God is a Rewarder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

The Best Kind of Tranqulizer

man with insomnia

Stress, turmoil, anxiety, worry, tension, uncertainty, pressures, hassles, revenge, lawsuits, bankruptcy, crime, assault, disease, accidents, anger, tragedy, violence, suffering—the list goes on and on. At various times, there will be upsets in our life that will leave us sleepless. It might be a major ordeal or maybe just a minor event. Whether we are young or old, married or single, rich or poor, weak or strong—something will bring us to a point of being disturbed and restless. Even if we are extra cautious, watching our every thought and move, a situation is sure to come our way that will not let us sleep in peace. There will be times when we are totally innocent, minding our own business and doing what is right, and we still end up in the wrong. We might find ourselves in error over something that we had no control over, or we might happen to be in the wrong place at the right time.

It may feel like we are the only ones going though a particular problem. There was a man who lived thousands of years before us who had to struggle like this as well. In the Bible, King David of Israel was a person whom God declared to be a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will” (Acts 13:22b). David was a mighty man who killed a lion and a bear at the same time when he was rescuing a lamb from the mouth of a bear. Later, with only a stone and a slingshot, he slayed a giant that had been threatening his nation for quite some time. And all of this occurred when he was only a young man! He later killed tens of thousands of enemies of his kingdom, yet, in spite of all his strength and his favor with God, he still went though struggles that would keep any of us today agonizingly awake for a multitude of nights.

What did he ultimately do about his troubles that robbed him of sleep? Did he flee, never to be found again? Was he discovered attempting to take his own life? Did he give up and just surrender to the enemy? Did he go insane? Did he personally take vengeance on those who were against him? Did he relegate his problems and torments to someone else in his kingdom and order them to come up with a solution? No, he did none of these. Instead, he turned to God. Look at what he said in verses three through five of the fourth Psalm, “But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him. Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.” King David knew by past experience that God would hear him when he called out to Him. But he also knew that he could not continue in the path of sin and still expect God to readily hear him. He had to surrender to God, forsake his sin, and put his trust in the Lord—then wait on Him. He knew that God would provide for His circumstances in a way far greater than those who were against him.

So what happened? Verse eight sums it up nicely: I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.” He didn’t lie awake all night agonizing over everything that was coming against him. Instead he declared, “…thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.” What better sleep aid could anyone ask for? David turned to the Lord and put his trust in Him. He did not pursue the matter in his own strength any further. David stated this again in the first two verses of Psalm twenty three: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.”Still waters” here literally means ‘waters of rest.’

young girl praying

What a wonderful antidote to the situations that torment us throughout the night! All that we have to do is come before the Lord with all our distress and release it to Him. We need to stop sinning through doubt and unbelief, and trust in Him to resolve the conflict. He continually waits for our most feeble cry. He wants us to lie down in peace and sleep. But without God, we will never “dwell in safety.” He told us to “…commune with your own heart upon your bed…” With our own heart we are to commune with whom—our spouse, our relatives, our neighbor, our closest friends? Of course not! We are to commune with the Lord. Next comes “and be still.” Don’t drop your problems in His lap and go on your way. Spend your time with Him in intimate fellowship, reading His Word, and then—just be still. Don’t fill your mind with all kinds of trivial nonsense and needless thoughts, just “be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10a). God never wants us to lie awake and be restless, our hearts and minds filled with worry or stress. Let’s open our hearts freely to Him like a child does and let Him lead us by the waters of rest. With the Lord in charge of our life, we can truly sleep in peace—for He alone is the best kind of tranquilizer.

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?

Does God Care?

anxiety graphic

Are you going through a situation where you feel like God doesn’t care about you? Does it seem like He doesn’t see what you are going through? Do you feel like you have to worry and fret over your situation, since God apparently is not interested in helping you with it? Maybe you think He does not even notice that you are having a hard time. What does God have to say about this?

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

This verse actually says that we are to cast all our anxieties on Him. Most of what we fear or worry about never comes to pass. God is like a shepherd watching over his flock. He is ever scanning the field where the sheep are, looking for impending trouble, or for one who has gotten himself into a bad situation on his own.

Have you ever been with children as they tried so hard to help bring the groceries in the house when they were very small? One would pick up a gallon of milk and struggle with all his might to get it from the front door to the kitchen. You probably watched, amused, that this little one thought he could carry it all by himself. Then you most likely went over and took the gallon jug and carried it for the child. Or you might have put your hand on one side to steady and lift it some, while letting the child think he was doing it all himself.

But you were there all the time, watching over the child, making sure he could handle whatever he took upon himself without hurting himself or utterly failing in the task. If he tried to carry something far too big or heavy or dangerous, you would intervene. The child was sure he could handle the situation. But you knew all along that he had a lot more growing to do, and that it was far beyond his capabilities or experience at this point in his life. Yet you did not stop him from trying. All the time, he did not know it, but he was not alone.

Does our heavenly Father care any less about us? We often take on more in our walk with God than He intends for us to handle. Or else we hang back and don’t try to do anything beyond what we have been safely able to accomplish in the past. And how easy it is to worry ourselves into a state of anxiety, to the point where we convince ourselves that there is no solution to our situation!

Does our heavenly Father heap weights on us that are more than we can carry, and then stand back and laugh at us because we are crushed under the load? Don’t ever think that way of our loving Father!

Only unbelief thinks it is our responsibility to be weighed down, both inwardly and outwardly. Why don’t you roll the weight onto Him that burdens you so much? He loves to bear the burdens that are too much for His weak children.

Does God care? Isn’t His word plain enough to us? Who drowned the Egyptian army when they chased after His chosen people in order to bring them back into slavery? Who opened a jail cell and set Peter the Apostle free while everyone else in the prison slept? Who sent His Son to die for us, to take our sins upon Himself because we were incapable of dealing with them ourselves? God knows, and He cares about you and every single situation you are going through. With loving concern, He continually watches over you. He is with you right now, whether you sense His presence or not. What should you do? Cast “…all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”

–Alana 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 many 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!