Archive for the ‘Daily Struggles’ Category

God Always Has A Plan

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

December 23, 2010

I am now at the YWAM center in Lonavala, Maharastra, India. I am not sure how many students are here at this young adult convention, but there are a good number. They have come from all parts of India. Several groups drove 25 hours from the southern most part of India. The young adults here are wonderful and I consider myself fortunate to spend time with them. Yesterday one of the students shared the most touching testimony of how he came to Christ and to the church. Convinced that there was error, he eagerly studied the Bible and books to find all the errors. But instead of that he discovered Jesus and became a believer. He is one of the best medical students of his “college,” and is faithfully living out his faith among the other students who are largely Hindu and Muslim. He prays much and has been seeing specific answers to prayer. He has also been faithfully honoring God by not taking examinations on the Saturday Sabbath. His friends have ridiculed him in this, and assured him he will fail, but God has intervened countless times to allow him to take and pass alternate exams that are considered impossible to pass.  The wonderful thing about all of this is that his friends from the other faiths are watching carefully and are fully aware of his motivation as a Christian. He could have chosen to take the exam on the Sabbath as a matter of expediency, but he has chosen to honor God and God is honoring him. Please join me in praying for this modern Daniel.

Some thoughts from the Bible…

“But he shook off the creature into the fire.” Acts 28:5

“They will take up serpents, and if they drink anything deadly it will by no means hurt them….” Mark 16:18

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purposes.” Rom. 8:28

Acts 27 and 28 cover Paul’s perilous journey to Rome, and his two years of confinement where he was “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.” (Acts 28:31)

It is interesting that in the course of the journey to Rome there were decided differences of opinion between Paul and the sailers on what they should do. Paul, perceiving oncoming dangers, advised them to not leave the port. His words were overruled, however, and they quickly found themselves in great danger. In an effort to save themselves, the sailers tried various maneuvers to keep the boat aright. But facing strong contrary winds, they allowed the ship to be driven before the wind. Over time they threw their cargo overboard, their ship’s tackle and eventually even lost the ship; all of this was due to not listening to Paul.

In the sailers’ defense they didn’t know anything about Paul and were probably prejudiced against him. He was a prisoner and prisoners were not listened to much, especially when it came to sailing a ship.

During this time Paul isn’t mentioned. However, from verse 21 we get the sense that Paul had been seeking God’s help through prayer and fasting. When he emerged, and after reminding the sailers they should have listened to him, he encouraged them that there would be no loss of life, though the ship would be lost. Paul also told them about an angel who had come and visited him, sent from the God he belonged to and whom he served.”

True to Paul’s words, the ship was eventually run aground on Malta and all the men safely made it ashore. The locals showed “an unusual kindness,” unusual perhaps because their visitors were prisoners and prisoners were not usually treated kindly. They even made a fire where the men could warm themselves.

It was in the course of gathering sticks for the fire that a major “praise the Lord” event took place. Reaching into the sticks, Paul was suddenly bitten by a venomous viper. The locals looking on, concluded that Paul must be a murderer  and were quite certain he would quickly die. But shaking the snake off and suffering no harm, Paul quietly continued gathering sticks. Surprised, the locals then decided he must be a god.

When arriving at Malta Paul had only been known as a prisoner who was undoubtedly justly condemned for some crime. But as a result of God’s intervention, they recognized there was something other worldly about Paul.

Some things strike me.

(1) God cares and is always willing to communicate. God communicated with the sailers because he cared about them, but to no avail. God is still as willing to communicate and help in our day.

(2) God usually communicates through his godly children, but they are not always listened to due to prejudice. In this case God communicated through Paul. Unfortunately Paul was not sufficiently respected and therefore his message was disregarded. Still today prejudice against God’s messengers plays an unfortunate role in God’s voice being heard at times.

(3) Taking our concerns to God through prayer and fasting is always a good policy. Because the sailers would not listen to him, Paul took his concerns to God. God honored his obedience in praying and fasting, and sent needed communication. I don’t pray and fast enough and I suspect you don’t either. Jesus’ words, “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matt. 17:21) is still true in our day. Are we praying and fasting when we face problems?

(4) We serve because we belong! Paul was a great servant of God, but he served God because he belonged to Him. Here at the convention I have been talking with the young adults about what it means to surrender and completely give oneself to God. It is because we belong to God that we serve God.

(5) God sometimes uses negative events to bring great blessings. In Paul’s case it was being bitten by a viper. In our case, it may be some other misfortune. In all such cases, God is working for good to those who love Him, and sometimes His only way of initially bringing the needed blessing is negative.

(6) God carefully orchestrates all the details necessary to work His good will. God made sure the viper was hiding in the sticks when it was needed. God works just as decidedly on our behalf in whatever way is needed. I know it may seem trite to suggest that God is always decidedly working on our behalf, but I really believe it and am doing what I can to always live with that understanding.

(7) Finally, God always has a plan to reach others. When Paul arrived at Malta the chance of him significantly influencing the people on the island was minimal; they only knew he was a prisoner. But God had a plan to overcome their prejudice, and as Paul quietly obeyed, God worked His plan. We are still reading about the blessings that came in our day. I can’t help but believe that God has a plan to reach people everywhere, no matter what religious background they have.

As I write I struggle with a cold, and many of the young adults here are similarly struggling. We would appreciate your prayers for our getting well. I believe I will fast and pray today to seek God’s help in turning this sickness around. I have been wondering why God allowed all of us to be so affected and believe that it is part of God’s good will on our behalf. I am not sure what to do, but am certain that obeying Jesus’ injunction can only help.

Father in heaven, thank You that ALL things somehow work for good. I don’t know what is going on in the life of the person reading this but You do. Please be a constant presence today, bringing wisdom and help in all the best ways, so that today may be a blessed day in every regard. You know the prayers that are going up. Perhaps for overcoming some physical ailment like I am; perhaps for something else. Thank you for not only knowing what is going on, but also bringing together the elements necessary to bring the needed blessings. Encourage my friend today that every prayer is being heard, and that regardless of how bleak circumstances may look, that those very circumstances are part of Your great plan of blessing. Thank You for being more than able for my friend, today! In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

God bless you today Dan!

This was first sent as one of my “almost daily notes.” I would love to add you to the list if you are interested. Please write me to request being put on the list.

Kindness Accepted

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

“Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 2 Sam. 9:1

After subduing the land and putting into place his administration (2 Sam. 8:15-18), among the first things David did, was to seek someone of the family of Saul to show kindness to, in memory of Jonathan.

There was a candidate: Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth happened to be a son of Jonathan but he was lame in both feet—he had been dropped when family members had hastily fled the palace upon hearing that Saul and Jonathan had died (2 Sam. 4:4).

In showing kindness, David responded out of the generosity of his own heart, not on the basis of Mephibosheth’s merit!.

David restored to Mephibosheth the lands and servants that formerly belonged to Saul. He also invited him to eat at his table—which necessitated Mephibosheth living in Jerusalem with David.

Mephibosheth responded in amazement: “What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?” He had good reason to be amazed. He was from Saul’s family—didn’t David have reason to hate any family member of Saul? He had no property to offer—at least when David first called for him. And he had two lame feet—he could do nothing productive to act out his appreciation. To all appearances and in his own mind, he was nothing better than a dead dog!

I often hear from visitors to path2prayer.com and readers of the newsletter who lament their inability to serve God as they wish. They are only too aware that earthly blood flows through their veins and characters, and as hard as they try change, they find themselves doing what they don’t want to do, and not doing what they want to do (Rom. 7:19). They mourn their “lame feet” so far as changing anything goes, and see nothing worthy to approve themselves to God.

Fortunately for Mephibosheth, David’s offer was based on his generosity as I said, not Mephibosheth’s merit. All Mephibosheth could do was gratefully accept David’s offer, live in Jerusalem, and enjoy the food from David’s table.

In writing this I am reminded of Eph. 2:5-7 “Even when we were dead (slain) by our own shortcomings and trespasses, He made us alive together in fellowship and in union with Christ; (He gave us the very life of Christ Himself, the same new life with which He quickened Him, for) it is by grace (His favor and mercy which you did not deserve) that you are saved….” Amplified Version

Today, like Mephibosheth and other unworthies since—individuals like Manasseh come to mind (2 Chron. 33:10-13), we need to gratefully accept God’s generous offer, live in His presence, and daily eat from His table.

We also need to stop thinking of about our “lame feet” and all the things that have contributed to them being lame. Mephibosheth had not chosen to be dropped, but he was; we didn’t choose to be born in Adam, but we were. He could not change his circumstances of himself; neither can we. He could never adequately show his gratitude, neither can we. But he accepted the offer and made the necessary changes to receive the blessings of that offer, and so should we!

His part was to move to Jerusalem, then remain in Jerusalem and enjoy the food offered at David’s table. Which of course raises the question: Did you linger in the King’s presence and eat from his table this morning?

Finally, the next chapter tells about David wanting to show kindness to the son of the King of Ammon who had just passed away. Instead of responding positively, this boy questioned David’s motives, rejected his offer, and realized a very different outcome. More about that next time.

Father thank you that Your love and attention is not based on our good behavior or our bad behavior, but on what Jesus did for us on the cross. Thank You that out of Your love to Jesus, You want to show us kindness today. Help us to accept Your kindness, move into a closer relationship with You, and help us to enjoy the food from Your table. We need Your help with our families, some of which are not accepting Your generous offer of new life. We need Your help with our jobs, because though we may be spiritually living in Your kingdom now, we are still physically living in Satan’s earthly kingdom. Some of us need Your help with our physical health. Others need Your financial help. Whatever the case may be, thank You that Your offer to us is based on Your generosity and not on our merit, though we have to take advantage of Your offer. So bless the one reading this today, and might the time spent in Your presence and eating from Your table be sweet; and might Your presence be with him or her in all that goes on. Might Your blessings be known continually even if there are frequent reminders, so to speak, of “lame feet.” I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Have a blessed day!

So the Lord Preserved David

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

“So the Lord preserved David wherever he went.” (2 Sam. 8:6)

As a person reads through 2 Samuel there is a distinct progression that is almost always present in serious spiritual growth.

Faithfulness in daily life: David first learned to be faithful as he served his Heavenly Father in serving his human father as a shepherd. He also learned that God was faithful to him.

Call and anointing for greater work: Then He was called to an important future work and anointed for that work—though he didn’t realize what he would go through in being prepared for that future.

Enduring necessary “wilderness” learning experiences: Then the Spirit took David into his own wilderness experience as he endured the ongoing attacks of Saul. There he learned to trust God and do the right thing even though there were constant suggestions to get rid of Saul by his companions.

Early, more self-centered victories: Then Saul died and through a variety of experiences David was made King. He even won some important victories, but they were mainly self-centered defensive victories to survive and consolidate his power.

Obeying in the slightest details: In gratitude David zealously tried to bring the ark home, but his zeal was not according to knowledge (Rom. 10:2), and Uzzah died, and the ark ended up at Obed-Edom’s house. David had forgotten that what was genuine respect from the Philistines, was rebellion when he knew better—or at least could and should have known better. The ark finally made it home, though his wife Michal was not living up to the light she should have had, and begrudged him and ended up bringing a curse upon herself (2 Sam. 6:23).

Submitting cherished plans: David was grateful to God, and wanted to show his gratitude by building a house for God. God had never asked for a house, and I think appreciated what David wanted to do, but in spite of Nathan the prophet giving a quick, non-prayed over “go for it” response, David soon learned that it wasn’t God’s plan for him to build that house, no matter how sincere his motives were. Though 2 Samuel doesn’t explain why David’s magnanimous desire was refused, 2 Chronicles (22:8-10) states the prohibition came due to David being a man of war. Men of war are not the people who build great houses for God—not then, not now! Rather, his son Solomon, a man of peace, a man who was a living demonstration of God’s mercy and forgiveness, and who at least for a time wanted God’s wisdom more than anything else, was given the task. Still today, great spiritual advances are achieved through godly peacemakers, who announce and encourage peace with God and encourage peace between humans.

Grateful submissive obedience: Instead of becoming angry and building the house for God in spite of instructions otherwise, David humbly submitted and happily obeyed the ongoing leading of God.

Zealous victories according to knowledge:
Notice the phrases taken from 2 Sam. 8:1-14:
“David attacked the Philistines and subdued them.”
“Then he defeated Moab.”
“The Moabites became David’s servants, and brought tribute.”
“He defeated Hadadezer… and recovered territory….”
“He put garrisons in Demascus….”
“So the Lord preserved David wherever he went.”
“David took the shields of gold….”
“…took a large amount of bronze.”
“Toi King of Hamath…sent Joram his son to David… brought with him articles of silver, articles of gold, ….”
“David dedicated these to the Lord.”
“David made himself a name….”
“All the Edomites became David’s servants…”
“And the Lord was with David wherever he went.”

David was doing an amazing and wonderful work for God. Why? Because God was with him wherever he went! And why could God be with him wherever he went? Because he was God’s man, doing God’s work, God’s way, on the throne God had placed him on!

If you want to know the same level of blessing in your life, be faithful, accept the wilderness experiences—apparently God sees they are necessary, be zealous according to knowledge, seek to know and do God’s will, submit, and obey. Then rejoice and prepare for God to use you in a great way!

So, are you reading? Are you zealous according to knowledge? Are you trusting God in spite of attacks during wilderness experiences? Are you submitting even if fond plans are being deferred—perhaps even being given to someone else? We are all on a journey. If we trust and obey (Matt. 4:4) we shall see the unmistakable evidences of God’s blessings in our lives.

Father, give my friend a heart to know and love you today. Carefully orchestrate all the circumstances and events in his or her life, such that he or she will be perfectly prepared for whatever work you have in mind. Might there be a willingness to ask, to submit, and to obey, so that you can be present, and bless, in all that is going on. And might every blessing accruing be seen as coming from you, such that all might be dedicated to you. I ask this for Jesus’ sake, and for those you are wanting to reach through my friend today. Thank you in advance, Amen.

Learn more about how to grow spiritually at path2prayer.com. Read how God raised up godly men and women on the famous Christians page.

Hanging Out With the Enemy

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Isa. 35:3,4 “Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you.”

1 Sam. 29 finds David hanging out with the enemy Philistines, and marching to battle against the army of his own Jewish people. Immediately ahead of David was Achish, the pagan king who had taken David into his trust, and was believing that David had become his loyal subject. The Philistines were not as convinced of David’s loyalty, and insisted he return home. David loudly protested his dismissal, but I think he was also breathing a sigh of relief.

We’ve all had moments when we were hanging out with the enemy, and marching to his drumbeat more than God’s! Sometimes our plans haven’t worked out, regardless of how we justified our actions, and we’ve found ourselves mercifully dismissed. Deep down we have also been sighing in relief.

That’s where I was going to initially stop reading. Then I ventured to the first verses of 1 Sam 30 where I read of another enemy—the Amelakites—swooping in while David was away with Achish and not keeping a watch on his own family. Taking advantage of his absence, the marauders took David’s wives and children, those of his men, all of their possessions, and also burned their city. Nothing was left.

A lesser man might have thrown in the towel at that point. As it were, David and his men wept, and for good reason. It appeared they had lost everything near and dear, and there was no reason to believe anything would change—they were weeping the consequences of their behavior. I wonder if they were also weeping for their foolish absence when they were marching with the enemy—weeping for their personal responsibility in what had happened? I wonder, do we grieve more for the consequences of our waywardness, than our responsibility for that waywardness?

David more than mourned, however, the Bible says “He encouraged himself in the Lord” (1 Sam. 30:6) In spite of his personal chaos, he recognized that God had once again intervened in rescuing him, perhaps so that he could go and rescue his own family.

Have miseries come into your family due to distracting forays with the enemy? Are you too friendly with those who are opposed to God? Please don’t take my questions the wrong way, but it is possible, and important to consider. As a single parent with a less than ideal relationship with my kids, I confess it is a question I ask myself at times. I can point to many “reasons” for what is going on, but I know there is more below the surface and I seek to know God’s opinion on the question, regardless of how unsettling His response may be.

Fortunately there is hope! Like David we need to encourage ourselves in the Lord. Your life may be going to custard right now. Things may seem entirely out of control? But God is still working behind the scenes and He is working ALL things for your good (Rom. 8:28).

As we continue further through the story, we find David asking God very specific questions as to what he should do. He was having personal time with God and His Word. Fortunately he trusted God and obeyed in pursuing the captors.

So the question comes, are you spending time in God’s Word? Are you asking Him the hard questions? Are you asking in order to obey? Your families will thank you if you do.

In David’s case, the story concludes by telling how David attacked the marauders and how not even one of them survived the battle. The enemy was history. Praise God, enemies can become history when we are working according to God’s plan.

It also says David “recovered all that the Amelakites had carried away, and David recovered his two wives. And nothing of theirs was lacking, either small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything which they had taken from them. David recovered all!” (1 Sam. 30:18,19). Another huge praise God!

Let me say one more thing. Looking back I am convinced that the only safe way to go through life is to go forward in the center of ALL of God’s will. Jesus said under similar distressing conditions, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Living by less than “every” word was the great temptation then; it is still the great temptation in our day.

Father, again I come from Your word in awe that you don’t give up on wayward children. If you didn’t lose hope for David and walk away from his circumstances, than there is surely hope for those reading this and for me. Help us to take a hard look at our lives, to assess in what ways, and to what degree, we may be walking with the enemy. Help us to be sincere and open to your answer. Help us then to take decided steps back to you, and help us to do so today. Thank you that the same victory over the enemy won in David’s day can be won in our day. Thank you that the losses can be recovered somehow as well. I ask this in Jesus’ name, with much gratitude in advance, Amen.

Dan

My Prison Hath Neither Lock Nor Door

Monday, February 8th, 2010

“Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.” Hosea 7:8

In the past centuries God often used letters to bring great blessings to His children. Among famous letter writers were John Newton, Fenelon, Gerhard Tersteegen and Samuel Rutherford.

The following comes from a letter by Samuel Rutherford who was a non-conformist Scottish Puritan, who was banished from Edinburgh for refusing to comply with the dictates of the ruling prelates, and forced to live in Aberdeen where he was not allowed to preach. The banishment was not welcomed and hard to endure, but in his difficulties he discovered an understanding of God and His ways that would not have been possible in any other context. In this letter he extolls God’s gracious care and blessing in his “confinement,” concluding that his prison had “neither lock nor door.” This was obviously true since he was free to move about, but he was speaking to the greater reality of God not only bringing blessings no matter what was going on, but also God bringing special blessings. Eventually Rutherford was condemned to death for his non-conformist views, but he was spared the execution, for he died of illness before it was carried out. However, he was looking forward to dying for Jesus. I think we need to adopt Rutherford’s attitude towards our trials and begin viewing them through the lens of God’s love and perfect keeping, for our situations have “neither lock nor door” in our day.

Rutherford’s letter…

Dear Brother:

I never believed, till now, that there was so much to be found in Christ on this side of death and of heaven. Oh, the ravishments of heavenly joy that may be had here, in the small gleanings of comforts that fall from Christ! “What fools are we who know not, and consider not the weight and the telling that is in the very earnest-penny, and the first fruits of our hoped-for harvest! How sweet, how sweet is our infeftment (old Scottish word referring to taking possession of property, in this case of the blessings found in Christ)! Oh, what then must personal possession be!

I find that my Lord Jesus hath not miscooked or spilled this sweet cross; He hath an eye on the fire and the melting gold, to separate the metal and the dross. Oh how much time would it take me to read my obligations to Jesus my Lord, who will neither have the faith of His own to be burnt to ashes, nor yet will have a poor believer in the fire to be half raw, like Ephraim’s unturned cake! This is the wisdom of Him who hath His fire in Zion, and furnace in Jerusalem. I need not either bud or flatter temptations and crosses, nor strive to buy the devil or this malicious world by, or redeem their kindness with half a hairbreadth of truth. He who is surety for His servant for good doth powerfully overrule all that. I see my prison hath neither lock nor door: I am free in my bonds, and my chains are made of rotten straw; they shall not bide one pull of faith…. Therefore we wrong Christ who sigh, and fear, and doubt, and despond in them. Our sufferings are washed in Christ’s blood, as well as our souls; for Christ’s merits brought a blessing to the crosses of the sons of God. And Jesus hath a back-bond of all our temptations, that the free-warders shall come out by law and justice, in respect of the infinite and great sum that the Redeemer paid….

I bless the Lord, that all our troubles come through Christ’s fingers, and that He casteth sugar among them, and casteth in some ounce-weights of heaven, and of the Spirit of glory that resteth on suffering believers, into our cup, in which there is no taste of hell.

My dear brother, ye know all these better than I. I send water to the sea, to speak of these things to you; but it easeth me to desire you to help me to pay my tribute of praise to Jesus. Oh what praises I owe Him! I would I were in my free heritage, that I might begin to pay my debts to Jesus. I entreat for your prayers and praises. I forget not you.

Your brother and fellow-sufferer in and for Christ,
Samuel Rutherford,
Aberdeen, Sept. 17, 1637

Read the rest of Rutherford’s letter and more articles on how to endure trials at path2prayer.com.

Overcoming Discouragement

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

Discouragement is a problem that needles many people. Every day one either personally struggles with discouragement or encounters someone who is struggling with discouragement

Is this what God had in mind when he said “Fear not, neither be discouraged (Deut 1:21)”; or “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33)”?

I doubt it. The Bible is full of promises and admonitions that speak otherwise

In the Old Testament God was continually trying to encourage His people:

When Joshua was being commissioned to lead the Hebrew armies, God said, “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:9).

Later, after an ignominious defeat had been incurred, when there would have been reason to be discouraged, God said to Joshua, “Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land” ( Joshua 8:1).

David waxed eloquent regarding His God: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident (Ps. 27:1-3). God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1).

In the book of Isaiah there are continual encouragements to look away from the problems of daily life: “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation” (Isa 12:2). “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isa. 41:10). “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isa. 43:1,2)

Jeremiah had the same confidence: “But fear not thou, O my servant Jacob, and be not dismayed, O Israel: for, behold, I will save thee from afar off, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and be in rest and at ease, and none shall make him afraid” (Jer. 46:27).

When Paul was bound in the castle against his will, God stood by him saying, “Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome. (Acts 23:11)” He didn’t have lots of reasons to be encouraged but God was encouraging him just the same. When death seemed imminent, Paul encouraged the people saying, “Be of good cheer, for there shall not be the loss of any man’s life (Acts 27:22). Paul had been encouraged, and now he was encouraging others. Later he asserted: “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6).

Writing on discouragement in her book, Living in the Sunshine, Hannah Whitall Smith suggests that discouragement is really faith in evil, and speaking against God. The causes she lists are many, and include our inadequacies, difficulties that seem insurmountable, an illegitimate fear of people and mistakes we have made in the past, for all of which she cites many Bible examples of people who did not allow these kinds of dispiriting elements get them down. Moses was warned against feeling inadequate; Joshua was encouraged when facing the task of overcoming the imposing walls of Jericho; Paul was to face Roman inquisitors; Jeremiah was told not to be afraid of the people’s faces; and David certainly had plenty to mourn when considering his past, but it did not stop him from praising God. All of these people were told to be of good cheer!

She also points to two outcomes of discouragement: it leads to complaining and murmuring against God, and it is highly contagious. I fear I have been guilty of the first at times, and certainly acknowledge that I have encouraged people to do likewise.

How can we overcome discouragement? She rightly points out that it is awfully hard to talk oneself out of discouragement. The best thing is to trust God and believe His promises, and then turn from the discouragement. Regarding the latter, I don’t know of anything better than cultivating a grateful attitude and choosing to say “yes” and “thank you” for whatever is going on in my life. I would also add, doing something good for another person.

A final precious thought coming from her chapter on discouragement is the thought that mistakes are not to drive us FROM God, but TO God. She reminds that the condition of a soiled table cloth doesn’t lead to it being thrown out, but to it being cleaned; and the joy and confidence a housewife could have if she knew there was a highly skilled laundress caring for her tablecloth. We of course know the one who is able to clean better than any other person, and we can have conplete confidence in Him.

Finally, Satan specializes in discouragement, for he knows that discouragement causes us to look at our circumstances and our inadequacies more than at God, and so long as that goes on he has the upper hand.

You may want to read all of Hannah Whitall Smith’s chapter on discouragement at path2prayer.com. You will many helpful articles on discouragement at path2prayer’s Practical Christianity section. Also, I send out a newsletter from time to time with encouraging thoughts on how to walk with Jesus, pray, and know success as a Christian. Email me at path2prayer@gmail.com to be on the mailing list.

The Terminal “Self-Life” Disease

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Gal. 6:14 “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

1 Cor. 9:27 “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

The following sobering words are worth pondering!

“Satan has no great controversy, no real quarrel with those who are content to go along professing to be Christ’s, while ‘self’ in one form another sits, so to speak, upon the throne. So long as the ‘old life’ is not displaced, so long as the cross is simply looked upon as a distant symbol, so long as no inner crucifixion takes place releasing the spiritual faculties and entailing a vital union with Christ in the power of His ascension-life, the Enemy is not greatly alarmed.”

“The ‘self-life’ and the Satanic spirit are in unconscious affinity. However polished the former—it may shine with the culture of the ages and bear the religious glow of the best in natural religions—-it is still ‘self,’ it is still ‘flesh-life.’ It has the curse of God upon it. It has the smell of infernal associations about it. It stinks. ‘The carnal mind is enmity with God’ (Rom.8). It hates Him while it pretends to love Him. Where ‘self-life’ dominates, be the religous professions what they may, Satan finds plenty of ground on which to work.”

“If the ‘self-life’ is supreme, Satan does not have to be invited in. The lines are already set for the ‘electric’ current to flow. Satan is master of ceremonies, though he be apparently non-existent.” F. J. Huegel, Bone of His Bone, pp. 76,77,80.

Learn more about dethroning self at this link: Overcoming Self

Learn more about about the overcoming life at path2prayer.com

All Things Work For Our Good!

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

I found the following wonderful thoughts of Daniel Rowlands recently. Apparently there is even more to rejoice about than we realized! Read and be blessed!

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

“Observe what he says. Make thou no exception, when he makes none. All! Remember he excepts nothing. Be thou confirmed in thy faith; give glory to God, and resolve, with Job, ‘though he slay me, yet will I trust him.’ The Almighty may seem for a season to be your enemy, in order that he may become your eternal friend. Oh; believers, after all your tribulation and anguish, you must conclude with David, ‘It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes.’ Under all your disquietudes you must exclaim, ‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!’ His glory is seen when he works by means; it is more seen when he works without means; it is seen, above all, when he works contrary to means. It was a great work to open the eyes of the blind; it was a greater still to do it by applying clay and spittle, things more likely, some think, to take away sight than to restore. He sent a horror of great darkness on Abraham, when he was preparing to give him the best light. He touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh and lamed him, when he was going to bless him. He smote Paul with blindness when he was intending to open the eyes of his mind. He refused the request of the woman of Canaan for a while, but afterwards she obtained her desire. See, therefore, that all the paths of the Lord are mercy; and that all things work together for good to them that love him.

You can read more from the same sermon at path2prayer.com in the practical Christianity section.

Here are more encouraging readings on the subjects of trial and difficulty.

Weak Faith

Monday, July 28th, 2008

I was blessed recently in coming across this quotation of Henry Venn. I suspect many of us need to be reminded that a weak faith is still an effectual faith, for it is based on Jesus. Read, rejoice, and share!

“Weak faith seeks salvation only in Christ, and yields subjection to him, and brings the soul to His feet, though without assurance, of being as yet saved by him. There is not one duty a weak believer slights. Weak faith is attended with sorrow and humiliation; as in his case he said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.’ It produces new desires and affections, new principles and purposes, and a new practice, though not in such strength and vigor as is found in old established believers. Ask the weakest and most disconsolate believer, whether he would forsake and give up his hope in Christ; and he will eagerly reply, ‘Not for the whole world!’ There is, therefore, no reason why weak believers should conclude against themselves; for weak faith unites as really with Christ as strong faith, just as the least bud in the vine draws sap and life from the root no less than the strongest branch. Weak believers, therefore, have abundant cause to be thankful; and while they reach after growth in grace, ought not to overlook what they have already received.” Henry Venn, Letter, 1784.

To learn more about having a strong faith, search out the many resources on living more abundantly in Jesus at path2prayer.com. You will be encouraged reading about Christian assurance in Ryle’s chapter on the same subject from his book Holiness.

Bring God What You Can!

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

“He hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Ephesians 1:6

I’ve been carefully reading True Christianity by Johann Arndt and came across the following quotation this evening. It reminded me of the times I have struggled to have meaningful devotional moments with the Lord. I know I’m not the only one and accordingly wanted to share it.

“If you cannot bring to your beloved God many and great offerings such as meditation, prayer, and thanksgiving, bring to him what you have and can, and with these, a good will and holy desires; and hope that you might please him in your worship.

“To have such a holy desire, indeed, to wish to have one, is not a small gift or sacrifice. It too pleases God. … God does not demand more from you than his grace works in you and you cannot give him more than he has given you. Pray to your Lord Jesus Christ that he make your sacrifice and gifts perfect with his perfect sacrifice, for your perfection is in him; in us, it is in part.

“Speak as follows: Dear God and Father, take my meditation, faith, prayer, and thanksgiving in your dear Son, and do not look on it as it is in itself but [as it is] in Christ; thus, it will give you pleasure as a perfect work; my Lord Jesus will make that perfect which is lacking in me.

“Thus, your meditation, prayer, and thanksgiving succeeds and even if it is in itself weak and dark, and has its shortcomings, it is a great perfection, a great light and glory from the merit of Christ. …

“Your old acts are in themselves nothing, but if they are adorned with Christ’s perfection, all your works truly please God. Apples that are brought in in golden trays are seen as particularly valuable. Apples in themselves are not considered so great, but they are more lovely if they are brought in in golden rays. So it is with our prayer, meditation and thanksgiving in Christ.”

Arndt wrote his book in the Spring of 1606 and helped initiate the “Pietist” movement so that positively impacted the nascent Lutheran Church, bringing about a new interest in a religion of the heart, and spawning later Pietist revivals through the efforts of Philip Spener, August Francke and Nicholas Zinzendorf. In fact, Zinzendorf was raised reading True Christianity by his godly grandmother.

Are you struggling to connect with God? I hope you will take Arndt’s words to heart, and “bring to God what you have and can…” I hope you will also believe that God will accept your effort, remembering that God doesn’t demand what his grace hasn’t worked in!

Father, I don’t know who is reading these words, but if they are anything like me, I know they’ve had their moments of struggling in their devotional time with you, when the things they read seem to fall short and the prayers offered don’t seem to ascend any further than the sky. I pray that you will take these words and set them as seals upon their hearts, so that when the enemy of souls comes along and suggests they are unworthy and not good enough, and that their time in prayer and meditation is falling short, they can know that in Jesus, they are not only accepted, but perfectly accepted in the beloved. And Father, please work in as much grace as you possibly can, so that they might bring great glory and honor to you. Thank you in advance, Father, for being perfectly capable and perfectly willing to perform what I am asking. And while you are at it, please send the Spirit with power into their lives. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen!

Learn more about how to have a meaningful devotional life at path2prayer.com