The Means or the Master

Where is the main focus of your faith? Is it in the head of a religious organization, or maybe the person speaking at a church service? Is it in what is written in the Bible or your effort spent in reading it? Is it in the actions of an alluring individual healing the sick? Is it in prayer? Is it in all of your good works and efforts you’ve accomplished for God? Is it in a literal cross mounted on a place of worship, or hanging on a chain around someone’s neck? Or is it solely in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross?

Reading the Bible is wonderful, prayer is essential, and proclaiming the Gospel needs to be done, but they are, in themselves, only the results of a relationship with Jesus our Master and Savior—not the primary goal. The object of our faith and belief is not to be in the means—it is to be in the Master Himself.

Heavenly Father, forgive me for allowing things other than your Son be the only focus of my faith instead of your Son alone. Help me to place my faith solely in Christ and what He has done on the cross. May my ways and thoughts be on your Son and not on the products of my relationship with Him. Keep me from focusing on anything or anyone other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Amen.

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The Key That Unlocks Our Heartfelt Desires

Jewelry case

Walk into any jewelry store and you will find that all items of real value are kept in locked display cases. Look at them all you desire, but if you want to actually hold or purchase them, you must ask the jeweler to unlock the case and hand you the item. But no reputable jeweler will give access to these items to just anybody who walks in simply because he asks. First he will ascertain just how serious and credible the request is. For many, the ‘desire’ was only an impulsive lust, a brief fancy, or they were not interested in buying anything in the first place. In return, the jeweler will generally give little to no attention to any such interests.

How often it seems that the things we desire the most in our heart are locked away and unobtainable, like the high-ticket items in the jewelry store. Since we really want these things and are willing to make enough of our own effort to get them, we think that we can readily obtain them. But, even though we know they are there, we don’t see any physical means to reach them readily available. So we give up in frustration and disappointment, yet they still remain locked up and out of our reach in the end.

Thankfully, God, the Master Jeweler, knows our situation. Are our desires actually just an occasional whim? Do they align with His plan for our life and His will for us? Will they bring Him honor and glory? Or do they just gratify our carnal self and actually work toward our detriment?

He has given us the key to unlock that which we desire—which is prayer.

He often keeps what we want so much locked away for our own good. He wants to see just how serious we are about possessing what we value so greatly.

Therefore, persist in asking Him to give you what you desire. “…Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity [persistence] he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, 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 11:8-10). The more we press through as we petition and exercise faith in our heavenly Father, the more He will show forth His faithfulness. But, at the same time, we should not just spout off our requests to God repeatedly, like a machine gun. Jesus warned about such attempts: “…when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7).

On the other hand, fulfillment of our desires is in God’s timing. He knows when and if we are able and mature enough to receive them and He will act accordingly. Think of a little boy asking his parent to take him to the store to buy an engagement ring. The parent will ask him just who he wants to buy it for (and incredulously just how he got that much money). He replies that there is no one yet. He just wants it available for the future when he meets the right person to give it to. But even if the boy did buy a ring, he could not take care of this kind of valuable item responsibly for such an extended time. Therefore, a wise parent would not fulfill the request, knowing his child is not yet mature enough to handle it. This does not mean that the boy will never get a ring—just that he will not be allowed to acquire it at this time. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).

 

This is one reason that God made prayer the key and not some other means. Come before Him in genuine, passionate, heart-felt prayer and changes will occur—not in Him, but in us. Our understanding of who He is will change, while self-centered motives also come to light. His faithfulness makes access possible. If we could fulfill the desires of our heart by our own efforts, our relationship with the Lord would be worth little. Not the actual act of prayer, but the One we have faith in through our praying, brings fulfillment of our requests.

God wants us to have what we greatly long for that is locked away in our heart. But He wants us to come to Him to gain access, and not try to fulfill these desires by our own strength and effort or selfish ambition. Jesus said,your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matthew 6:8b). God is fully aware of our desires long before we ever seek Him, but He wants to align all our wants, motives and plans with His own. This is only possible through genuine prayer and faith in Him—the real key which unlocks our heartfelt desires.

More Than Food and Clothing

“Take no thought for your life,
what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink;
nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.
Is not the life more than meat [food],
and the body than raiment [clothing]?
…If God so clothe the grass of the field…
shall He not much more clothe you?”  (Matthew 6:25, 30)

Since Jesus said, “Take no [distracting] thought for your life…”, why do you concern yourself with “what ye shall eat…drink…put on…”? Does He want you constantly anxious, distressed, or puzzled about how to get what you need? This attitude leads to despair and unbelief, which do not honor God. He expects you to leave your life in His hands—can’t you just let Him take care of getting your daily needs also? Jesus said not to worry about what we will eat or drink or wear, much less all the rest. Our Heavenly Father has so “much more” for us! Do we think we know more about how to take care of ourselves than He does? He concerns Himself with our circumstances even more than we do. Why do we let the cares of this world dominate our thinking? If we find them constantly competing for our attention, we need to stop and put our relationship with God first instead.

distressed woman

Constant perplexity over how to get what you need to survive is a waste of time, especially coming from a child of God. How we insult the One who promised to provide for us. You don’t need to get worked up about getting through tomorrow, next week, the rest of the month, or next year. There will be plenty to deal with as each new day unfolds. What will tomorrow bring? You don’t know. Why let it worry you sick, when it might be good tidings just around the corner, not more trouble? Take it one day at a time, Jesus said. Otherwise, you take out a ‘loan’ of trouble and worry on the future. You only need enough each day to get through that day.

head shot of man with concerned expression

Why such vexation about getting more fashionable clothing or a bigger house? Flowers don’t worry about buying colorful silk to make beautiful petals. Birds don’t worry about spinning yarn to knit a sweater to get through the winter. They expect to find what they need to get through each day. Both just go on, taking each day as it comes, letting God provide what they need. Can’t you do the same? If God cares so much about little birds, how much more does He care about those created in His very image? Can’t the God of the birds give you enough to get through each day? He gave us life and a body—the greater things. The same God can certainly make sure we get the lesser things—like food and clothing.

glasses and pen on sheet of financial rates

Who provided you with the body you now live in? You had nothing to do with getting it; you received it by no effort of your own. The same God who gave you your body is capable of taking care of it. Planning for the future is not wrong, but constant thoughts about a nest egg for old age should not consume your life now as you struggle to provide for a future you know nothing about. We say we trust God, and then do our utmost to provide everything we need ourselves! Where is our trust? Don’t lose your confidence in God and His provision for you. Having what you need when you need it provides contentment, not constant pursuit of more than you need. Jesus said, “Take no thought…” about your future. Then your thinking won’t be divided or distracted today. Otherwise, your mind will constantly dwell on the future, instead of concentrating on the important matters at hand in the present.

Are you experiencing the “much more” God promised to those who follow Him? Are you obeying the life He gave you? We get caught up in many things that confuse and distract us. But we only need to be very careful about one thing—our relationship with Him. Seek the kingdom of God first. Let Him be your business. Concern yourself with your soul—the matter of utmost importance. Have concern also for souls who might not make it to tomorrow, much less the distant future. Will their life end without them knowing God? (Will yours?) Help take care of others today and God will not fail to take care of you. In fact, He will provide for you so you can help others.

hands clasped in prayer

Jesus said to pray daily, to make ourselves ready to meet the temptations each day brings. Don’t be worried about fulfilling your every need; leave every need to Him. Those who fully trust and depend on Jesus simply rest in His loving arms. Let Him do all the worrying! He will provide much more than food or clothing!

Can God Help with Your Cares, Burdens, and Afflictions?

man carrying burden

“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).

To cast your burdens upon God means resting upon what He has promised and on what He provides. Cares can heavily weigh your heart down, but the Lord won’t allow you to come to the point of being totally cast down. He will bear the burden of all your sorrows. Therefore, let Him bear the burden of all your cares too. He knows what is best for you and He will provide according to your need. Sin and corruption are also heavy burdens. But He will bear those heavy burdens too, and will bear you up at the same time. Let Him pick you up and carry you in His powerful arms, like a father carries his little one. Your load can safely be placed upon Him. The Spirit of God will lift your spirits and make them stronger, so that you can stand up under whatever trial you may be enduring.

man in looking with distant thoughts

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Psalm 34).

Affliction refers to a state of distress, pain, or grief. It can also refer to being tried, tormented, or tortured. Afflictions are the cause of continued pain of the mind or body, like sickness, calamity, adversity, losses, or persecution. What a heavy load they can be, especially if they follow the temptations of the devil.

“…He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard” (Psalm 22:24).

No matter what cares, afflictions, or trials oppress you, you can lay them all upon God’s shoulders. What a glorious promise He has given for every tempted and afflicted soul! “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…” (2 Corinthians 4:17). You do not know what God is working out in you as you steadily endure affliction.

depressed woman

God will never allow the righteous (those in right standing with God) to be moved, to fall, or to be lost forever. Nor will He allow troubles to upset you to the point that you slack off in finding your comfort in Him, or in doing your duty to Him. He may allow you be shaken for a while, but it will never be to the point of being utterly overwhelmed. If you are righteous, you can be sure that you can continue to trust and depend on Him. And if you continue to trust God and do what is righteous, you will be as safe as if you were already in heaven.

What is the way of relief from all your cares, all your burdens, and all your afflictions? Look to Christ, who has already borne them all on the Cross for you. Lay them all directly upon His shoulders in faith by prayer, then confidently expect a good outcome. How can you do the work of God in this world if you fold up under the burdens that interfere with your efforts? Therefore, hand them all over. Whatever you want God to give you, let Him give it to you in His own time and in His own way. In the meantime, be satisfied. Commit all your ways and works to the Lord; then let Him do what He knows is right.

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand (Psalm 37:23-24).

Call upon the Lord in every kind of trial. He will hear you and He will rescue you. He will not be upset with you for coming too often. In fact, the more often you come to Him, the more welcome you will be!

Abiding Under the Shadow

person and shadow

A shadow can be considered a nuisance or a benefit at various times, like when a cloud obscures the sun. On a hot summer afternoon, the shadow from a large cloud is a welcome relief, but on a bitter, cold winter morning, the shadow from almost any size cloud will cause discomfort. A shadow could be a sign of impending danger as well, like when a very large object is about to fall on someone. On the other hand, a shadow could also be an indicator of protection.

The psalmist declares in the first verse of Psalm 91, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” What a wonderful thought for us, the children of the Almighty, to be under His shadow! Imagine how our enemies would feel if they knew that someone the size of the continents of Asia, Europe, Africa, and Antarctica combined was hovering over us to protect us. Yet that represents only a fraction of how much God covers over us when we dwell in His secret place.

God protects and shelters those whom He loves and who are obedient to His Word. He is ready and willing to shelter us under His shadow at any moment. “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler,” the psalmist continues to declare in verse 4. His protection resembles a bird that spreads its wings to shield its young. Without the bird’s protective shadow, its young are helplessly vulnerable to predators that are quick to snatch them away. We are also helpless without His protection. His shadow is always ample to keep us covered, no matter how many enter under it, or how extreme the circumstances are outside of it. “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday” (Psalm 91:5, 6).

shadow of cross

But God’s shadow is only available to us when we earnestly seek it. When we enter and stay in His secret place, we obtain His protection. This place can only be found through prayer and communion with Him. It is an area where we can dwell alone in an intimacy with God that can never be shared with another. As long as we stay in His secret place, His shadow will continually be over us. But when we allow ourselves to be lured away by the cares of this world, we leave the protection of His shadow and expose ourselves to the enemy. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

God expects His children to continually rest under His shadow. When we choose something else, we deny ourselves the abundant protection that He provides. The devil will try to keep us from abiding there, but God will never keep us out. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Why should we continue to expose ourselves out in the open when He is willing and able to shelter us bountifully? “For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall” (Isaiah 25:4). Why wait until tomorrow, or next week? Come now into His presence, His secret place, and lodge under His shadow. Allow Him to be your refuge and habitation.

Floating or Sinking?

boat in water

Have you ever watched an object float on the water? All it will do is float along and it won’t sink—unless water is allowed to come inside. It doesn’t matter whether it is a huge ship on the ocean carrying hundreds of containers of cargo, or just a plastic bottle cap on top of a puddle—both float on the water. Yet, when water gets an opportunity to come inside, both will stop floating and sink to the bottom, either slowly or very quickly, depending on how much water has been allowed in.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are like a ship floating in the ‘sea of humanity’. You have a responsibility to maintain your buoyancy in order to stay afloat. You can’t allow your exterior to deteriorate or corrode. If you do, holes will develop, or you may become structurally unstable and your ‘hull’ (a boat’s outer covering) will weaken and collapse or burst, allowing the water of godless humanity to enter in. This will cause you to sink. When you are floating in this ‘sea,’ you are in the world of the ungodly, but when you allow the water of this ‘sea’ to enter your ‘ship,’ you become full of this world of the ungodly. Then you will be liable to sink. Jesus told us to “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15, 16). The more of the corrupt system of this world you allow into your heart, the more your ‘ship’ fills with water and starts to sink. A sunken ship seldom has value to anyone.

sinking sailboat

The ways that the ‘water’ of this ungodly world can come into you are not always obvious, since Satan, the prince of this world, usually operates in subtle ways. One of the simplest ways he likes to use is to get you to decrease your desire to pray, to the point where you eventually stop praying altogether. Satan likes to use this method, since prayer is your communication with God and it is where He aligns you with His will. Regular communication is essential for a lasting bond to develop, whether in a marriage relationship, or just between two close friends, but especially in your relationship with your heavenly Father.

Satan absolutely hates it when you diligently continue to pray to God with all your heart.

Satan also likes to discourage you from reading the Bible each day, or, better yet, he tries to bring you to the point where you stop reading it altogether. The Bible is God’s standard for your life. It shows why we are all sinners in His sight, how you can obtain His mercy, how you can be redeemed from the bondage of sin, and that forgiveness for your sins is available because of His Son’s sacrifice of His own life on the Cross on your behalf. It also tells you how to live a righteous life that is pleasing to God by coming to Him through His Son (and only through His Son). It shows us the consequences of our past, and the future of everyone who does not believe in and obey God by accepting His Son and the ultimate sacrifice He made on their behalf into their heart.

Satan likes to lure you away with the things you used to do in your ungodly past. He might also try to distract you with things that, while not outwardly sinful, will still succeed in removing your focus from Jesus. Whenever Satan can get you to focus on yourself and not Jesus, then those holes start rapidly appearing in your ‘ship’s’ hull and let water rush inside. He may even get you to become so focused on what you want, and not what God wants, that you will actually start letting in water on your own, without the need for any holes or corrosion at all! God does not want you to ever lower yourself down to the world’s standards. He wants the world to come up to the standard you are to be following, which is Jesus Christ.

cross

The best way to be in this world of ungodliness, and not become full of it, is to put Jesus Christ at the center of your faith. Stop trying to operate your ‘ship’ by yourself and place it in His hands instead. Then you will no longer give Satan the freedom to force ungodly water inside as a result. If you take your focus off of Christ and all that He accomplished for you on the Cross, you will create openings that give Satan the legal right to work in your life. In other words, the ‘water’ of the world begins entering inside you. You can’t freely mingle with the sinful world as a child of God and still walk away afterward unaffected by it. Jesus told us to Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41 emphasis mine). Fill your ship with God’s word instead. Keep your ‘hull’ strong by prayer, and you will be able to keep the ‘water’ of the world from causing you to sink, through Jesus Christ!

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.

Ask God

two women praying

“…your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him” (Matthew 6:8).

So what point is there in asking, if God already knows what you need? What we think prayer is—and what God says prayer is—are not always the same thing. Is prayer just a way to convince God to give us something? We should not come to God like spoiled children, demanding more treats and goodies from Him all the time. We should not expect Him to indulge our every lust or desire. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts (James 4:3). The real purpose of prayer is for us to get to know God, so He can have a chance to reveal His presence to us.

If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Jesus said to pray in His name. This doesn’t mean that we are to tack “in the name of Jesus” on the end of our prayer every time we pray. It means we are to pray “in His nature.” First we need to be born again, and then the nature of Jesus will be spread extensively in our heart by the Holy Spirit. When Christians call a prayer meeting together, they assume that Jesus will be present. But He said that He will come “…where two or three are gathered together in My name…” (Matthew 18:20 emphasis mine) or nature. They do not necessarily have to gather for a prayer meeting in order for Jesus to be present, because He is already present in each believer through the Holy Spirit (who lives inside each of them). Praying together does not have to be limited to a formal meeting. It can be just you and another believer or two and God will hear and be present.

woman praying

Jesus also said, “…when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7). It is not lofty words, or majestic religious talk, or repeating our prayers over and over that move Jesus on our behalf. Nor is it all about how serious we portray ourselves as being to God either. The way to get in touch with God, the only way, is through acknowledging and accepting the life-giving death of Jesus on our behalf. Come on that basis and we will get God’s attention. Then we can be certain He will be present and will hear us when we pray.

“Ask, and it shall be given you…” (Matthew 7:7). Some complain before God and then apologize, while others remain impassive or indifferent before Him. But none of them actually ask Him for much of anything. Children certainly know how to ask their parents for something! When they want it badly enough, they make sure they know about it! They don’t complain or act indifferent. They zero in on what they want their parents to give them, and they ask, and keep on asking, until they get it. Jesus said, “…Except ye…become as little children…” (Matthew 18:3).

Why not give God a chance to answer your requests? But if you maintain excessive confidence in your own worth or ability, you will not think that you have to ask God for anything. We wait until we are powerless and then we are ready to hear what Jesus has to say. Then we are ready to do what He wants. “And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:15).

man in prayer

Our Lord said, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will…” (John 15:7). This refers to what our will wants. We do not put our will into much when we pray or intercede for others. We often do it mechanically. Then we wonder why God does not respond. Pray for your brother or sister in Christ and ask God to help them with their present difficulty. Do not go up to them yourself and talk about it. Turn it over to God and keep on asking Him to work on their behalf and He will do it.

Come to God the way you are. Present your problems to Him, especially the ones you do not have a clue how to solve. If you ask God for your desires, wishes, and requests, Jesus promised that He will answer. Prayer does not really change things—prayer changes you. Then real change can begin!

“Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).

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).

Jesus Says ASK

person praying

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
(Matthew 7:7-8).

Did you ever notice, concerning the first letters in the three key words in this passage: “ask,” “seek,” and “knock,” that they form the word “ASK?” This makes it easy to remember the order of the words when we are trying to recall these scriptures. The Lord has laid it out clearly for us. First we need to ask Him for what we need. Then we are to seek Him for the answer. Then we are to knock on His door and He will open it to us.

“Ask, seek and knock” are in the present perfect tense in Greek*, meaning that it is not just a once complete action, but an action that continues. Therefore, the Amplified Bible version adds “keep on” after each instruction. Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. The Lord wants us to come to Him with all of our needs and requests. If we don’t get what we are asking for the first time, we are to come back and ask again. And if not the second time, we are to ask once again, and again and again if necessary. The same with seeking and knocking, which are mental pictures of asking. He is not aggravated with us when we repeatedly come to Him. He wants us to do so, as we read here. He wants to be part of everything in our lives, not just a bystander watching from the distant sidelines.

God emphasizes asking, seeking, knocking without conditions or limitations. But it is important to understand that His answer is not as we will, but as He wills. We need to pray the right way—in faith, submitting to the will of God.

He doesn’t always give us exactly what we have asked for—sometimes He gives us what would be better for us.

Is it wise for us to ask for more than what God determines is best for us? The important thing is our relationship with our Father. That is what is vital for prayer. It is our right as a child of God to come to our Father to make our needs and desires known to Him. “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11).

Also take notice that Jesus said “everyone.” Does God have only certain favorites that He answers when they call? No, it states right here that “everyone” that “asketh receiveth,” etc. It makes no difference whether they are young, old, rich, poor, master, servant, educated, illiterate, Jew, or Gentile. Everyone is welcome to come before God’s throne of grace, but all must come with faith in God, believing that He hears us and will answer our prayers. Our heavenly Father wants us to be persistent and keep at Him until He answers. Then He knows just how serious we are about our request. What is the ‘secret’ to getting God to respond? Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. He who gives up receives nothing!

*Greek is the language the New Testament was originally written in.