“The Well is Deep”

old water well

I once went hiking near the massive rock formation of Sugarloaf Mountain, with its great, striking view, toward the low forest area of the lower footpath. After a while, it brought me close to a beautiful meadow. I could have taken a longer way around which would have led me to the main road. But it was one of those sweltering summer days. So, when I spied an opening in the weathered split-rail fence surrounding the vast open field, I took the well-worn footpath cutting through the middle of the open meadow instead.

Taking the footpath shortened my walking distance during the intense midday sun of this picture-perfect summer day. After I had hiked almost the full length of the path, it directed me down, going from side to side, to a wide, picturesque sight of numerous wildflowers growing throughout the meadow. It finally led to an old, dusty crossroad where I saw an insignificant, weathered, wooden structure nearby, originally a farmhouse. I discovered a long-standing, isolated, stone well there, sharing the same spot with an ancient oak tree, whose canopy of branches and leaves extended out far and wide providing welcome shade. Tiny, tightly-closed blooms peeked out from scattered morning glory vines nearby, while beautiful wildflowers in full bloom grew near where I stood. Then a small breeze stirred the very dry dust of the road, and the summer sun finally succeeded in penetrating the canopy that had been sheltering me from the midday heat.

I moved closer to the old well, hoping its water would quickly satisfy my thirst. Then I discovered that it was very deep. A tattered rope once held a bucket, but now swung freely back and forth around an old, rusty, cranking mechanism. And there I was, sitting under the shade from the massive oak tree at the well, with no means to draw water!

“The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?” (John 4:11)  

“The well is deep….” The well here was a lot deeper than expected. And this woman of Samaria could see that Jesus had nothing to lower into the well to get a drink of water. There are troubles and issues inside our human nature that can be very deep too. And we know we have nothing to draw them out with ourselves. But do we believe that Jesus has nothing to work with also?

He may come to us as we worry about issues in our heart that we cannot penetrate or come to understand and say to us, “Let not your heart be troubled.” But we shrug and argue, “Lord, this well is deep. I have tried and tried, and I can’t get any calm or comfort out of it. I don’t really see how You can do anything either.”

Why do we think Jesus is poor and powerless in dealing with our situation? He does not draw our help from deep wells of trouble anyway. He reaches up and brings our answer and comfort down from above.

We recall something we let Him do for us in the past, thinking: “Yes, He helped me that time, it’s true, but this time I can’t expect Him to solve this situation.” Why do we limit Him? Is He God Almighty or isn’t He? We want Him to comfort us, and to sympathize with us, but we don’t welcome Him as Almighty God in relation to our problem.

We have attributes and experiences that are Christian, but we don’t abandon ourselves to Jesus. What poor examples we are of Christianity, because we don’t draw on an Almighty Christ. We get into hard situations, and, instead of turning to Him, we say He cannot help us—that He is not able to do what we need. Then we try to go down into the deep well and get the water out ourselves. But the answer isn’t there anyway. We should know that if we look to Jesus, He can give us what we need. The Samaritan woman came for water at the well. But Jesus addressed her deepest unspoken problems and situations instead, and she left with her life totally turned around!

Yes, the well is deep and you are very thirsty. Don’t try to get the water yourself, though. Draw on the One who is the “Water of Life,” and you will never thirst again!

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A Death and Life Matter

cross in clouds

“…I am the resurrection, and the life:
he that believeth in Me,
though he were dead,
yet shall he live:
and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.
Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26).

Before He went to the cross to die, Jesus told His followers that He is the resurrection and He is the [eternal] life. Then He told them that whoever lives and believes in Him will die also—yet they will live! This means that they will also be raised from the dead (resurrected) and will live with Him forever in Heaven. Then, when Jesus’ time came to be hung on the cross to pay for the sin of all mankind, He told those who believed in Him that He would go through with it. Afterward, He said that the heavenly Father would raise Him up from the dead and glorify Him (make Him bright, shining and magnificent, like God). Jesus could not be glorified unless and until He was resurrected. And all of His followers will also be saved, and glorified after they die, because He promised that they will be like Him.

The one main thing that makes Christianity different from other faiths is the supernatural power of the living God. And the highest demonstration of this power was Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

The only way the truthfulness of what He taught could be checked out was by Him being raised from the dead like He had promised. First He was alive—then He was crucified and buried—and then He was alive again, just like He had promised! He became known as Lord of the living and of the dead. He said “…I am…the living one…I was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore” (Revelation 1:17-18).

Jesus also said that His followers would be able to live again like He did, because they believe in Him. His death on the cross, and God raising Him from the dead, were for everyone—in order that they would live for Him, not just for themselves anymore. He convinced His followers that they would be taken where He went when they died. His resurrection guaranteed the work He did on the cross.

Everything mankind lost when Adam fell, Jesus took care of on the cross. But His people only have part of what He won for them. The rest will come when we are resurrected too.

In the meantime, those who now live for Christ are eager to join Him. We groan and sigh as we wait and hope for God. When He comes back, then our bodies will be transformed to be like Jesus. We will go from being corrupt to being glorified and immortal.

True faith in Christ doesn’t come from thinking of Him raised from the dead, though. True faith only comes from thinking of Him hanging on the cross to pay the price for our sins that kept us from God. He is not only the way to eternal life—He is the eternal life we are after! This means that being “in Christ” is even more important than being raised from the dead. We who belong to Christ (symbolically) died with Him—we were buried with Him—and we will be resurrected in Him, to “newness of life.” He is the life which He gives in order to give life back to our dead souls.

Jesus’ voice commands dead souls to wake up. He has the authority to do this. His command makes those who are dead in sins become alive. They that hear His voice live. And His voice, speaking to you through His Word [the Bible] will cause you to die to sin. It will also encourage you to leave everything and follow Him.

Jesus died on the cross so that He could raise us from death in sin, which He proved by His own resurrection first. If you don’t hear the voice of Jesus, you will remain asleep and will die in your sin. Then you will never go to Heaven where He has gone.

One day a trumpet will proclaim Christ’s call to believers, like the military call to depart. This signal meant that it was time to march to another place. God is going to take us to another place to be with Him. Suddenly, in only a moment, those who have died in Him will be raised in glorified bodies, never to suffer from disease and death again. The believer’s hope in Christ is not just for the time they are here on Earth. Our hope is to be raised from this life to be personally with Jesus Christ, in order to rule and reign with Him forevermore. Then, when “Death is swallowed up in victory,” our triumph over death will be complete in every way. Let these words of Jesus Christ become a part of you: “… because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19).

If you have just read this and you would like to know more about how to be free from the bondage of sin and the assurance of life for eternity please click here.

Character Pleasing to God

young woman sitting by tree

What we say and what we actually do can be miles apart. But God doesn’t judge us by these as much as He judges us by our character. The one thing He really wants to see is godly character being built up in us. This means the way we behave according to our code of correct behavior, which is then demonstrated by the actions of our body. But we seldom think of character in terms of our body. The character we form is made known by the disposition that rules within us—referring to our customary moods and attitude toward life around us. God can change our disposition, but He is not the one who forms our character. We have to do that ourselves.

There is no quick and easy way to Heaven. This is also true in forming godly character. Choosing a quick and easy way to the ways of God does not benefit us. The only sure way is long and careful. We therefore need patience in the process. We can choose to ignore God and refuse to obey Him, or we can obey Him by bringing every thought and imagination under control. Then His life will be displayed in our body. The issue is not simply keeping us from going to Hell. The issue is that we have been saved for the very purpose of displaying Christ in our everyday life—in everything we do. “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them,” said Jesus (John 13:17 emphasis mine).

headshot of a middle aged man

Patient striving for godly character shows the power of our love for God. Jesus did not choose the quick and easy way to the throne and kingdom He was destined for. He chose the long way of humility which took Him first to the Cross of Calvary. The heavenly Father’s perfect standard for a man’s character is represented by the life of Jesus. The Father does not make us walk right. Instead, He gives us the very life and Spirit of His Son, so His patience, love, and gentleness can be displayed in us. Then consistent godly Christian character is formed as the life of Jesus is made evident in our mortal body.

The only way to clearly understand the will of God is by developing godly character. Different Christians interpret His will in various ways at various times, but the Holy Spirit is the only true interpreter. When we first receive the Holy Spirit, we learn the most valuable lesson of spiritual life—that God’s will is revealed according to our character’s condition. But His will doesn’t change our character. It is our attitude toward His will, expressed in our newly-forming character, which begins to reflect His will. Paul said to work out our salvation, and to be consistent in character with what God has worked in, “That ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

two indigenous children washing dishes

Our character cannot earn or make us deserve a right to come before God. It is only by His grace that we can ever stand before Him. Let’s be wary of having an arrogant interest in our own character, which can then turn into our reason for believing in God. Be careful that nothing interferes with our proper relationship with Him. Anything that damages this relationship will interfere when God wants to use us to influence others toward Him. It will also mar our reflection of Him in the eyes of others.

“The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” as we are “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (1 John 1:7; 2 Corinthians 7:1 emphasis mine).

Are we guilty of encouraging a false, unhealthy holiness that does not come from the fear of God? If we focus on our own holiness, a subtle pride of the flesh which is not in the Word can slowly rise up in us. It does not lead to building character, but only to having experience. Then we tend to take ourselves too seriously and God not seriously enough.

three crosses in a field

God gives us the right disposition through the Atonement (Jesus shedding His blood on the cross for our sins). He puts it into us when we are born again. But it is up to us to work it out in everyday life, in and through our physical body. This is also the way our character is made and displayed. It cannot be expressed in any other way except through our body. And how can we tell if our emerging character is of the nature of God? only when the life of His Son is being made manifest (evident) in our body.

Strength in moral life depends on the quality of our morals. But in spiritual life, we need to deal with things that oppose us by drawing from the life of Jesus. This will produce holy character which is wholly pleasing to God. Can we save ourselves or set ourselves apart unto holiness? No, only God can. Our treasure in Heaven is the wealth of character we are storing up by remaining true to Jesus’ faith, not to our faith in Him. But it is dangerous to allow holy character to replace our faith in God. Let’s think long and hard about our development of godly character, and work out what these thoughts concerning what God have worked into us. Then we will know that the character we have developed is pleasing to God.

God is a Rewarder

Jesus reaching out to Peter on the water By François BoucherUnknown, Public Domain, Link

Jesus told His “…disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him unto the other side, while He sent the multitudes away…[then] He went up into a mountain apart to pray…” (Matthew 14:22-23). Jesus wanted His disciples to go to either Bethsaida or Capernaum in the boat. These two cities were only a few miles apart on the same side of the Sea of Galilee. They made their way along the western coast of the sea, most likely expecting Christ to meet up with them along the way.

Imagine how they felt after nightfall out in the middle of the sea, as storm clouds rapidly forming in the distance came toward them. This time they were alone, without Jesus in their midst. Strong winds and enormous waves came and continually beat against the boat. It wasn’t long before it began to take on water and they thought they were going to sink. In vain they tried to bail water out of the boat, while enormous waves continued crashing all around. When they looked at their terrifying circumstances, the situation appeared hopeless. Satan, the prince of the power of the air, most likely sent the storm. But the Lord would not allow it to harm His disciples, because it was designed to test their faith.

Sometime between three and six o’clock in the morning, Jesus came to them “…walking on the sea….” When the disciples saw Him walking on the water, they became very troubled. They said to each other, “…It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear” (Matthew 14:25-26).

How often have we also cried out in fear in response to the stormy tumult of the world? And how often have we been distracted by our circumstances, and failed to keep our eyes on the presence of Jesus in our midst?

Our doubts, fears, and unbelief hinder us in our walk with God. When we face any type of difficult circumstances, Jesus wants us to reach out to Him in true, believing faith. He wants us to trust Him no matter what type of circumstances or difficulties we may go through. “…without faith it is impossible to please [God]: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Jesus calls for us to “come” to Him, just as He told Peter to do. He wants us to become a chosen ‘living vessel’ unto Him, “…which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). Those who are a ‘living vessel’ are unconditionally chosen to do the works of God. He wants us out of our comfort zone of life. Peter was able to actually walk on the water when he turned to Jesus to help him. When we respond to the divine presence of the Lord in the midst of our storm, He promises to provide for us also. He will encourage us to ‘walk on the water’ in spiritual pursuits. But we cannot come to Jesus unless He upholds us by His divine power.

If we understand that God sustains all life, then we can begin to better understand who He is. Jesus said, “If you have known Me, ye should have known My Father also (John 8:19).” He is Jehovah-Elohim (“Lord God”)—the Creator-God—who is not detached from His creation. He attends to the needs of His people. In fact, the Lord Himself came down in person to help and save us all, demonstrating that He really is the covenant-keeping God. And when Jesus manifested Himself to His disciples on the sea, He revealed who He really is.

The greatness of Jesus’ power and grace was demonstrated to Peter when he trusted Jesus and stepped out of the boat onto the water.

But Peter took his eyes off of Jesus when he looked down fearfully and saw his own weakness of faith. He failed to keep his eyes on God there with him when he started to sink, because he was overcome by his doubt, fear, and unbelief. So he cried out to Jesus, “Help me, Lord, save me!”

When we look fearfully at the magnitude of the difficulties that come against us, we also take our eyes off Jesus. Then we, like Peter, begin to sink. But when we call out—“Save me, Lord, from these difficulties opposing me!”—He stretches out His arm and rescues us! Jesus shows Himself with more grace for the sake of those who believe in who He is. For all who have Jesus near them, and know that He is theirs, nothing should overwhelm them to an extreme degree with fear and anxiety—not even death itself. Jesus Christ is fully able to take whatever divine action He desires to save His people.

Are enormous waves beating against you right now? This same Jesus is right there with you and is coming toward you—His ‘living vessel’. The same One who stretched out the heavens and walked “…on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8) is now calling with His gentle voice of peace—“Come to Me.” He walks on the water so that you will know His power.

But He also does it so that you will know your weakness in yourself, as you step out of the safety zone of your life as His disciple. We are never brought to this position on our own—until we find ourselves sinking.

Then this same sense of need drives us to Him. Come to Him as you begin sinking in the deep waters of your own difficulties. Cry out to Him, “Lord, rescue me!” He will stretch out His arm and rescue you.

The Lonely Ones of God

young Japanese woman looking over railing

Many people fear loneliness. But for a child of God in His service, being alone is a necessity—because God’s way is a lonely way. If you are going to lead others as God directs, it requires a certain amount of loneliness. You cannot take friends along with you, even though they may provide you a great deal of comfort.

Anyone can go with the crowd. But how many can turn and go in the other direction—alone? Nothing but God’s grace can make it possible for a man to face any obstacle—alone.

You need to be able to stand like a solid rock that nothing can move, even if the whole world pushes against you! It is boldness like this in the name of the Lord that is worthy of His grace. Do you count all the difficulties that you encounter? You don’t need to. Why not count how many times God has gotten you through difficulties you considered insurmountable instead! In fact, it is better to have more difficult situations, and fewer friends, because more grace will be poured out on you to help you stand firm in your lonely situation—with your faith resting solely on God.

O man or woman of God, don’t think of yourself as alone! God never leaves you unprotected. You would be amazed if you could see all the mighty angelic bodyguards surrounding you all the time!

You have no right to complain of loneliness, therefore, because you never really are alone. Nor do you have to fear evil, because “thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4). When you know the Lord is with you, you will be able to go through loneliness, illness, grieving, poverty, and even terrifying torment. Yet you never need to doubt the Lord, or give up on Him, in spite of what you may go through. In fact, your song can still be full of joy, even if you have to pass through “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). This is the victory that your faith in Him provides!

man sitting on bench with distant mountains

Are you a child of God in some remote place, far from any friend, known by no one? Even if you have only a hut to live in, and are not near any group of Christians, don’t let your spirit be down. Lift up your voice and sing to God! He will hear you and comfort you and remain with you. Maybe you rent a room in the middle of a crowded city, without even one person you can call a friend. The Lord sees you and can help you to thrive in the midst of your loneliness, even in a crowd. He has not forgotten you and is not neglecting you.

You can’t see God’s presence when He is working on your behalf. But those who know Him and fellowship with Him can sense His presence, nevertheless.

When your ears have been constantly trained by faith, you will hear God’s ‘footsteps’ nearby. Do you ever sit in sorrow, feeling all alone at times? Every so often, lift your head and listen for that gentle whisper telling you “It is I; be not afraid” (John 6:20). “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him…” (Psalm 25:14). Instead of trying to avoid loneliness, retreat every once in a while to a private corner alone. Tell your heart to rejoice, and then break into a song of praise unto God.

 

woman standing water at sunset

Sometimes the Holy Spirit stirs you inside, calling you to come away and be alone with God. Do not take your own good time responding to His call. If you are truly born again, you need private prayer time just to live! The Spirit calls you to spend much time in loneliness. This is to your advantage, so you will have a chance to prove whether you are truly trusting only in God. There are also times when you can get very alone, and then discover that no one will be kind to you. At times like this, lean solely on the Lord. He has the power to provide the comfort you need and He will prove it to you. Then you will discover more of what God is to His people. Get alone with God and the damage done by the noise and worry and shouting of the world will be repaired in your life.

Man of God, woman of God, you don’t need to feel the pain of being lonely. No matter where you may be at any given time, God is there. All you need to do is to pray, and you and God will be together. Bring Him to mind, and you’ll find Him walking with you that very moment. Go to Him with all your needs and He will lay His hand upon you. He is your dependable, inexhaustible source of supply and support. Devote yourself to Him and you will find that lonely, narrow path which leads to His unending love.

man looking out window

No one who ever lived experienced more loneliness than Jesus did. He knows just what it’s like to be lonely and forsaken—even by His own brothers. Therefore, His sympathy is endless for all who feel alone and forsaken. But who did Jesus turn to when He was afflicted and set apart from others? Who could He uncover His innermost feelings and thoughts to? No one but His Heavenly Father. He prayed and asked for His assistance humbly and earnestly, time after time. All of His sorrow and complaints He brought to Him. And His heavenly Father answered them all and comforted Him.

Lonely one, you are not truly alone. The Spirit of the One crucified on the cross of Calvary is with you right now, whispering gently in your ear: “Fear not: for I am with thee” (Isaiah 43:5). He “is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). He promised that He will never leave you, nor forsake you. Let Him be your source of comfort whenever you are in danger of succumbing to the pain of loneliness.

Asserting Your Individuality

 

a silhouette of a man with fists raised in victory

The devil tempted the first man by trying to convince Adam that God is not the final authority over each individual. He also tried to get him to believe that man is his own god. When Adam fell for these temptations, he also fell from his position with God. Ever since then, there is no part of the human personality that has not been negatively affected by his fall. The mind, the will, the emotions—all have been affected. Man’s inner personality has been warped so much by sin that we cannot even trust ourselves anymore. There is, therefore, no need to look anywhere else but inside ourselves to find the source of all sin.

We think of freedom these days as being independent, having no master over us. But for the child of God, our first obligation before our heavenly Father is not to convince Him that we are free agents now, but that we have found a new Master we can willingly submit to. No Christian should submit to any of his former masters any longer, particularly sin and the Law. Paul declared himself a willing slave of Jesus Christ, because he realized that the only way to find the freedom we all desire and need is to submit to our new Master in Heaven.

The devil also attempted to deceive Jesus, the Second Adam. But Jesus did not come to Earth to represent Himself; He came to represent all mankind. The devil tried to convince the Second Adam to proclaim that He is the Son of God, to assert Himself before mankind because He had special rights, privileges, and powers. This was his central stronghold when he tempted Jesus. He told Him to remember who He is and to make use of His divine power. Then the world would fall at His feet. But Jesus replied that He did not come to do His own will, even though He is the Son of God. He came to Earth at this time for one purpose only —doing His Father’s will. “…not My will, but Thine…,” He said (Luke 22:42).

Anyone who becomes a child of God is set apart unto Him. He then becomes a target for this same kind of temptation. The devil wants the child of God to declare that he has achieved something to be grasped for—something he has a right to be proud of. But what was God’s purpose in saving us and setting us apart unto Him? so that His will could be done in us—like it was in Jesus. Jesus walked this Earth totally dependent on His Heavenly Father. But the devil kept trying to move Him away from this attitude to one of independence of God. Thankfully, he could not lead Jesus astray. Jesus displayed to us instead a perfect example of obeying, submitting to, and depending on God.

assertive woman writing

In some situations we may feel a strong need to be self-assertive. Feeling this need shows that we are struggling over who is going to be in charge. But if we continue to go around asserting ourselves, spiritual progress will end in our lives. What it all comes down to is—who will rule my life—Jesus, or me? We often try to raise our attitude of independence and stubborn self-will to the level of God, but without wording it that way. We say things like “strength of will,” etc., as if that was good. God does not see it as good, but as a disgusting weakness. The Man with the greatest will of any who ever lived on Earth was Jesus, but He never used His will the way we think of it. He led a life of gentle submission to God instead. Never did He act independently of God the Father. Never did He assert Himself or demand that His own will be done. Instead, He said, “…learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart…” (Matthew 11:29).

A personal life merged with God starts displaying His characteristics, but not so with individuality. It only shows natural characteristics and they mock His meek and lowly Son. We learn from His Sermon on the Mount that individuality needs to be destroyed, while personality needs to be lifted up. How very important we think we are!—until God’s Holy Spirit gets hold of us. When God becomes all-important to us, we cannot totally abandon ourselves to Him until our own self-importance humiliates us. Human nature was designed by God for Himself. But when we declare our own individuality, our human nature is brought down to the selfish level of being just for me. Personality is a different matter. It involves being merged with someone else, like a young man who is totally changed when he falls in love. He is transformed from being someone out to please himself, to suddenly wanting to please his beloved in all things. He desires to be merged with the one he loves, as if they were one new person together. The two no longer remain as two, insisting on being separate individuals. Love changes all that.

What is the natural man’s main characteristic? Individuality. The spiritual man’s? Personality. Becoming a Christian means entering into a personal relationship with our Creator, which can never be an individual act.

Jesus never mentioned a need to be an individual, but only a personality, so “that they all may be one.” His own personality was a perfect copy of His Father. Once we become born again, God’s Spirit enters our personality and we receive strength and life from Him. He transforms our old selfish motives and desires into His own pure ones. Our personality is set free as we are changed from being an individual into God’s intended purpose for us. How does He do this? The key word is love—in becoming personally, passionately devoted to Him. Then we are able to extend this same love to others. We have not yet arrived at what we are going to become, because God’s grace is still working on us. He is altering our flawed old personalities. He does this by taking our human personality and merging it with His own power—just what the Gospel is all about! Our business as Christians is to make our individuality conform to God’s Son in us. If we truly want to be disciples of Jesus, we will cut the ties of individuality that hold us back and go forth with unsparing zeal toward our Savior, and Master—Jesus Christ!

Riding Against the Wind

bike riding

Riding against the wind is one of the things I despise the most when I ride my bicycle, (although riding up a steep hill would have to be second on the list!). No matter what I try to do, like shifting to the lowest gear, or hunching over close to the handlebars, etc., I still struggle to move forward. It seems like I spend eighty percent of my effort and energy trying to push against the wind. Yet, even though I am weary upon arrival, I have found over time that the extra effort has gradually strengthened my muscles and developed my body in areas I may not have developed much otherwise.

Although the wind will continue to impede my travel, I am now more physically equipped to handle it than I was before. That is, I will be as long as I don’t avoid the wind, the hills, or other forms of resistance. When an athlete, such as a football player or weightlifter, stops building up his muscles, flab and weakness result. He will soon find that his weight no longer contains a large percentage of muscle, but rather fat. He won’t be able to run or lift great weights like he used to, although his food intake will still be strong. He will also find that trying to rebuild those muscles will require much more effort than the first time he began building them.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we face the same responsibility to strengthen our spiritual bodies. Satan will continue to buffet us and bring about great resistance as we develop and increase our relationship with Jesus. But we can’t let this hinder us from pressing forward, like riding against the wind.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:10-18).

God wants us to stand, not fight, against the ploys and schemes of the devil. It is normal human nature to want to fight, but when we have Jesus as the Lord (master, governor, ruler) of our life, we operate with a godly nature. Therefore, when we stand against the enemy, we do not stand in our own strength, but in Jesus’ strength—when we let Him be in charge. Actually, we must let Him, since we are dealing with a spiritual matter much, much greater than our frail human body.

To “stand” does not mean to stay in one place and do nothing but gaze at the trees and clouds, or wait around to be overtaken by some disaster. It means to resist or hold yourking of the hill ground. In wrestling, your opponent must try to move and pull you away from the area that you are trying to hold. Your goal is to resist all of these attempts, and not to fight back. It is like the game kids used to play called ‘king of the hill,’ where one person has to keep from getting pushed or pulled off of his position on a hill by the others at the base. If he fails to hold his ground, someone else will take his place. In return, the person who just lost his position will now attempt, along with the others, to remove the successor.

So how do we press onward and stand against these efforts of the devil to dislodge us? The answer is simple: through prayer. The Apostle Paul was referring to prayer when he gave this analogy of the armor of God. The simple act of prayer produces the best results when it comes to holding our ground against the devil. One of the greatest things Jesus told His disciples was not to fight against the devil in battle, but to “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38). Now what was Jesus doing prior to this? “…he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed…” (Mark 14:35). After He told the disciples to watch and pray, what did He do? “…again he went away, and prayed…” (Mark 14:39a). If Jesus—the very Son of God, the One who was in constant communication and communion with God the Father—needed to pray, how crucial it is, and even more so, that we must pray!

girl praying

Prayer is one of the easiest things we can do, and yet, in our own strength, we make it one of the hardest. But it is our own laziness that makes prayer such a chore. Prayer is an uphill challenge to us when we have allowed the devil and his minions to gain ground through our lack of prayer. When we don’t exercise frequently and build our muscles, we lack the strength to overcome any resistance we may encounter. If we don’t watch and pray often, the very act of prayer becomes more and more of an effort. This eventually leaves us wide open for temptation and sin. At the same time, we should never bring prayer to the position where it is the solution alone. Jesus Christ and His victory at the cross is the real solution; prayer only opens the door of our heart to the solution. We don’t worship prayer; we worship God.

Remember that the victory over sin’s power and control has already been won through Christ and His sacrifice on the cross.

“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). We are not to conquer, for He has already conquered. We are to stand in faith on His victory. He has already fought the devil and won. (And we, in our physical bodies, can’t fight a spiritual entity like the devil and win anyway.) Notice how many times the word “stand” is used in the passage from Ephesians. Now count how many times the word “fight” is mentioned. The devil will gladly fight and bully our unprotected self, but when we put God’s armor on, the devil sees God, not us, and he flees.

man riding bike

When I ride my bicycle against the wind, I use the strength that I developed in my muscles to pedal harder. At the same time, I reduce some of the resistance by crouching closer to the handlebars, keeping my body as close to the bike as I can. I do not throw my bike at the wind in an attempt to fight against it. I do not take a large stick and stab at or slice the wind. I never yell at or curse the wind either. And, most importantly, I do not give up and run away from the wind, or hide somewhere until it passes. God expects us to develop ourselves through prayer, and then stand against the enemy when he comes. He wants us prepared when we pray by utilizing the armor He has provided. Never are we told to fight or flee, but “having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13b).

Little is Much

 

 

kneeling at cross

 

 

“And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. He answered…Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass…And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men” (Mark 6:35-44).

Jesus had been teaching the people in a solitary part of the region for much of the afternoon. They had come because they were hungry, not for physical food, but for the truth (spiritual food). The people sought Jesus because they knew He taught the truth. Even though Jesus was physically tired at this point, (since He had originally come with His disciples to this desert location for rest), He was strengthened by the people’s desire to hear and learn God’s Word.

Jesus’ disciples, however, grew more concerned with getting physical food for the people than about them hearing the truth.

As the evening drew near, the disciples urged Him to send the people away to find something to eat. The idea never occurred to them that perhaps Jesus could provide for their physical needs as well as their spiritual needs. Of course, Jesus was fully aware of their concerns. “When Jesus then lifted up [His] eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do” (John 6:5, 6). Surprised (and perhaps shocked) at His response, the disciples immediately looked to their own selves to provide food for this great assembly. (Some scholars believe that there could have been over 15,000 individuals present). They replied, “…Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth [several thousand of dollars worth] of bread, and give them to eat?” (Mark 6:37). They really believed that Jesus might be out of His mind at this point, because He was expecting them to meet all of these people’s needs. They had probably expected Jesus to respond, “You’re right, we really ought to send them back to the nearest villages and let them get fed there.”

Jesus wasn’t fazed by all of this though. Instead, He let them see for themselves just how little they had for such a great need. If they hadn’t known what they had begun with, then the full depth of the miracle that Jesus was about to perform wouldn’t have been realized. After they took the smattering of provisions (enough for only a few to eat) over to Him and had the people sit in an orderly manner on the grass, He blessed and broke the bread, then the fish, and gave them to the disciples to be distributed among the people. Notice that He never gave any of these provisions directly to the people Himself—it was always through His disciples. In the end, there was so much distributed from the hands of Jesus that everyone was able to eat and be filled. No lack was mentioned and a dozen basketfuls were still leftover.

How many times do we believers in Jesus Christ go to Him first for our needs, both great and small? When Jesus is trusted solely, a small amount yields an overabundance.

Trying to meet a great need by ourselves is the same kind of problem as the disciples trying to feed the whole multitude with the tiny provisions that were available. Jesus never told them to go and buy all of the food, or to take the loaves and fishes and give everyone just a crumb or two of bread. (We won’t even try to determine how much of a portion of those two fish they would have to give!). That is why Jesus told them “you give them something to eat.” He knew that in their hearts that they would say “We can’t; He will have to do something!”

God wants us, as His children, dependent upon Him for our needs. When we look to our self, we take our eyes off of Him, and meeting our need becomes more and more insurmountable to us. The need doesn’t have to be just for food. It can also be in other areas, physical or spiritual. “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

The problem comes when we limit God. The disciples tried to limit God, as in the example above of the five thousand being fed, by implying that the people needed to leave in order to be fed.

They felt that Jesus was so absorbed in teaching and healing the people that He had forgotten about the basic needs of the people and that He needed the disciples to remind Him of this. How often do we limit God, or put Him “in a box,” by saying that He can meet these particular needs, but He probably won’t be able to meet these other needs? How many times are we impatient with God meeting our needs and end up taking care of them ourselves? How many times do we hurt or insult God by not having complete faith in Him?

We must remember that God is always in control of the situation; we are the ones that lose control and become anxious. We are to place our needs and circumstances in the hands of Jesus and let go, not picking them up later when He doesn’t respond or do anything in our anticipated timeframe. If we take back the needs that we laid in His hands, we are effectively saying that we don’t fully trust Him in everything and that we will take care of it ourselves. Again we are back to limiting God. [Cast] all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Remember that the disciples never even asked Jesus to provide for the people’s needs. How much more will He respond when we really do ask and fully believe?

The Bitter Made Sweet

dead tree in water

“So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they [the Israelites] went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, and said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee. And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters” (Exodus 15:22-27).

Only three days before this, God had miraculously brought Israel across the Red Sea. But they found no water for their desert thirst all three days. Finally at Marah they found some, but it was bitter, unfit to drink. Their first reaction? To “murmur” against Moses, their God-appointed leader. These were the same people that God had just miraculously redeemed! He intentionally brought His children to a time of testing here to bring out what was really in them. Where was that faith that had trusted God to lead them through the Red Sea? Their lack of faith in Him was not hard to expose, unfortunately.

Marah’s bitter waters were the first trying encounter on the path God had marked out for His people in the wilderness. They were a type of what life and its disappointments are like, a foretaste of the path ahead for them. These trials that began in their wilderness journey were examples of our trials in our spiritual journey as the redeemed people of God.

How could these waters be healed of their bitterness so the Israelites could drink from them? When they complained loudly to Moses, he took their complaint straight to God. This is the right way to handle setbacks and disappointments—turn to God at once and pray. He won’t begin to help until we begin to ask for it.

Think about this: if Marah’s waters had been sweet instead of bitter, would Moses have prayed? How could the Israelites have then known that it is in God’s power to make bitter water sweet? And how many of us realize that the Marah experience is normal for God’s children? What would we be like if we had no trials or tribulations? We very likely would be rough and hard-hearted, unable to sympathize with those undergoing suffering.

During a bitter-tasting experience many say, “Why is God allowing this to happen to me?” Know that it is not because God is punishing you for something. “In the world ye shall have tribulation…” (John 16:33). This is all part of your preparation and education for the future God has for you.

Realize that there is always a remedy when God puts us in a trying situation. It is close by, but He will not reveal it until we come to Him in prayer. Years before, God planted the ‘tree’ we would one day need to throw into our ‘bitter waters.’ For those who are willing to pray, the Spirit of God is always ready to lead them to the tree that will sweeten the bitter waters. He knows what we will need, and He provided for it long before we become aware of a problem. He holds back the answer until the time is right, but everything we need here in order to get to Heaven He has already provided.

Why did God provide a tree for this wilderness trial? Was there something about that particular tree that would make the sickening waters sweet? It was not so much the kind of tree, but what it stood for. Moses did not discover the tree and run back and say, “I’ve got the answer!” God specifically provided the tree and made Moses aware of it. The healing of the bitter water was a miracle, and God intended for it to teach His people something. For every trial in this earthly life, a remedy has been provided—although we don’t always see it.

Our first parents ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and made life bitter for themselves and all who came after them. But God has also provided a tree of life, with leaves as the remedy for the healing of the nations.

cross with colored sky

Jesus is a ‘tree of life’ whose branches spread far enough to encompass everyone who wants to come under His outspread limbs. And He reaches high, as high up as Heaven. But this Tree was chopped down at its peak of maturity. Then it was thrown into the bitter waters of our life to sweeten the bitterness that we encounter.

He is the ‘tree’ that is our remedy. His cross is also a tree where He succumbed to the deep, dark waters of death for our sake, thereby making them sweet again.

God used this Marah incident to demonstrate to the Israelites their need of Him to survive the wilderness experience, as much as their need of Him to be delivered from the power of Pharoah and Egypt. After He healed the bitter waters and satisfied the thirst of all the people, He told them to strictly obey every one of His commandments. Then He would make their lives ‘sweet,’ just as He had done with the waters of Marah. This would be their next trial in their journey.

“And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters” [v. 27].

After their ordeal at Marah, God led His children to the oasis of Elim—a place to refresh themselves. When God’s people obey Him, He graciously cares for them. Here they would learn about God and His ways in order to prepare them for the trials ahead. Then He would be able to bring them into His full blessings and promises.

The bitter experiences in your life can be changed by God to become sweet. He allows you to taste the bitter water for a reason—it is for your benefit. Accept God’s will out of your love for Him. Then you will find the secret place of peace in your life in the midst of this bitter world of trouble.

Has grief and suffering embittered your life? Remember that Jesus suffered on the tree for you and still continues to suffer with you. He shares all your woes and has deep sympathy for all you go through. He will never leave you, nor forsake you, nor forget you, especially in your time of trouble.

Are you experiencing the bitter waters of Marah yourself right now? Cast the ‘tree’ into the water and cause it to become sweet. The tree makes all the difference. Drink from God’s well deeply. Its water will always be sweet. Remember His mercy and thank Him for His sweet presence. He alone can heal your bitter, troubled waters. He is right there with you.

“Grace to the Lowly”

kneeling in prayer

“Surely He scorneth the scorners; but he giveth grace unto the lowly” (Proverbs 3:34).

“…God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:6-7).

Scorners lift up themselves, refusing to yield to anyone else, always resisting them. They pay no attention to God, as if He did not exist, while boldly continuing in sin. But God will deal with them and their proud ambitions by holding them in everlasting contempt, while blessing those who humbly believe in Him. Humble people don’t mind lowering themselves and walking in the footsteps of Christ. But mockers and scorners are wise in their own thinking. They hate those who are humble and lowly. In our current era, love of self rules, with contempt for all that is good, noble, holy, and true. As we get ever closer to the end of this present age, scorning and mocking are increasing all the time.

“God resisteth the proud” ones who lift themselves up against Him, and whose self-esteem knows no limits. Their nature is having pride in what they own, or are part of, or of anything that applies to them. They have convinced themselves of their supreme excellence and importance. Yet they have nothing to justify their superior attitude. They truly hate others, and even despise the warnings and judgments from God. It is this very attitude that can provoke God to set Himself up to oppose them.

But God is also kind enough to allow those with a humble and contrite spirit into His presence. They don’t covet what others have, or envy them, nor are they consumed with worldly ambitions. But being humble does not come naturally to man. Left to his own ways, he would never have a single humble thought or holy desire on his own. Realizing this alone should be enough to bring us low before God and make us want to be humble.

True humility comes from receiving the grace of God—His unmerited favor—which makes a person humble in the first place. Only by the operation of God’s Holy Spirit in our life can we become humble.

And the humble and poor in spirit have the right to be part of the kingdom of Heaven, which they have been made fit to receive. They will enjoy being there in God’s presence, but the proud and scornful would not. No one who truly mourns for his sin will be turned away by God. And He will not refuse to exalt anyone who comes to Him in humility.

God cannot tolerate the exalting of ‘self’—which is the very nature of sin. Look at Christ as an example. He made Himself of no reputation while here on Earth, although He is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. How can we justify elevating ourselves, when He did not? Proud people resist God’s laws, truths, and His provision. Do we wonder why God resists the proud? There is great danger in pride, which is why God “resists the proud” in every way. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).

The devil, who is naturally full of pride and completely the opposite of humility, makes it his job to get men swollen with pride in themselves. Then he can easily master and do what he pleases with them. But humble believers who have God living inside them receive more of His grace. Their lowliness doesn’t come from their own strength; it comes from His.

A humble believer knows very well that deep down he is vile and sinful. So he runs to God’s grace and Christ’s blood for his protection. And the devil, in all of his pride, doesn’t know what to think of people like this—how they puzzle and frustrate him!

He is not pleased by the power and strength that come from prayer and faith either. Humble believers like this he leaves alone—in fact, he flees from them!

Don’t go along with the devil’s proposals and temptations. Consider him an enemy and oppose him. How can the devil conquer someone who continually resists him? Even though he is stronger than man, God will never allow him to conquer His people who continually resist him. Stand therefore, by faith in God, and put all the spiritual armor of Ephesians 6 to use. Depend on the Lord to help you, and continue to resist the devil at all times. Remember that, to those who have faith, the devil is already defeated.

Fight against the devil by refusing to yield to him and the fleshly lusts he proposes. Submit to God instead, as Head and Ruler of us all. The devil will run if we continue to resist him. But he will also return again and again to try to tempt us to sin. We will not be conquered as long as we don’t give in. And our heavenly Father will not allow him to force the human will to give in to his temptations (if we continue to stand and resist his onslaughts). Continue to be ‘resistance-fighters’ and we will have the victory!

God favors the humble who feel the need for His help, welcome His teaching, and desire Him as a friend. He will give them the grace they need so they can be saved. But who can teach someone who is so full of himself that he thinks he knows it all? If he feels no need for grace, he will receive no grace. The heart has to be humble before it can be saved. God favors and honors those who are lowly in their own opinion. But He also gives them enough grace to overtake and destroy their worldly lusts and corruptions.

The heavenly Father invites all who are humble to come boldly before His throne, where they will find grace for help in time of need. But they must come with a lowly spirit, knowing that He resists the proud.

If we judge ourself first, He will freely give us His grace. He gives more grace to the humble because they recognize their need for it. We need to conduct ourselves in a way that will glorify God, the One we belong to and should always serve. He stands ready to give us the strength we need to resist and rise above the attraction of the world.

Why should we want to humble ourselves? Reflect for a moment on what our sin and failure cost God and His Son. He had to die on the cross to free us from both. He had to offer Himself up as a sacrifice to the judgment of God because of our iniquity. Is there really anything for any of us to boast about in comparison with what He had to go through to set us free? God calls us to humble ourself before Him; then He will exalt us. Do this once and for all, as a done-deed, not an ongoing process.

So continually watch and pray. Remain ready to submit to God, who will calm our spirit and give us His grace. If we humble ourselves before Him, we will never be left ashamed. We need to rid ourselves of the fighting attitude that is intent on putting other people down in order to lift itself up. The humble ones in the end will inherit true glory, long after worldly fame has tarnished. Let’s freely submit ourselves therefore to God, humbly obeying His commands, with a sense of how empty, weak, and in need of His grace we really are. Let’s bow ourselves before Him and yield totally to His will. Then we will find the path to peace and joy forevermore.