A Strong Tower

scrabo tower

You are in a bad predicament. Your enemy has you surrounded and is closing in quickly. What should you do? Run!

Me, run?

Yes, you! Run. Run to the nearest fortified protection.

But that’s retreating. I don’t retreat, I fight!

So you are going to fight an enemy that is always more powerful than you are? An enemy you can’t always see?

Well, if I try and apply myself hard enough, I’ll surely make some kind of headway and then I’ll round up some reinforcements.

But you will not be retreating in defeat and you won’t need any reinforcements if you’ll do what I just said!

But where do I run? I don’t see anything but some tower nearby.

That’s it, exactly!

It looks so isolated and I’m sure I’m going to be trapped when I get inside! Oh, now I see—a trap! Some help you are, sending me into a stuffy old tower in the middle of nowhere with an impossible enemy bearing down on me!

It’s not a trap. Are your plans any better? How are you going to fight with nothing but your bare hands?

I’ll make some kind of weapon with whatever is around me. I’m really a very resourceful person, you know. Look, rocks and pebbles! Yes! That’s what I’ll do. I’ll gather up lots of these and pelt the enemy in the eye, the face, or wherever I can do some harm. That’s it! I’ll be like David in the Bible, where he took some stones and knocked the life out of a giant! You know, I do have a rag in my pocket that would make a perfect sling.

Well, you could do that if you were relying solely on God first.

Oh! that is so difficult and complicated, and, besides, I’m pretty sure my aim is sharp, and I can throw really fast and… and…just how strong and secure is that tower up ahead?

Stronger than anything any enemy could use to come against it. In fact, no enemy will ever be able to overcome it. Period.

It doesn’t look that secure. Who designed and constructed it?

Jesus.

Jesus? You mean the One who died on some beams shaped like a cross thousands of years ago and miraculously rose from the grave a little while later? The One I accepted into my heart and surrendered my life over to sometime ago?

He’s the one! He not only is alive, He now sits at the right hand of God His Father in Heaven victoriously! You see, when Jesus died on the cross, He not only made it possible for anyone who believes on Him to have eternal life, He also took away the legal right for the devil to have control over them as well.

OK, so now how do this tower and I fit in with all of this?

stone tower

Well, when you put your faith and trust in the victory that Jesus won over the enemy (the Devil) through His sacrifice on the cross, then that victory becomes your victory. He is that strong tower that keeps you safe. The Bible says in Psalms 61:3, “For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.” And in Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.”

Wow, you mean that all I have to do is just put my trust in Jesus to shield, protect and care for me?

That’s right. When you try to fight the enemy in your own strength and effort, defeat and failure result. There is nothing about you that will overcome the enemy. It is only in Jesus Christ that you can have victory.

But aren’t there some procedures, some rules or requirements that I have to follow first?

Just one. Believe (have faith) in Jesus, that He will take care of your enemy or problem. If you worry about the problem at hand, you doubt God. When Jesus was on this earth, He could have touched many more lives than He did if there had not been so much unbelief among the people. Even His own family and the people in His hometown refused to believe in Him.

Um, could we finish this conversation inside that tower? The enemy seems to be getting awfully close now, and an intense storm is brewing overhead too!

Well, do you believe that Jesus has the power to protect and shield you by that tower? Do you believe that His sacrifice on the cross has not only saved you from eternal punishment in hell, but has also set you free from the control of sin as well?

OK. OK. Yes, I do believe that, and I even believe that I can overcome the enemy only through Jesus and His victory at the cross. Now, can we go?

Don’t panic—we are already there!

Wow! This tower isn’t bad at all. I can feel peace, even though the storm is raging above and the enemy is charging all around us!

Let’s take a look outside.

Are you nuts? With all of the fury going on out there? Stop! Don’t push—I’m moving! Let me just look out this window here. Wait! Where is the enemy? What happened to the storm?

Jesus handled everything. Remember that He already fought the enemy and won the victory once and for all at the cross. We are to just rest in Him. Our victory over the enemy is only as good as the faith we put in Jesus Christ to take care of the problem for us.

This is amazing! So, by putting my trust in Jesus and the victory He won at the cross, He will be as a strong tower, a place of refuge? Yet, if I try to fight the enemy or solve the problem at hand on my own, then I will be like a deer in the midst of an open field with predators lurking all around?

That’s about the size of it!

Well, watch out world, because I’m looking now in faith for that strong tower whenever I find the enemy trying to overtake me!

————–

How about you, reading this right now? Have you put your faith in Jesus and the victory He won at the cross? Are you anxious over the problems overtaking you, or overwhelmed by the size of the enemy approaching? Is your worrying and lack of faith in Jesus Christ limiting God? The Bible says in Philippians 4:6, 7 “Be careful [full of cares, anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication [petition, asking in earnest] with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” This is not a nice suggestion, but rather a command by God.

When the enemy comes at you, do you seek refuge in the strong tower of Jesus in faith, or do you try to fight the enemy, or take care of your problems in your own strength? Are you putting yourself first or God first? Jesus wants to be your strong tower from the enemy and your mounting problems, if only you will commit them to Him and let Him do the work.

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The Anchor is Secure

ship on rough night seas

As a seafaring veteran of over thirty-five years, Captain Reginald Clarbonne knew his vessels and waterways well. The forecast that day was for a mostly sunny afternoon with some clouds, moderate winds, and slightly choppy waters, but Captain Clarbonne still sensed that volatile conditions were ahead. He ordered First Mate Lisbon to have the crew batten down and secure all on the ship’s deck. Lisbon, although a very experienced officer himself, looked at the sky incredulously and again at Captain Clarbonne, who countered the glance with a slight scowl. Even the crew, who dutifully worked the deck as directed, maintained an air of disbelief. The skies were sunny, the temperature was very warm with the wind blowing rather strong, and the clouds showed no sign for impending concern. In spite of their reluctance, the ship’s crew and officers maintained a fairly solid respect for the captain, knowing that he only erred on the side of caution.

The Bernelle Collette was a sturdy and sound commercial vessel that had traveled frequently throughout much of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Captain Clarbonne really enjoyed the ease of navigating her to the many ports of Europe, Africa, and North and South America over the past eight years, and he knew that she could handle most of the severe conditions that might come her way. His diverse and rugged crew was equally qualified for the task at hand.

For several hours the skies were spectacular, as the sun streamed through a varied assortment of clouds and the temperatures remained at a very warm level. Even though the wind was steadily increasing, there seemed to be little to warrant any concern. But Captain Clarbonne still remained adamant that rough seas were ahead.

Around three in the afternoon, the clouds, no longer a collection of odd floating shapes, had turned into one ominously dark, massive cloud that was slowly bearing down on the Bernelle Collette and her crew. Within an hour the temperature dropped significantly and the crew no longer remained skeptical about Clarbonne’s prior warnings. The ship’s radar showed severe storms approaching, with reports rapidly coming in from other vessels nearby of their very intense properties.

Captain Clarbonne well knew that common sense would say to turn around and go full speed ahead away from the fury that lay ahead.

Yet he also knew that the storm’s constantly evolving characteristics, as reported by some of the more distant vessels, could engulf him and create an even worse condition. He seemed to remember a small safe harbor some distance away. But he wondered—could they make it in time?

By five o’clock, the storm’s outer edges had already passed over the vicinity of the Bernelle Collette. Waves were cresting at five to six feet and starting to lash at the bow. The crew was growing anxious as the sky took on the appearance of nightfall, and crashes of thunder greatly vibrated the gear on the upper deck. They were reminded again not to question the captain’s judgment, even when conditions seemed to indicate otherwise. Captain Clarbonne ordered the ship hard to starboard, and then to proceed full speed ahead. He knew they had very little time left to reach the safe harbor.

At twenty minutes after five the storm’s fury was steadily increasing, with wave heights now cresting at nine and a half feet. Lightning was vigorously dancing all around the Bernelle Collette and the thunder was almost deafening at times. The strong heeling of the vessel almost threw Limmer, one of the few crew members still on deck, overboard. At the captain’s request, Lisbon ordered all of the crew below deck until further notice.

After alternately studying the radar and reviewing the navigation charts, Captain Clarbonne concluded that they were not going to reach safe harbor in time. The men around him knew what this meant—they would now have to ride out the full fury of the storm. When word reached the rest of the crew, many reacted glumly, full of anxious concern. Some grew angry and shook their fist in the general direction of the ship’s bridge where the captain remained stationed. They wanted to know why the captain couldn’t have turned around sooner, or why he pressed forward when he knew that horrendous and now deadly conditions were fast approaching. Yet a few crew members did not let their shipmates’ pessimism overtake them. They knew that the captain would, somehow or other, get them to port all in one piece.

A short distance later, Captain Clarbonne reviewed the charts again and determined that they were now in just the right place. He ordered the vessel to face the waves, then come to a full stop and drop the anchors. After the crew accomplished the captain’s directive with much difficulty, the vessel was at rest (if one could call it that). At five forty-five, the waves crested at over eleven feet and shook the huge Bernelle Collette with each passing blow. The officers and crew tried to remain somewhat calm, but worry still kept a strong grip upon their weary bodies. With the winds howling and the waves pounding the bow, many feared that they might not see tomorrow.

lightning at night

With the exception of intense flashes of lightning, the cloudy night sky and the ocean appeared to be one dark mass. Wave after wave kept crashing over the bow and draining off the sides of the deck. With each blow, it felt like the ship was gradually coming apart, even though it actually continued to hold quite well. Inside the hull shudders and groans grew greater in volume, and the cargo began to shift from its resting places as the vessel angrily rocked back and forth. The crew grew more and more concerned that the cargo might break free and upset the balance, causing the Bernelle Collette to list greatly and possibly sink.

In spite of the turmoil and danger, Captain Clarbonne continued to exhibit a sense of calm.

He had been through storms of similar intensity before, and he knew what the breaking point of his vessel would be. More importantly, he knew the density and strength of the rocky floor beneath the Bernelle Collette, and was therefore assured that the anchor was holding secure. Due to his long experience with the characteristics of various violent weather systems, and his knowledge of the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the Bernelle Collette, he was able to maintain full confidence that they would adequately weather this latest storm.

Although the storm lasted only an hour and a half, all on board felt like most of the night had passed by. By eight o’clock that evening, the wrath of the storm was well behind them. The clouds began breaking up in the night sky, where an abundance of stars had begun to peer through, along with the rising moon that illuminated the formerly restless sea. The air was much cooler and the wind continued to subside, dying down to only a very strong breeze. With a weary cheer from the crew, the Bernelle Collette weighed anchor and, with a slight starboard turn, proceeded once again standard speed ahead to her destination. Captain Clarbonne, a cup of coffee in hand, stared out over the gentle moonlit waterway and quietly eased forth a sigh of relief. He mentally chalked up this episode as he added another successful accomplishment to his seafaring repertoire.

In the great sea of life, storms are constantly battering our lives. Waves crash against us and we often struggle just to stay afloat. We try to fight, but we often end up being swept farther away from the shore into deeper and more intense water. Safe harbors we want to reach seem to constantly move more and more away from us, in spite of all of our determined efforts to reach them. We look for help from a nearby vessel and see none in sight, or one that is even worse off than we are. We naively fall prey to the storm’s lulls as victorious breakthroughs, only to be lashed even more when the interlude ends and the storm returns with greater fury. We seem to continually find ourselves adrift because we lack the energy to propel ourselves against the powerful waves that come against us.

Yet it does not have to be this way. Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Actually, God brings these storms upon us in order to test us, to see if we will yield to Him, or continue on trying to navigate our lives by ourselves. No storm is too great for Him to handle, but every storm can become too great for us if we try to overcome it by ourselves. We need to stop doing the fighting and place our anchor in Jesus. Our anchor is always secure, no matter how difficult the storm may be, when it is fastened in Him, the Rock of Ages.

anchor underwater

Victory in life will only come when we place our complete faith and trust—“our anchor”—in Jesus and His victory at the cross. His sacrifice of His own life on the cross, which brought us victory over sin and death, was complete and final. When we fight against various problems and circumstances of this life (the by-products of sin) on our own, we are, in essence, trying to get victory over sin by ourselves. But He already fulfilled all of God’s requirements for the forgiveness of sin on our behalf. We must place our burdens, cares, problems, worries, sins and sinful habits, etc., into the arms of Jesus, and let Him take care of them. We must yield and let Jesus be the ruler of our life. We must ask God to forgive us for the sins we have committed against Him and then stop committing them. When you “draw nigh [near] to God…he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8a).

It doesn’t matter whether you have been a believer in and follower of Jesus for decades, or have just found out about Him. He needs to be the rock you anchor your heart and life to. Storms will come and go. They will batter you, sometimes even tocapsized ship the point of death. But when you are anchored in Jesus, your anchor will hold secure, and you will be able to safely weather any storm. You cannot fight the storm on your own and survive. Jesus has already fought the storm of all storms on the cross for you, and He was victorious! Now claim this victory for yourself by placing your faith and trust solely in His victory at the cross. Don’t let the storms of life cause you to break away and capsize or just hopelessly drift because your anchor was in an insecure foundation.

Upon life’s boundless ocean where mighty billows roll,
I’ve fixed my hope in Jesus, blest anchor of my soul;
When trials fierce assail me as storms are gath’ring o’er,
I rest upon His mercy and trust Him more.

I’ve anchored in Jesus, the storms of life I’ll brave,
I’ve anchored in Jesus, I fear no wind or wave;
I’ve anchored in Jesus, for He hath pow’r to save,
I’ve anchored to the Rock of Ages.

Click here for additional information about obtaining this victory Jesus has won at the cross.

The Peace of God

boat in fog

Many people feel that they have some form of peace in their lives. But what most are experiencing is merely peace with their own conscience. This is not the peace of God. Some think that when their anxiety level eases up, they have found peace. And others have what they call peace just because they don’t bother to think! But not one of these forms of peace can compare with the peace that God brings. They will not make your soul content.

The peace of God is the kind of peace that “passes all understanding.”

How many people realize that peace is what they are trying to find? Some think it would be nice to find it, but they don’t really pursue it. Yet they spare no effort in pursuing other things they feel are desirable. The search for peace for many others does not begin until they have become disillusioned and worn-out. Then they will often search for just enough peace to enable them to sleep at night and perhaps dream of a way of escape.

Real peace, according to God, relates to His attitude toward man. The “peace of God” refers to a state of total contentment because the mind is at rest. This, in turn, puts the conscience in a state of blessedness and tranquility. This only happens when man gets into the right kind of relationship with God. A person who is not right with God can never turn his mind anywhere but on himself. But man cannot begin to have peace with God until he comes to the point of seeing, and then stating, that God is righteous in requiring the death of Jesus Christ as payment for man’s sin against God.

“Peace of God”—what does this mean? It can be called a condition of the heart, where those who believe in God know that He is always watching over them. But the peace of God cannot come into your heart until you realize that you are guilty of sinning against God. If you have sin in your life, there can be no harmony between you and God, or even with your fellow man.

No true peace can be had until sin’s curse on your life is taken away.

Those who realize that they are sinners [someone who transgresses the law of God] can come to God and tell Him how sorry they are for their sin. If they are sincere, He will forgive them and have mercy on them and save them from sin. Then they can experience what His peace is. But no mercy is promised to those who will not admit that they are wrong. The only way to find true satisfaction for the heart, mind, and conscience is to have peace with God. Any other form of peace is false and deceptive. True peace never involves deceit. Once you find this peace with God, then you can finally achieve peace within yourself and with others. But “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:21).

The state of peace between God and man was made possible by Jesus giving up His life on the cross.

All mankind had gotten into a terrible, sinful condition, which was highly offensive to a holy God. This made it absolutely necessary for Jesus to give His life as the only way to save mankind. For those who, in turn, give their lives to Christ, He becomes the Prince of Peace, and God the Father is the God of Peace.

We don’t have to be disturbed concerning what to do about our troubles and our sins, because Jesus already took them all upon Himself when He hung on the cross. He paid the ultimate price (giving up His life) for our sin against the heavenly Father, and now we don’t have to pay it ourselves. In fact, the cost is so enormous that we never could pay it. “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:20). When we come to understand this, then our sins will not be able to overcome us anymore and deprive us of peace. We can come to the point where we can live in a state of true peace with God.

But don’t start running after peace—run after Jesus, and His peace will follow you. He is the only source of real peace.

When Jesus left Earth to return to Heaven, He told His disciples: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). The peace He gives is nothing like the peace the world gives. His peace drives out trouble. Jesus told us to not to let our heart be disturbed out of its relationship with Him. In a world always at war with God, can there ever be real peace? Jesus also told His disciples: “These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The world hated Jesus, and it still does. It hates His followers too. But, even in the midst of all this, He has assured us that we can have peace.

It is not usually the big things which upset us the most, but the ordinary, little, everyday things that disturb our peace continually. What can we do about this? We need to lay out all our troubles before God. Whether we are confronting little difficulties, or large ones, like sorrow or death, we need to hear Him telling us, “Let not your heart be troubled.” The picture of real peace can be seen by looking at the life of Jesus while He was on Earth.

Jesus is not the least bit worried about the difficult situations you find yourself in. But if you worry about them, He won’t get involved in your situation—because you are determined to handle it yourself. Then you get what you deserve. We are to live in Him, but we get disturbed, because we do not take Him into consideration when we look at our difficult situations.

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

What is the case with you? Are you trying to find peace with God? Why haven’t you found it yet? Could it possibly be because of your unbelief? To find God’s peace, you need to have faith in God. The more you have faith in Him, the more peace you will have from Him. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3).

Bribing the Enemy for Peace?

money passed in handshake

“Then Menahem smote [attacked] Tiphsah, and all that were therein, and the coasts thereof from Tirzah: because they opened not to him…and all the women therein that were with child he ripped up. In the nine and thirtieth year of Azariah king of Judah began Menahem the son of Gadi to reign over Israel, and reigned ten years in Samaria. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord: he departed not all his days from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. And Pul the king of Assyria came against the land: and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand. And Menahem exacted [demanded] the money of Israel, even of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man fifty shekels of silver, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back, and stayed not there in the land.” (2 Kings 15:16-20).

The nation of Israel was at one of the low points in its history, both morally and spiritually. Many years earlier it had split into two kingdoms, with Judah comprising the southern half. Menahem, the current king, did not want to lose his standing as leader of the people and the land. Sadly, though, he had not even been chosen by the people. He had simply killed the previous king, who had only ruled a month, and took his place! The people’s objection to his rule was further established in verse 16, when he readily attacked the city of Tiphsah and all of its inhabitants (including child-bearing women, in a most vicious way) just because they refused to allow him into their city.

Instead of seeking and trusting God, Menahem took matters into his own hands—he leaned to the wisdom of man instead of God.

When the king of Assyria came against the land of Israel, Menahem chose to bribe the king rather than attempting to fight Him. Then he ordered all the wealthy individuals of the land to pay the bribe, whether they liked it or not. It is sad to note that this was all that the Holy Spirit chose to make known of his life to future readers of God’s Word, like many other leaders of the land.

How many believers in Christ today try something similar when our enemy, the devil, attacks us? We may not actually kill a leader, or attack a city and its people, but we still attempt to bribe or pay off our enemy. We even try to force other believers to pay the bribe for us! How many pastors and ministry leaders are guilty of trying to bribe the enemy with the funds from their church or ministry?

Throughout the Old Testament, the history of the children of Israel has demonstrated for us what happens when our faith is not totally in God. Over and over, the Israelites turned their eyes off of God, and onto themselves and their problems instead. They allowed their problems to reach the point where they became blinded to the fact that God actually could, and wanted to, deliver them from these problems and situations. They became so caught up with deception from the devil that their leaders started bribing the enemy to bring peace. As long as they kept averting the tests that God was bringing on them via the devil, the more the tests continued.

We cannot bribe or placate our enemy, the devil, to gain peace, whether we are ministry leaders or not.

The devil is the master of chaos, but Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Our only hope is to give our situations and circumstances over to Him. Giving even as little as a fraction of an inch to the devil results in him taking control of much of our lives. There is nothing that we could ever give to the devil that would satisfy him to leave us alone. It is foolishness to think that we could ever have peace with, much less overcome, the devil in our own strength.

When the ‘king of Assyria’ or any other ‘king’ comes against us spiritually, our solution is to turn to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ. He has already paid the price and won our victory through His sacrifice on the cross. The price He paid was not a bribe or tribute. It was a final sacrifice and a finished work. There is nothing more we can ever do to improve or build upon His sacrifice for us. Jesus has already defeated the ‘king of Assyria’; all we have to do is trust in faith in that victory for ourselves. “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:14).

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?

Packed, Shipped …and Forgotten.

package

The young woman was eager to get her treasured articles sent off to her beloved living thousands of miles on the opposite coast of the country. She packed it carefully in a box, sealed, addressed and dropped it off at the shipping facility. Then she waited for her beloved’s response. One week, two weeks, over a month had elapsed and still no word was received from him concerning the box. She returned to the shipping facility and spoke to the clerk at the counter. He inquired with all the sources available to him and determined that the package just might be misplaced. She was told to wait a little longer before giving up and disappointed she returned home. After another month had passed, she again with great anticipation returned to the facility. The manager in charge this time checked with every point that the package should have traveled through on its journey. He eventually concluded that her package fell off of a conveyor somewhere and is forgotten.

How often do you feel that your prayers and requests to God are like this package? You make your need known and yet nothing happens. You send them off with great anticipation, believing that the answer will come very soon and you wait and wait and wait without a single word or response from your Heavenly Father. How often do you feel forgotten by God?

Well, God has similar feelings about you. How often has He persuaded you to come and yield yourself to Him? How many times has He tried to convince you that He knows more about you and your situation or problem than you ever could know for yourself? We too easily fall short in our understanding of just how patient and longsuffering He is toward us.

How we fail to see all of the times we ignored Him when He called out to us. God sent His only Son to this earth, who willfully and innocently died a horrible death on the cross, to redeem us from the curse of sin and death. Yet we quickly forget all of this for some valueless distraction in our own life.

In these modern, hectic and fast paced times we gravitate towards an instant response mentality. We ask for a hamburger and fries and we expect them in no more than a few minutes later. We stop at a red traffic light and are upset if it takes more than twenty seconds to change to green. Heating a meal in a microwave for two minutes feels like fifteen minutes and if a program on television can’t make its point in thirty to forty-five seconds we keep changing the channel until we can find one that does.

intersection

All of this leads us to feel forgotten by God when He does not respond to our requests in our timing. You may feel right now like He has forgotten or rejected you and your needs. You may feel like He is giving you ‘the silent treatment’ such as one spouse would give the other when they did not meet up to the others’ demands or requests. Yet this is not so with God. He said in Deuteronomy 31:8, “And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed (emphasis mine).” Unless you are knowingly living with sin in your life (which you need to repent of and seek His forgiveness), He does hear your cries to Him. He wants to hear from you, in fact, He expects to hear from you.

We are quick to give up when asking God for a particular need. True, many needs are met rather quickly and sometimes instantaneous, but only God sees the bigger picture that you cannot see. He knows when it is the appropriate time to respond or when your faith just needs to be tested and refined. Jesus said in Luke 11:9, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye [you] shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” He wants us to keep on asking, to keep on seeking and to keep on knocking.

So if you are at the brink of feeling forgotten, don’t quit now. He may not answer today, He may not answer for what seems like a long time but He will answer. When God says in His Word that He will do something, He will do it. “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11 emphasis mine). God will never forget you, even when you forget Him.

–James Pangburn

Rain and Unbelief

rain on bridge

I recently read an interesting anecdote about an open-air religious meeting held in Scotland in the 1800s. On the morning of the day of the meeting, rain came down in torrents. A minister connected with the meeting led the others in prayer, confidently praying that the weather would clear up by the time of the meeting—two o’clock that afternoon. Many within earshot of the one praying felt that he was overly confident. Their concern was that God would be dishonored when the prayer was not answered. One of them told the minister who was to be speaking that the weather instruments continued to show the weather getting worse and not better. He therefore felt that the man praying should not have prayed in that manner.

Then the one who was to speak went to his room and began to pray to God about areas related to the meeting without mentioning the weather. About two o’clock, the Lord led him to pray that the weather would clear and the sun would begin to shine for the meeting. Before the minister had even finished praying, God moved the rain clouds away and brought the sun streaming in over the whole area. He moved mightily during the meeting that afternoon, and a large number of people were in attendance. When the meeting ended, the workers came and cleaned up and returned to a nearby hall. Then the rain returned and poured without stopping.

Have we been guilty of limiting God through our lack of faith when we pray? Notice that I said lack of faith, not absence of faith.

It is easy to believe a little and let someone else believe for the rest, but God wants us to put our whole heart into our believing.

The other ministers at that meeting were quick to cast doubt, because they were relying on human sight, not full faith in God. There was no encouragement for the person who prayed initially, only skepticism. Back in Jesus’ day, the religious leaders refused to believe that He was their promised deliverer, and therefore refused to believe that anything He did was of God. “And when he [Jesus] was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?” (Matthew 21:23). “And when he [Jesus] had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched [it] out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him” (Mark 3:5-6). “Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He [Jesus] put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them” (John 9:15-16).

I have often encountered situations where I had what could be called ‘faith with reservation.’ I believed the need could be met, but I didn’t have full faith that it actually would be met. It was seventy percent faith that God would supply the need, and thirty percent skepticism that the need might not be met. God can’t reward that kind of attitude.

The minister who was to speak in the meeting in Scotland went to God in prayer even though he had just heard the skepticism and doubt of the other ministers. He didn’t let their unbelief get into his spirit—he went right to God and sought Him on the matter.

Notice also that he didn’t immediately bring the matter of the weather to God; he sought God first for the other needs of the meeting, and then was led by the Lord to pray for the sun to shine. He already believed that God would handle the situation; he was just waiting on His right timing.

How times do we go to God already believing that the problem is going to be handled properly by Him? How many times do we allow God to lead us in our prayers? And even more so, how many times do we really go to God in prayer at all? How quick we are to criticize and how slow to seek God. There was no mention of the other ministers at the meeting going right to God and seeking Him about the weather, much less any other needs of the meeting.

When we let unbelief crowd out our faith, the answer to our prayer may be delayed, or it may never come to pass. On the other hand, we should not let God’s timing be a hindrance to our faith. In this case, God’s timing was immediate. He intended for the meeting to go on so they could reach many lives for a specific duration, and then the rainstorm returned. This was God’s window of opportunity for the great number that attended. Yet there are other times when God doesn’t respond immediately.

God’s timing is not our timing. He sees the big picture that we don’t see, and He always knows when it is best to act. Therefore, when you pray, don’t stop believing, don’t give in prematurely, and don’t give up.

Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Luke 11:9-10). Keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking. Don’t stop before your answer to your troublesome situation comes from the Lord. Keep pressing in and believing that Jesus will resolve the situation. Don’t let a rainy day be the source of unbelief and doubt. Take your hands off of the matter, put it into Jesus’ hands and He will bring you through. There is nothing too great for God. The rainstorm seemed to be an impossible situation and yet, after the men went to God in prayer, believing for that which could not be seen, God cleared the foul weather away. Believe wholly in Him and He will do the impossible!

–James Pangburn

Your Point of Contact

boats in storm

 

“…in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:25-31).

That particular evening Jesus faced the weariness of physically ministering to the throngs of people all day, and of feeding all of them too. Not only had He been pressed by them all day long, but also up into the evening. While the disciples headed back to the other side of the Sea of Galilee without Jesus, during that crossing they felt the same tiring effects from the exhausting day that Jesus felt. Even though they were physically exhausted, they continued to row further and further away from the point of contact of Jesus’ peace.

You may need that point of contact right now yourself, particularly if you have had an extremely hard day at work. Maybe you lost your job, or are very stressed out and feel that it is imperative to just get alone for a while. Maybe you are at the point of having no hope, and are destroying yourself with alcohol or drugs. Or maybe you just received notice of the death of someone dear to you. You need a true point of contact with God right now, but you may lack the one basic thing that can establish this contact. You need to pray with faith in the divine, invisible presence of God, which comes from having a personal relationship with His Son, Jesus.

While the disciples were crossing the sea, Jesus went to pray on the mountain. That was His own most important point of divine contact.

And if Jesus, being the Son of God, felt the necessity of being strengthened through prayer to the heavenly Father in these circumstances, how much more do we, who are weak, often failing, followers of Jesus, need to spend time alone in prayer to be strengthened by God too?

Yet we make excuses, like: It’s getting late, or, I really need my nap right now to get my strength back. When night fell, He was still there on the mountain alone, interceding for His disciples. There Jesus found His place of great strength. And you will find that prayer is a place of great strength for you as well.

You can experience the same touch from God’s divine presence as you face your own daily weaknesses, when your body is tossed around by the waves of the turmoil of life, in the midst of the darkness of its winds which are contrary to you. Howling winds of the storms coming against you will whip around you, the same as it was with Jesus’ disciples when they faced the dismal prospect of trying to row against the strong wind and waves that night.

As the disciples continued rowing, suddenly Peter and the others saw Jesus in the darkened distance walking toward them on the sea. He came closer and closer to them near the bow of the boat. They were very troubled at this sight and they said, “It’s a spirit; and they cried out for fear.” Jesus responded with perfect divine peace, “Be of good cheer; it is I, be not afraid.” Peter immediately answered, “Lord, if it is you, bid me to come to you on the water.”

Jesus told him to come, and Peter responded to that point of contact of faith and prayer. He stepped out of the boat and kept his eyes focused on his Lord Jesus in strong, obedient faith in His word, as he began to walk toward Him on the water.

As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he could continue to walk on the water. And in the midst of your daily troubles of life, Jesus is also calling to you, “Come to Me, my child.”

It’s amazing how our difficulties of life are similar to Peter’s. He walked on the water until he looked down and took his eyes off Jesus. We tend to do the same thing in our own lives when we also take our eyes off Jesus, the point of divine contact in our lives, and look down instead on the storms and troubles of life. Their boisterous winds blow around us, and we become afraid as we start to sink in the darkened, troubled waters. Then we cry out, “Oh, Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretches forth His hand and grasps us, pulling us to safety, while saying “O you of little faith, why did you doubt Me, my child?”

Maybe you are facing waves slapping around you right now, waves of fear, worry, doubt, or uncertainty. You look all around in the natural sphere without hope. Peter faced the same problem as wave after wave slapped against his face.

Looking around hopelessly, he cried out, “What am I doing out here?” And he started to sink. Then he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Can’t you just hear Jesus saying, “Oh, you of little faith. You started well, what happened to you?” Jesus was right there in the midst of the unsettled circumstances of life’s troubles, and God will reach out as the divine point of contact for you, too, so that you can release your faith in God through your prayers to God.

–Gary R. Pangburn