God cannot answer prayer where there is no faith. And Satan will not flee where there is fear and unbelief. The fact is, we have failed to take our God-given authority over the devil and his demonic empire.
God’s Word tells us that the enemy is not in control. We have power over him!
“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
Yet many have let Satan run roughshod over their faith with no resistance. If this describes you, Malachi offers you a most wonderful word: “You will go forth leaping as calves released from the stall” (see Malachi 4:2).
What an interesting and incredible word to the people of God in these last days. Malachi pictures believers as calves confined in stalls. The Hebrew root word for stall here means “tied up,” “going around in circles.”
NOISY, FRISKY CALVES
Have you ever seen spirited calves locked up in stalls? They run in circles, kicking and making lots of noise. Do you get the picture Malachi is giving us? Satan has succeeded in locking up multitudes of believers in little stalls. He has kept them shut out of Christ’s green pastures, away from His cool, refreshing waters.
Dear saint, I urge you: Do not go another day satisfied with the way things are. Your release must come by faith, and the Lord gives His Holy Spirit to those who ask. When God promises, “You will go forth leaping as calves released from the stall,” He means more than releasing from confinement. When He opens the gate of our stall, we are going to emerge from it leaping with joy. We’ll no longer have a cloud of gloom hanging over us, but will be released into a walk of hope, freedom and abundant life.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Walk out in front of the people. Take your staff, the one you used when you struck the water of the Nile, and call some of the elders of Israel to join you. I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink.’ So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on” (Exodus 17:5-6, NLT).
The details of this scene — and of God’s compassion for the people — are replayed through Jesus’ sacrifice. Christ is the rock that was struck for our transgressions when we were lost and wandering. And He is the living water that sustains us. Paul tells us:
“I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. . . . For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:1, 4).
HOLDING ON TO BITTERNESS
The scene in the wilderness demonstrates what Jesus does for grumbling people: He takes on their punishment and declares, “I’ll stand condemned for them; I’ll be scourged; I’ll take their sins upon my back; I’ll be nailed to the cross in their place — all so that they might receive abundant life.”
Some Christians forfeit this awesome gift by holding on to bitterness. Paul says, “Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. These things happened as a warning to us” (1 Corinthians 10:5-6).
GOD’S BEAUTIFUL GRACE
Our lives can wither away in bitterness, or we can be revived by the beautiful grace God offers us — it’s our choice. But His promise remains available to us either way — and He gives us newness of life.
Two thousand years ago, the disciples had Jesus as their teacher, but even they had problems understanding what He taught them. There are countless examples of Jesus saying something and the disciples completely missing the point. They just didn’t get it. In fact one of them even argued with Him, saying “No, You won’t go to the cross. I won’t let that happen.”
Jesus would teach them about trusting God, and in the next chapter, we see them not trusting God. Jesus even used Himself as an example during a lesson about humility. During the Last Supper, Jesus showed Himself as a servant of the Lord and washed the disciples’ feet. Yet during that same dinner, the disciples argued about which one of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24-27).
But Jesus promised that when He died, another teacher would come and help them to properly digest spiritual truth.
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that He will receive what He will make known to you” (John 16:12-14, emphasis added).
Jesus not only told them a better teacher was on the way but He also said the new teacher would convey truth that He couldn’t pass on at that time. In other words, Jesus was saying, “I have more to say, and the new teacher will be the one to teach you about it.” The Spirit “will guide you into all the truth,” which includes applying the message to the hearts of the disciples. Then the meaning of Jesus’ life and death, faith, hope, love, the power of prayer, and much more would all be made crystal clear to them.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.
I wonder if the angels are baffled by all the worry and anxiousness of those who claim to trust in the Lord. To those celestial beings, it must seem insulting to God that we worry as if we had no caring Father in heaven.
What perplexing questions the angels must ask among themselves:
“Do they not believe the One who loves them? Did He not tell them He knows about all their needs? Do they not know the Father sends us to take charge of them in times of danger? Do they not believe that He who feeds the birds, the fish, the whole animal kingdom will feed and clothe them? How can they fret and worry when they know God possesses all power, all wealth, and can supply the needs of all creation? How can they accuse Him of neglect, as if He isn’t true to His Word?”
The birds sing, while we complain and speak of fear and anxiety. The lilies of the field stand tall in their glory, while we wilt and bend before the smallest wind of adversity.
The following poem puts it succinctly:
The very birds reprove thee with all their happy song;
the very flowers teach thee that fretting is a wrong.
“Cheer up,” the sparrow chirpeth. “Thy Father feedeth me;
think how much He careth, oh lovely child, for thee.”
“Fear not,” the flowers whisper, “since thus He hath arrayed
the buttercup and daisy. How canst thou be afraid?”
Then don’t you trouble trouble, till trouble troubles you.
You’ll only double trouble, and trouble others too.
You most definitely have a heavenly Father. Trust in Him!
“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek)” (Matthew 6:31-32).
Jesus is warning about the heathen tendency to worry, and His words touch my soul. He tells us that worry—over our job, our family, our survival—is a heathen’s way of living.
A BAD ATTITUDE
Worry is the attitude of those who have no heavenly Father. They do not know God as He desires to be known: as a caring, providing, loving Father in heaven.
To all who believe, it is not enough to know God only as the Almighty, the Creator, Lord of all. He also wants us to know Him as our heavenly Father.
“For your heavenly Father knoweth that you have need of all these things” (6:32).
“Take therefore no thought for tomorrow” (6:34).
A RIGHT ATTITUDE
With these plain words, Jesus commands us: “Do not give a thought, a single worry, to what might or might not happen tomorrow. You can’t change anything. And you can’t help by worrying. When you do so, you’re only doing as the heathen do.”
Jesus then says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (6:33). In other words, we are to go on loving Jesus. We are to move on, casting all our cares on Him. And we are to rest in His faithfulness. Our heavenly Father will see to it that we are supplied with all the essential things of life.
We simply cannot explain why many righteous people face insurmountable sufferings. Why do the difficulties increase for those who love God deeply?
“It’s all meant to teach patience.”
“It teaches God’s people to trust Him more.”
Really? Are those actual reasons or nothing more than clichés? Certainly such statements are empty of meaning to those who are enduring critical crises.
During a recent time of great personal testing, I asked the Lord, “If there are lessons I need to know from this present trial, please teach me.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT ETERNITY
The Spirit spoke clearly to my heart: “Your present affliction has nothing to do with chastening. In fact, it has nothing at all to do with this world. Your intense, long-lasting trial has to do with eternity. I am preparing you for your service and ministry in My Kingdom.”
Dear saint, I believe we are being weaned from everything that is of this world. The pains we are experiencing right now are awful birth pangs. God has allowed us to be so weakened of human strength that we will stop all our striving and let Him take us the rest of the way.
There is an old gospel song:
By and by, when the morning comes,
When all the saints of God are gathered home,
We will tell the story of how we've overcome,
And we'll understand it better by and by.
I have testified of God’s goodness throughout my lifetime. And in the new world to come, I’m going to tell my story all over heaven—the story of how real, near and merciful Jesus was to me in my worst times. Glory to God!
Is there a point in our walk with God when we become so trusting, so proven faithful through years of testing, that we can expect a respite from spiritual warfare?
Is there ever a vacation from troubles, a time when we can relax free of trials? Does a lifetime of meeting faith’s demands earn us a furlough from the battle? Is it possible to reach a point in faith where a test is no longer necessary?
According to Scripture, the answer to all these questions is no.
The first reason for such continual testings is well known to most Christians. That is, the life of faith continually demonstrates humankind’s need for the Lord in all things. Simply put, we never reach a point of not needing God. The idea of a “furlough from trials” presumes a “furlough from need.” And there will never be a time when our needs are met by our circumstances. The Lord is our source, our all in all.
ARE YOU RELYING ON YOURSELF?
The Bible shows us instance after instance of when Israel’s needs were met and then the people stopped relying on God. They became preoccupied with being provided for, when God had already promised to supply all their needs. As Jesus tells us, our purpose is not to seek having our needs met, but to feed on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
“Desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2).
Early in His ministry, Jesus announced this about Himself:
“On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds” (John 7:37, NLT, emphasis mine).
Jesus didn’t just issue a statement—He shouted. And He waited until the biggest day of the festival to stand up and make His announcement:
“[He] shouted to the crowds, ‘Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, “Rivers of living water will flow from his heart”’” (7:37-38).
BEATEN DOWN BY DEAD RELIGION
This was an act of compassion more than a theological statement. Dead religion had beaten down God’s people. That which should have refreshed them left them with no life whatsoever. Now Jesus announced, “I am your cup of cold water, the refreshing spring that never stops flowing. You can drink from Me to find your life renewed continually.” There are no qualifications needed to drink from this amazing wellspring. Christ assures us, “Anyone who believes in Me may come and drink!” (7:38).
THE REFRESH BUTTON
Friend, life in Christ is a refresh button like no other. When it gets pushed, the most stunted, despairing, dreary soul is renewed with the power of heaven. When Jesus says, “Rivers of living water will flow from My heart,” He is showing us what our lives will look like with a simple touch from Him. His Spirit so fills us that we overflow with abundant life, grace, mercy and love. His flow of life transforms everything.
As I have said many times, God never gives us a message without backing it up with His power. If He has called us to a life of abundant refreshment, then He will supply everything needed to make that happen.
In the last book of the Old Testament, the prophet Malachi spoke about something that had occurred and will happen again among God’s people in a season of spiritual decline. “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another” (Malachi 3:16, NKJV). What were they speaking? Were they not speaking to each other before this moment in history? What was it about their speech that changed?
The Scriptures tell us that “anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad” (Proverbs 12:25). It also says, “A word spoken in due season, how good it is” (Proverbs 15:23) and instructs us to let our speech “always be with grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6).
There is incredible power in confident, calm speech. You and I must encourage one another now! We do not need the fire or the earthquake or the wind. Those things are wonderful, and if God should choose to do that, then so be it. But there is something more powerful than all those put together, particularly in this hour. It is that still, small voice of confidence in God. It is the voice that says, “All is well. God is in control of your situation, my sister, my brother. God is still on the throne. Jesus is still the victor, and we are still more than conquerors.”
You have no idea how much power God is willing to pour through your life as you walk through your day — in your neighborhood, your workplace, or your home — simply speaking words of confidence in the goodness and faithfulness of God. Let us open our hearts to the Lord and begin to speak to one another in those still, small voices. We will discover the incredible privilege of being an ambassador of the power of God to this generation.
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001.
King David was known as a man who fully trusted God. He declared the theme of his own life when he wrote:
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him” (Psalm 28:7).
These weren’t just words for David. Scripture records event after event in David’s life when he showed great faith in impossible situations.
David did great things through faith in God:
- He killed a lion and a bear with his bare hands
- He killed the Philistine giant Goliath
- He escaped from Saul’s attempts to kill him
- He won great victories over all his enemies
Later, by faith and repentance, David was restored to the throne after his son Absalom attempted to kill him.
Through all these things, David boasted of the Lord:
“Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!” (Psalm 31:19).
It is no wonder Scripture calls David a man after God’s heart!
We also know from Scripture that this blessed man was overcome by temptation and he spent days, weeks, months in anguished pain over his failings and trials. David also suffered severe bouts of depression; in fact, he writes of his intense loneliness and of crying himself to sleep many nights. At times in his life he was so tormented and afflicted that he pleaded for death.
Yet, through those years of intensified afflictions, David never lost faith. Few people in Scripture were tested, tried and proven as David was. But he came out of it all with an ever-increasing faith.
I want to offer a special word to all who have come through many floods and fiery furnaces of affliction. I believe it is possible that your time of testing has nothing to do with chastening. Rather, it is something eternal—something having to do with your life in the new world to come.
The battle you are enduring now is not about this world, not about the flesh, not about the devil. This warfare is preparation for your eternal service in glory. You are being prepared for service on the other side.
Think about it: The very day you committed your life to trust God, He knew your present trial would come. He knew then that you would love Him through everything that comes at you and be an overcomer.
I am convinced that right now everything you are facing points to the New Jerusalem. The apostle John writes about that time to come:
- “There shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him” (Revelation 22:3).
- “There shall be no night there . . . and they shall reign forever and ever” (22:5).
- “[He[ hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (5:10).
All of this speaks of activity. It suggests God is preparing us now for what He wants to entrust to us in the new world. Simply put, He has plans for us beyond our comprehension.
Paul speaks of this when he says we will serve God continually, with all joy:
“He has raised us up together, and made us sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6–7, my italics).
In Genesis 22:2 God told Abraham, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering.”
You know the story. God spared Isaac, substituting a ram for the sacrifice. And the Lord told Abraham:
“Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. . . . Because thou hast done this thing . . . I will bless thee. . . . Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:12, 16–18).
HE DID NOT HOLD BACK
God told Abraham, in effect, “I know now that you will never hold anything back from Me, even your precious son. And because you have proven this, Abraham, I am going to bless you.”
Hear what the Spirit is saying in this passage:
“Others may never learn about your many tests of faith. You may suffer in isolation, with no one to benefit from your testimony of endurance. In fact, you may be judged for your suffering, as others think, ‘Why is he going through all this? There seems to be no point to it. I wonder where he has failed in his life.’”
GOD BOTTLES OUR TEARS
Yet, you can know that the God who led you into your trial of faith knows what your trial means. All your tears have been bottled by Him, every pain felt in His heart. And the Lord assures you: “This will end in blessing. It will mightily impact those in your family.”
Abraham was already in glory when these promises were fulfilled by the Lord. But his family, the nation of Israel, and eventually all of humankind would benefit from his faith.
When we first read of Abraham, God is asking him to pack up his family and travel to an unnamed destination (see Genesis 12:1). This must have been an incredible test for Abraham, as well as for his loved ones. Yet, by faith, Abraham obeyed. He lived among strangers in strange lands—unharmed and blessed—and he was delivered from every crisis, through supernatural dreams and visions given by the Lord.
LOOK AT THE STARS
At one point, God told Abraham to behold the starry sky, saying: “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them . . . So shall thy seed be” (Genesis 15:5). In other words: “Abraham, that’s how many children, grandchildren and descendants you are going to have. They will number as many as the stars.”
What a staggering promise! This word to Abraham was beyond the comprehension of any human being to grasp. And what was Abraham’s response to this promise? “He believed in the Lord” (15:6).
THE REWARD OF UNWAVERING TRUST
What was the result of Abraham’s faith? And what did his deep, abiding trust mean in God’s eyes? We find the answer in a single verse:
“He believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6, my italics).
Time after time Abraham put his faith in God, and he was considered righteous in the Lord’s eyes.
By the time Abraham turned 100 years old, he had endured a lifetime of tests and through everything, Scripture says, he had trusted God. And now the Lord said of this faithful, obedient man:
“I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment” (18:19).
Do you see what God Himself said of this man? He declared, “I trust Abraham. He has a proven faith.”
Jesus spent thirty-three years on Earth. Was that just so He could get old enough to die on a cross? Was it so He could have a few experiences to write about? No, of course not.
For thirty-three years Jesus did something that no one has ever been able to do. He took every rule, law and principle in the Bible, every thought that God had about what a righteous life would be like—holy and pure and totally obedient to God— and He fulfilled every single one of them.
That is why He was able to say, “I did not come to do away with the law, I came to fulfill the law” (see Matthew 5:17). What He is saying here is that He, and He alone, kept the law perfectly.
God said, “I take pleasure in Him because He perfectly kept every principle I’ve ever had for mankind. He fulfilled it all.”
Justification is not just that He cleansed you of your sin, He forgave your past, present, and future sin—but He imputed righteousness to you. In other words, He gave and He put upon you the righteousness that is His. At the cross He took your sin and pain and suffering—and did away with it.
And then He did something else that many Christians don’t realize. He took what He did on the cross and made it a final victory. When He said, “It is finished,” not only had He died for our sins but He had died for our righteousness. Now, even though we have no righteousness in ourselves, He gives us His righteousness.
Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” (see Mark 8:27). This question is fresh and immensely important today. What does our secular world think? What is its perception of the church in our modern world?
Please allow me to say this as clearly as I can, with kindness and straightforwardness, speaking the truth in love. My travels around the world have allowed me to meet thousands of leaders and I am in direct contact with their churches. I am often afraid that the modern church is softly and inexorably slipping into a sweet insanity. Dear reader, there are many definitions of insanity, one of the most pertinent being: “to continue to do the same thing in the same way over and over and expect a different result.” That’s insane!
Over 90 percent of North American churches have known no significant growth in 20 years, but we see no need to change anything!
Dear reader, Abraham, the father of faith, freed captives, fought for the poor, built wells, and fed the hungry. Hundreds of scintillating promises, stern warnings and clear commandments from Genesis to Revelation motivate, call and challenge us to serve the needy. Prophets and patriarchs in the Scriptures taught and modeled generosity. The history of the church shines the brightest when she dedicates herself to the defense of the oppressed and walks in her true calling and purpose. The Son of God incarnated all of the eternal, immutable, divine Trinity’s desire and intentions when He came among the poorest, fed the hungry multitudes, and healed every type of sickness and suffering.
Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.