of how silly, insulting, embarrassing, or impossible the command that we have been given – God reaches out with power, strength and provision, and causes the mountains to move, the Earth to shake, and His glory and power are revealed to all so that God may not be made out to be a liar, but instead keeps His word in complete and total faithfulness.

4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.

In this particular case, the Israelites did exactly what God had told them to do.  And in return for their faithful obedience, the walls of Jericho fell, and the Israelites were victorious.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I being obedient to the known will of God in faith?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, throughout Your holy word, You have shown us Your character, and even sent Your One and only Son, Jesus Christ, to bear witness to the truth.  For if we have seen the Son, we have seen the Father.  Your character is perfect, and You are not a liar.  You will faithfully carry out all that You have said that You would.  You have shown me time and time again in Your word where You have been faithful when we show up in faith and obedience.  Help me, Father, to overcome the giant that taunts me, and threatens me, and causes my heart to melt in fear.  Give me the strength to meet all resistance with the knowledge and faith that You are faithful, Lord God, and nothing is impossible for You.  Help me to do all that You have commanded me to do, and give me clear direction so that I can be faithful and obedient to You.  This I ask in the precious and holy name of Jesus, Amen.

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Spiritual Development with God – 1 John 2:12-14 (NASB)

Everyone Is In A Different Stage Of Spiritual Development

12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

Past and Present

John reaches out to three groups of believers in both the present tense (first part) and the past tense (latter part).  He is writing to remind them of their spiritual state and growth in Christ.  This may be due to the growth that has occurred in the church, and John wishes to remind those from where they came and where they are now.  He reminds them in both tenses of essentially the same thing for each stage of spiritual development.  He does this to encourage them in their spiritual growth.

Children in Christ

John first mentions the children – the babes in Christ.  He reminds them that their sins are forgiven.  As we throw off the grave-clothes of our old lives, and emerge freed from their restrictive effect upon our spiritual movement, we need to continually remember that we have been forgiven our sins.

The devil and his minions would continually remind us of the past, and try to get us focus on what was rather than on what is – that we are free in Christ.  Young babes in Christ must be reminded that God has forgiven them their sins for two reasons:

  1. We should no longer act in the way that we used to
  2. Now that we are free, we are capable of experentially knowing the Father through participating in His character as we walk with Him

Fine Fathers

John next addresses the more mature followers in Christ – the fathers.  In both tenses, he reminds them of their spiritual maturity in that they know the character of the living God.  Indeed, they have participated in His character and walk in it.  As they walk in God’s character, God reveals more of Himself to them so that they can walk even closer.

This is important to remember as we mature in Christ.  We are to be encouraged to seek out and experience God’s character more and more each day.  And we should remember that we have overcome the first two stages of spiritual development:

  • Childhood – learning to walk
  • Adolescence – overcoming obstacles through strength and discernment

Adolescent Achievers

John finally addresses those who spiritual development is in a state of great spiritual flux.  These are disciples who are learning to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil.  They have successfully learned to resist the temptations placed before them, and are about to embark on the more difficult journey of greater spiritual maturity.

John reminds this group in both tenses that they have overcome the evil one.  That is no small thing.  The Holy Spirit is the one who empowers us to walk with God.  This group has been commended for yielding their lives in holy obedience to God’s word and development in discernment so that they can overcome the devil.  They are beginning to mature, but are not yet walking in full maturity.

Just as young men take on more responsibility and find out who they are as men, so these disciples are finding out who they are in Christ.  They are being proven as faithful and worthy, and will soon discover their place and purpose among the family of believers that they are attached to at present.  Sometimes, there is no substitute for experience that difficulty in life can present.  And once they are trained by it, they will bear much fruit in maturity.

 A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Where am I in my spiritual growth development?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is You who have graciously given me the opportunity to walk with Your Son, Jesus Christ, in holiness and obedience.  Without His sacrificial blood, I would still be lost in my sins.  For this I am eternally grateful – that although You are completely just, You have shown me mercy and grace.  Please extend your mercy and grace to all who do not yet know You.  Woo them to You as You have done with me.  Strengthen me in my walk with You that I would mature and be complete, lacking in nothing.  Help me as I walk to further grow spiritually and to be dependent on You completely without reservation.  Help me to be fully obedient to Your Holy Spirit.  Help me to die to self, pick up my cross daily, and follow You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Victory with God – Psalm 20:6-9

May the Lord grant all your requests.

6 Now this I know:
The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
with the victorious power of his right hand.

7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

8 They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.

9 Lord, give victory to the king!
Answer us when we call!

Vital Victory

We have victory in Jesus!  It cannot be understated.  Rejoice in it!  We have been freed from indentured servitude to sin to be free to follow God.  We were born to worship.  Let us worship the One who laid down His life for us.

Regardless of whether we are successful at any secular endeavor in life, we have been made more than conquerors through Jesus Christ.  Since God is for us, who can be against us?  Remember – you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing.  When we overcome sin by receiving Christ, we are given special access to God’s victory banquet that will be held in Heaven. Many were invited, but few have been chosen.  We must prepare ourselves for the victory we already have.  Let us not be dawdle with trivial things.

The Challenge of Chariots

Which is easier – to put our trust in an army of the most highly trained, best equipped, and (apparently) loyal army to protect us, or to put our trust in the Lord our God for our protection?

We are often more prone to put our trust in what we can see rather than what we cannot see:

We cannot see the spiritual because of the fall of Adam.  Let us put our trust in God, who is sovereign over all that He has created, rather than in riches or kings or anything on Earth.

Stand Steady

Those who trust in the world’s help will fall, but those who trust in God will stand firm.  Daniel stood firm and prayed to God when he was told he could only pray to the king.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood firm and refused to worship an idol.  There are many others.  The greatest to stand firm was Jesus Christ, who allowed Himself to be crucified for us.

An Amazing Answer

God answers the call of His children.  He has an answer prepared before we even complete the request!  God greatly desires to answer our call to Him!  He eagerly waits to hear from us.  What good Earthly father would ignore their children’s cries for help?  God is truly good, and with compassion and joy desires to answer us.  Let us be patient as we wait for His response!

A Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I trusting in God for victory, or in someone or something else?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given me victory through the victory You provided to Christ through resurrection.  Let me never forget Your sovereignty over all that You created.  Strengthen me in my struggles, and hear my cries for help, O Lord.  You have said that You answer our requests even before they are out of my mouth.  Watch over me this day Lord God.  Grant me victory in every area of my life.  May my path be set straight and upon You and Your Word only, Lord God.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Victory in Christ – Revelation 2:17

Cultural Relevance is Very Important.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

Special Stone

What’s so special about a white stone?  Unless you know its cultural relevance, absolutely nothing.  It doesn’t make sense, or one can come up with any number of meanings – there isn’t enough context to understand the meaning of this passage.

If you lived two thousand years ago, everyone in the area where Jesus preached would have understood the relevance.  A white stone with a person’s name inscribed on it would be given to the victor of the Roman athletic games.  It would give that person special access to a special awards banquet.

New Name

The other significant part of this was that we will be given a new name.  Names were very important in scripture.  A person’s name described their character:

  • Jacob (“deceiver”) was given the name Israel (“one who struggled with God”)
  • Saul’s name was changed to Paul (“small” or “humble”)
  • Simon’s name was changed to Peter (“little rock”)
  • Nabal (“foolish”) nearly died when he refused David and his men food from their harvest after they had faithfully guarded his workers.

Run the Race

Paul indicated that living his life for God was like he was running a race.  He wanted to run it like he was trying to win.  So often we focus on the grace of God (and do whatever we want – after all God has forgiven us of all sin – past, present, and future, right?) or the holiness of God (we live in aversion of the painful consequences of when we do anything wrong, so that oftentimes we are paralyzed that if we do anything wrong, we will receive a swift penalty for it), rather than a balance between the two.

Walk Warily

These metaphors are meant to illustrate that we need to live our lives in such a way that our character matches that of Christ, and that we strive towards the goal of perfection knowing that God will forgive us when we fail.  This balance – perfection vs. grace – helps us to continue striving towards God, and experience victory over sin and discipline in our everyday lives.

Victorious Venue

And when we shed this moral coil, whether it be in slumber or in apantesis as we are being gathered up into the sky with our Lord Jesus Christ , we can be assured that we have a place at the victor’s table as we will sup with God for all eternity, devoting ourselves in obedience, prayer, worship, and adoration.

A Qualifying Question

OK, let’s ask ourselves a question – Am I living my life in such a way that it looks like an Olympic athlete seeking to win the Gold Medal for Christ-like character?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You give us strength when we are weak, and carry us when we are broken.  Help us to live our lives in such a way that it reflects the character of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help us to discipline ourselves so that we will run the race set before us consistently and honorably.  Remember us when we fall; help us to get back up again.  Provide for our every need.  And show us our new name, our new character, that we may live in it and rejoice in it.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God- 2 Chronicles 20:15

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.'”

It never goes well when we try to do things on our own.  When we are faced with any issue, it is best to seek The Lord our God, for He will fight the battles we cannot fight.  God is more than willing to stand between us and our enemies.  We see this throughout the Bible:

There are others, but this should suffice.  When we are faced with overwhelming issues, we should always seek the Lord.  He may very well have planned to fight for us.  Joshua did not inquire of the Lord, and was tricked by the Gibeonites.  So, why don’t we seek God when we are faced with overwhelming issues?

  • We think we can do it on our own
  • God has been silent, and we don’t think He will come to our rescue
    • This is usually a test.  The teacher is usually silent when we take tests…
    • Sometimes, in order to see the beauty of the stars, night has to fall, because the Sun drowns out everything else…
  • We are paralyzed with fear
    • We have taken our eyes off God and placed them on our circumstances
  • We may have sin in our lives, and we feel guilty about asking God for victory
  • Disease, or worry, has worn us down and brought us to a place of misery and despair
    • When we are worn down by these things, we are in a very bad place.  Even seeking the Lord is difficult when every breath brings pain and every moment is sheer misery.
    • We need to be obedient to Scripture.  Have you followed God’s prescription for healing?

In all of these things, we need to seek God for everything: the large battles, and especially the small ones; forgiveness, and strength.  God is always working, and greatly desires us to seek Him in prayer that He may show up and bring glory to His name.  When God is silent, be faithful, and know that He is with you.  Seek Him out as did the Psalmists in Psalms 83 and 109.  Let nothing come between you and God.  We have so much technology that we often go to Google rather than go to God.  And God WILL show up to help, for He loves you very much.  And always remember:

But God…

So, what situation has you backed into a corner where you desperately need to hear, “But God…”?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are beautiful beyond description and a marvelous to behold.  You enter into our pain, give us comfort and strength, and guide us in the ways we should go.  You provide for our every need, and even for our desires.  You are forever faithful, and like all fathers, delight in Your children.  Help me this day, Lord God, for I am weary.  Enter into my circumstances.  Deliver me through them, and fight the battles that I cannot win.  Guard me against all evil, and my heart greatly praise You for who You are.  Help me to seek You always, even when You seem to do the opposite of what I ask.  This I ask and pray in the name of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?