On the day of accounting, I picture the apostle Paul being called forth. All of his soul-winning victories will be recounted, as well as all the churches he established. Then a number of unknown men and women from Antioch will be called forward to stand next to Paul. These are the people who fasted and prayed for the apostle, who laid hands on him and sent him out as a missionary. They also supported him with sacrificial gifts.
Why will these others be handed a portion equal to the apostle’s? It is because they played a part in every soul Paul won, every church he built, every trip he took.
God desires that we all rest—and rejoice—in our calling. Many Christians feel guilty that they’re not serving on a foreign mission field. But staying home is also a high calling in Jesus Christ. If you love the Lord and walk in His Spirit, you can be sure of your calling. God’s Word assures us: “Now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him” (1 Corinthians 12:18).
Do you see what Paul is saying here? If you’re a church elder, you have a high calling in the Lord. The same goes for those who teach Sunday school. Yet the same is equally true for any single mother striving to raise her children for Christ. She has a high calling right where she is.
If you’re a businessperson, a lawyer, a doctor, rest in your calling. If you’re a salesperson, a mechanic, a teacher, a food service worker, you don’t have to try to work up a calling to some mission field to please God. Unless the Spirit Himself is stirring you, you can be at rest where you are.
“Ye are the body of Christ. . . . And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
“Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:27–31).
I want to speak to every Christian who can’t go to a foreign mission field because of circumstances. I’m referring to those who are faithful in prayer, sacrificial in giving, supportive of missions. To all such believers, here is a clear message from 1 Samuel 30:24: “As his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike.” You are the supply line to the battlefront and the spoils of war are yours, too.
On that glorious day when our battle has ended—when we are finally able to lay down our spiritual swords—many will stand before the Lord thinking they are empty-handed. These unsung, unknown saints will say to themselves, “I have nothing to present to the Lord. I didn’t do much of anything. I never led many souls to Christ.”
Yet, what a glorious moment awaits them, as Jesus begins to divide the spoils. They’ll be overwhelmed with joy, as their eyes are opened to see just how important they were to the battle. Those who thought they had no good works or deeds to present are going to share equally in the spoils! Among these will be widows, shut-ins and retired people who gave sacrificially to support missions work.
As I think of these unsung saints, I picture the American women who maintained the home front during World War II. While their husbands, brothers and boyfriends did battle on the front lines—in the Pacific, Europe and Africa—these women manned huge assembly lines. They worked around the clock, toiling and sweating, with the factory’s loud noises constantly whirring in their ears.
Circumstances didn’t allow these women to be on the battlefront. So they “stood by the stuff” in support of their loved ones. And without the fruit of their labors, their faithful production on those assembly lines, the war never could have been won.
Beloved, this is the true picture in eternity of every unknown saint who thinks he has nothing to present to Jesus.
“And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD” (Genesis 13:10).
Pay attention to the Bible’s record of what Lot was doing. He looked at the land with his eyes. He wasn’t looking for instruction, for guidance, for wisdom from the Lord. He saw what he wanted with his own eyes and he aggressively moved to take possession of what he wanted, what his flesh desired.
“It looks good to me. It’s almost like the Garden of Eden; it’s so beautiful, I’ll choose that.”
Lot was looking with his eyes at the situation rather than looking to God. Some of us get ourselves into so much trouble. If we could just know the end of the story, what God is going to do. He is calling us to avoid this or that, but when our eyes of flesh are enticed, we tend to move in that direction because we are not focused on Jesus.
So here’s the simple instruction on this type of passive faith. Faith has to keep its eyes on Jesus. Faith has to keep itself focused and centered on the Lord or it won’t have the discernment to know which way to go. It won’t know whether to go to the left or to the right.
Lot chose what we know as Sodom and Gomorrah. Many of you today have been making choices with your own eyes because something looks good to you. The temptations of the flesh are appealing to you and you are easily lured to go after those things. God is calling His people to avoid operating in a soulish realm of fleshly ambition but to move into a realm where your spirit is growing while your flesh is decreasing.
That’s called discipleship. It’s called maturing. It’s called walking in a growing faith with the Lord. He’s calling us to move into that place.
“Go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money: take that and give to them for Me and you” (Matthew 17:27, NKJV).
We understand that Jesus wanted to make sure they paid the temple tax. The question is, Why didn’t Jesus simply reach into His pocket and give Peter the coin? Why did He give him the elaborate instructions of going down to the sea, casting in a hook, and finding money in the mouth of the first fish that he pulled up? After all, if Jesus didn’t have the money in His pocket, He surely could have manufactured it there as much as He could in the mouth of a fish! What was the point of all that?
Here is what Jesus was teaching Peter, which is the same lesson He is trying to teach us today: “If you will deal with the little things now, I will open to you the way of supernatural faith and provision. I will open to you something that will bring honor to the name of God.”
Imagine Peter going down to the seashore and explaining to the people that God had instructed him to catch a fish because it had money in its mouth to pay the temple tax. The other fishermen would conclude, “This guy has lost it! He has been hanging around with this Teacher too much!” Yet, when Peter returned an hour later with the coin in his hand, he would be able to testify, “It was just as the Lord told me! I caught a fish, opened its mouth, and there was money in it—enough for me and Jesus to pay the tax.”
This is a picture of how when you and I make the choice to do right, we will find the supernatural provision that we need—provision to be honest, provision of joy, provision of comfort that we might have been trying to obtain elsewhere. And it all starts when we allow Jesus to go into the corners of the temple (that temple being you and me) and say to us, “I want to talk to you about something.” When Jesus was talking to Peter in the temple, Peter easily could have walked away and said, “Okay, I’m free, so I am not going to pay the temple tax.” Yet, thank God he didn’t, for Jesus was teaching him something about the supernatural.
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.
In 1988, God called our ministry to go to New York City and start a church in Times Square. Leaving our comfortable Texas environment and coming to the city required a great step of obedience. We had no congregation, no building, and little money. The only thing God told us was, “Go, and I will be with you. I will bless you. I’ll be your reward.”
So we did go—and the Lord became a shield to us, giving us Himself year after year. Decades later, we have a growing, maturing, missions-minded congregation in the midst of Times Square that stands as a testimony to His miracle.
God’s Word abounds with special, specific promises for those who are called to step out in obedience. Here are just a few of those promises to carry with you to the throne of God. You can lay your life on the line by these:
- “If ye will obey my voice indeed [with no halfway commitment], and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a [special] treasure unto me above all people” (Exodus 19:5).
- “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you” (Jeremiah 7:23).
We also have an ironclad promise that the Holy Ghost will be with us through all our steps of obedience and in our times of testing: “We are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (Acts 5:32).
If God is telling you to lay down something, step out and do it. The Bible clearly says that if you obey the Lord, He will give you the Holy Spirit to be your guide and your strength. He will provide you with everything you need to complete the act of obedience.
When God asks His servants to step out into the unknown, it is not a one-time event. It is a walk that is required our entire lifetime. Yet our obedience wins us a great reward: “The word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1).
God is making a glorious statement to us here: Those who obey Him—who step out not knowing what will happen to them, yet blindly trusting in His Word—will never be outside of His protection. He says, “I will hover over them as a shield. And I will be their reward. I’ll give Myself to them.” “For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favor wilt thou compass him as with a shield” (Psalm 5:12).
A former member of our church, an acclaimed actress, was asked by God to give up show business completely as an act of obedience to Him. She knew in her heart the Lord was telling her to leave it all behind. So she set aside a best supporting actress award and stepped out into the great unknown. She had no job or guarantees of work of any kind; she went out not knowing where she was going.
The very next day her agent called to tell her she had been offered a starring role in a movie with three of the best-known actors in the business. After she hung up, she said, “No, Satan, I know what you’re trying to do. I won’t change my mind.”
Beloved, that’s the way it is going to be for many. Whenever you step out in faithful obedience, the devil will bring some enticement to draw you back to the side of disobedience. Obedience will always cost you something!
That same week, the actress went to court and won a great victory in a child custody battle. Her shield was working for her! She had won Christ, and her reward had been the Lord Himself.
God demanded an incredible act of obedience of Abraham: He asked him to step out into an unknown future. Abraham was able to take this step with nothing more tangible than this promise from God: “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee” (Genesis 12:1).
The writer of Hebrews says, “Abraham, when he was called to go out . . . obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went” (Hebrews 11:8). The Lord didn’t lay out before Abraham a neat, detailed travel plan. Instead, he said simply, “Gather your family, pack up your belongings, leave your kin, and go to a place I will tell you about.”
At seventy-five years of age, Abraham was asked to cast himself fully upon God’s faithfulness. He was given no explanation or warning of the possible dangers involved. And so Abraham went out—not knowing. All he had to rest upon was this promise: “I will show you. And I will bless you.”
His wife, Sarah, probably was no different from any modern-day woman. She may have asked the questions any wife would ask: “Are we going south or north? What kind of clothes should I pack? Will we settle down or stay on the move?” All Abraham could answer was, “God said to go, so we’re going. He’ll show us the next step, as soon as we get moving.”
We sometimes think that when God commands us to do something and we obey, everything will be smooth sailing. We think He’ll be grateful for our obedience so He will place us on a four-lane freeway to blessing. Abraham obeyed God’s Word, but the fact is, one act of obedience doesn’t add up to a walk of obedience.
Abraham had a promise from God, but along the way he had to go through the Negev desert, over snow-covered mountains, through another desert, and past the warring people of Canaan. Then he ended up in the midst of a famine in Egypt. I’m glad God didn’t tell Abraham about the path he would be walking!
This particular path was like no other Abraham had walked. Yet, through it all, he was never in any danger. Nobody could touch him. God was his shield and protector every day. And because of his faith, Abraham was becoming a friend to God.
Every Christian claims to trust the Lord. Yet, in reality, many of God’s children aren’t ready to face the black storm coming upon the world. Unless we lay hold of a special, unshakable trust in our Lord, we won’t be ready for the hard times, now or in the future.
When the full fury of the storm breaks and uncertainty falls over humankind like a cloud, multitudes of Christians will not be able to handle it. Overcome with fear, they will lose their song of victory. Who are these believers who won’t be prepared to endure the storm? They are those who haven’t cultivated a life of prayer with the Lord and are not grounded in His Word.
For years godly shepherds have urged Christians to set aside a time each day to meet God in prayer. Thank the Lord, many have learned to pour out their hearts to Jesus and they are being rewarded with a holy faith and trust. Indeed, their faith grows daily by their reliance on His Word.
You see, communion gives birth to trust. By pouring out to the Lord all our worries, we come away with His rest and assurance: “Trust in him at all times . . . pour out your heart before him” (Psalm 62:8). According to this psalm, “trusting” and “pouring out” are inseparable. If we are to trust God at all times, including the darkest times, then we must be pouring out our hearts to Him without ceasing.
As the days become more frightful, there will arise a people of God who become bolder and bolder. These are believers who call daily on the name of the Lord, “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6). Revelation from God’s Word will uphold them in the hardest of times.
David learned to call upon the Lord in every crisis of his life. Time after time this godly man ran to his secret place, emptying all his fears before the Lord: “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears. . . . He delivered me” (2 Samuel 22:7, 18).
If you had to name the pinnacle of Jesus’ teaching, what would you say it is? We gain some insight from His final night with His disciples before going to the cross. He had only a few hours left with His closest friends, so He concentrated all that He’d taught them into one word: love. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
When we talk about love in the Church—in fact, when we read this verse—our minds go in gentle directions. We think of kindness, generosity, being good to others, and, indeed, the New Testament says a lot about this kind of love. It uses the phrase “one another” about fifty times, with commands to treat each other with patience, encouragement, generosity. The book of Ephesians uses the word “together” often, emphasizing Christ’s great command to love in community.
The disciples would have no problem with this command; in fact, they probably thought they were already pretty good at it. They had just spent three years in full-time ministry with their Master, learning how to do what He taught them.
But in this scene, Jesus speaks of love in a very different context. It becomes clear in His next sentence: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Now that’s a serious kind of love. I picture the disciples looking at each other wondering, “Would I die for this guy next to me? Sometimes he really irritates me.” Maybe they didn’t love each other as well as they thought they did.
My point is that when Jesus commands us to love as He loves, it’s no light thing. It isn’t some romanticized idea based on feelings or ideals. What He commands of us is gospel love—powerful, unconditional, sacrificial love that has its roots in the cross of Christ. Jesus was about to demonstrate for His followers the most powerful act of love anyone could ever experience by going to the cross for our sins. In doing that, He would show how this love applies even to our enemies—because He gave His life for them, too.
Closet praying happens when we’re alone, in secret. “Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6).
But there is more to it. The Greek word for closet in this verse means “a private room, a secret place.” This was clear to Jesus’ listeners, because the homes in their culture had an inner room that served as a sort of storage closet. Jesus’ command was to go into that secret closet and shut the door behind you. And it’s a command to individuals, because this is not the kind of prayer that can happen in church or with a prayer partner.
Jesus set the example for this, as He went to private places to pray. Over and over Scripture tells us He “went aside” to spend time in prayer. No one had a busier life, as He was constantly pressed by the needs of those around Him and had so little time to Himself. Yet, we’re told, “In the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). “When he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23).
Consider the command Saul was given in Acts. When Christ apprehended this persecutor of the church, Saul wasn’t sent to a corporate church meeting, or to Ananias, the great prayer warrior. No, Saul was to spend three days alone and apart, praying and getting to know Jesus.
We all have excuses for why we don’t pray in secret, in a special place alone. We say we have no such private place, or no time to do it. Thomas Manton, a godly Puritan writer, says this on the subject: “We say we have no time to pray secretly. We yet have time for all else: time to eat, to drink, for children, yet no time for what sustains all else. We say we have no private place, but Jesus found a mountain, Peter a rooftop, the prophets a wilderness. If you love someone, you will find a place to be alone.”
Our homes are to be places of prayer!
“If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:19). Some Christians call this “agreement praying.” You are deeply blessed if you have a devoted brother or sister to pray with. Indeed, the most powerful intercessors I’ve known have come in two’s and three’s. If God has blessed me at all in this life — if He has used me for His glory — I know it is because of a few mighty intercessors who pray daily for me.
The place where this kind of prayer takes place most powerfully is the home. My wife, Gwen, and I pray together daily, and I believe it holds our family together. We prayed for each of our children during their growing up years, that not one of them would be lost. We prayed about their friendships and relationships. We also prayed for their future mates, and now we’re doing the same with our grandchildren.
Sadly, very few Christian families take time for prayer in the home. I personally can testify that I’m in the ministry today because of the power of family prayer. Every day, no matter where my siblings and I were playing, in the front yard or down the street, my mother would call out the front door of our home, “David, Jerry, Juanita, Ruth, it’s prayer time!” (My baby brother Don wasn’t born yet.)
The whole neighborhood knew about our family prayer time. Sometimes I hated to hear that call, and I griped and groaned about it. But something clearly happened in those times of prayer, with the Spirit moving amid our family and touching our souls.
Maybe you can’t see yourself holding family prayer. Maybe you have a spouse who isn’t cooperative or a child who’s rebellious. Beloved, it doesn’t matter who chooses not to be involved. You can still come to the kitchen table and bow your head and pray. That will serve as your household’s prayer time, and every family member will know it.
What exactly are we to pray in times such as these?
Here was Joel’s prescription for Israel in that day of gloom and darkness: “Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children. . . . Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?” (Joel 2:15–17).
Here was the call to the church: “Don’t be discouraged or give in to despair. You are not to believe the devil’s lies that there is no hope for an awakening.” Instead, according to Joel, the people’s cry was to be, “Lord, stop this reproach on Your name. Don’t let Your church be mocked any longer. Stop the heathen from lording it over us, taunting and asking, ‘Where is your God?’”
You may think, “What God promises here is only a possibility. He says He might hold back His judgment. That’s nothing more than a ‘perhaps,’ a ‘maybe.’ Everything He calls for from His people could be in vain.”
I don’t believe God tantalizes His church. And He won’t send His people out on a fool’s mission. When Abraham prayed for God to spare Sodom (where his nephew Lot lived), the Lord’s heart was moved to save that city even if only ten righteous people lived there. And Abraham prayed this as destroying angels were walking into the city! I’m convinced God’s people today are to pray to the Lord in the same way.
Joel’s prophecy regarding an outpouring of the Holy Spirit is found in Joel 2:28-32 and is repeated by the apostle Peter in his sermon in Acts 2:17-21. The prophecy begins, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.”
“Therefore . . . saith the Lord, Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Joel 2:12–13).
As I read this passage, I am struck by the words, “Even to me.” As gross darkness fell over Israel, God appealed to His people: “Even to me — when you’ve pushed Me out of your society, when mercy seems impossible, when humankind has mocked My warnings, when fear and gloom are covering the land — I urge you to come back to Me. I am slow to anger, and I have been known to hold back My judgments for a season, as I did for Josiah.”
Do you see God’s message to us in this? As His people, we can plead in prayer, and He will hear us and answer the sincere, effectual, fervent prayers of His saints.
I have a word of warning to the church at this moment: Beware! Satan comes precisely at such a dark hour when disaster looms over the earth, when the heathen rage and terrorize nations. The devil knows we’re vulnerable, and he throws out this lie: “What good can you do? Why try to evangelize Islamists, when they want to kill you? You can’t change anything. You might as well give up on the sin-saturated world. There’s no use praying for an outpouring of the Spirit. All your repenting is futile.”
But God comes to us with this word from Joel: “There is hope and mercy, even now! I am of great kindness and slow to anger. And now is the time for you to turn to Me in prayer. I may hold back My judgments and even bring blessing to you.”
Even now — in a time of murderous Islamic extremism, of militant homosexuality, when our nation has lost its moral compass, when courts are driving God out of society, when fear grips the whole earth — it is time to turn to the Lord in prayer.
The skeptics said to Joshua, "If we cross over the Jordan River, we're going to face enemies as never before. You know the reports. There are thirty-one different kings in the land where we're going and every one of them wants to do us in. Do you know how many kings we've defeated in the last forty years? Exactly two. What on earth are you thinking? How could this be what God wants?"
Joshua knew it would be difficult — in fact, impossible. But he also knew there was only one way for Israel to go: forward. They were going to cross over, and they would do it in faith, trusting that God had their best interests at heart.
We all know that in the end, Joshua and Israel possessed the land and were blessed.
The priests carrying the Ark stepped into the rushing river, and as soon as they immersed their toes, God supernaturally parted the water. After that, every evil thing the skeptics predicted was turned into good for God's people.
The people came to a great fortified city occupied by their enemy. When they marched around it, the impenetrable walls came tumbling down. A handful of kings that Israel thought would be hostile instead joined them and doubled the size of their army.
Did all this make super-saints out of Joshua and Israel? Not at all. At one point Joshua failed to obey God, but because he repented quickly, the Lord used the experience to strengthen him.
Are you willing to step into the river? God may be saying, "If you'll just commit to putting your toe in, you will see me part waves for you. It doesn't matter how many enemies and fortresses you face, I will carry you across to the other side. I have already laid out my plans for you and I'll see them through to fulfillment, all to My glory."
I urge you: Trust God to lead you across your Jordan. Let Him silence the voice of every skeptic. His “Plan A” for you won't be defeated. He is faithful — and He will give you victory!
“The Lord said to Joshua . . . As I was with Moses, so I will be with you” (Joshua 3:7).
The beginning of David’s public ministry is this gigantic moment when he slays a giant named Goliath. David came from what today would probably be called a “dysfunctional family.” He was cruelly ignored and neglected. As a teenager he was left to tend to the flock in the mountains, a lonely and dangerous job.
When a man of God was looking for a candidate to replace Saul and become king, David’s father, Jesse, showed off all his sons, but ignored David. It was as if David didn’t exist. His brothers put him down, demeaned him and maliciously questioned and mocked even his noblest aspirations.
When David, in spite of them, slew the enemy and came out victorious in his fight against Goliath, he left his home, as King Saul took him under his wing.
Saul was a tormented and failing leader and he quickly became terribly jealous of David. Saul was threatened by God’s favor on David and by how much the people loved him. After having a father who seemed to ignore him, David suffered still further under an “adoptive father figure” who, irrational in his insecurities, finally tried to kill him.
It was in those days of his first and faltering steps of public ministry that David experienced his first victories. He was strong and filled with potential, and although supernaturally called, he was also terribly alone and extremely vulnerable. David said of himself during that period, “I am still weak though I have been anointed to be king” (see 2 Samuel 3:39).
God then sent Jonathan to David. Jonathan answered the call of faith with friendship, selfless support, and humility for a greater cause. This is a call that presses one to give and help someone else with no expectation or promise of anything in return. You cannot imagine the divine flow of blessing such a decision on your part can unleash in your life. This revelation can touch and change a marriage, a family, a church and even a nation. “And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt” (1 Samuel 18:3-4).
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.