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Posts tagged ‘God’s will’

ABSOLUTE SURRENDER

(Adapted from The Seeking Heart by Fenelon, p. 175-176)

Inward peace comes with absolute surrender to the will of God.  Learn to accept counsel with humility and straightforwardness.  This will help you grow closer to God.

The reason you feel so agitated is that you do not accept everything that happens to you with complete trust in God.  Put everything in His hand, and offer yourself to Him as a sacrifice.  The moment you stop wanting things to be your way, you will be free from so much worry and concern.  You won’t have to hide anything or make up excuses for anything.

Until you reach this point of surrender, your life will be full of trouble and aggravation.  So give your heart wholly to God and you will find peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

PRAYER OF SURRENDER

My God, I want to give myself to you.  Give me the courage to do this.  My spirit within me sighs after you.  Strengthen my will.  Take me.  If I don’t have the strength to give You everything, then draw me by the sweetness of Your love.  Lord, who do I belong to, if not to You?  What a horror to belong to myself and to my passions!  Help me to find all my happiness in You, for there is no happiness outside of You.

Why am I afraid to break out of my chains?  Do the things of this world mean more to me than You?  Am I afraid to give myself to You?  What a mistake!  It is not even I who would give myself to You, but You who would give Yourself to me.  Take my heart.

What joy it is to be with You, to be quiet so that I might hear Your voice!  Feed me and teach me out of Your depths.  Oh God, You only make me love You.  Why should I fear to give You everything and draw close to You?  To be left to the world is more frightening than this!  Your mercy can overcome any obstacle.  I am unworthy of You, but I can become a miracle of Your grace.

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NOTE: François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon, more commonly known as François Fénelon (6 August 1651 – 7 January 1715), was a French Roman Catholic archbishop, theologian, poet and writer.

DECISION MAKING AND THE WILL OF GOD (Adapted from the book by Garry Friesen)

The expression “will of God” is used in the Bible in two ways. God’s sovereign will is His secret plan to determine everything that happens in the universe. God’s moral will consists of the revealed commands in the Bible that teach how we ought to believe and live.

The Nature of God’s Moral Will

  1. It is the expression, in behavioral terms, of God’s character.
  2. It touches every aspect and moment of life: goals, attitudes, and means (why, how, and what).
  3. It is fully revealed in the Bible.
  4. It is able to equip believers for every good work.

For God’s children, all things within the moral will of God are lawful, clean, and pure. In decisions that are made within that moral will, the Christian should not feel guilty about his choice; neither should he fear that his decision is unacceptable to God. God has made it clear what He wants: His plan for His children is for them to enjoy the freedom that He has granted.

What One Must Do To Acquire Wisdom
Have the right Attitude

  1. Reverence
  2. Humility
  3. Teachableness
  4. Diligence
  5. Uprightness
  6. Faith

Take The Right Approach

  1. Ask God for Wisdom
  2. Seek Wisdom in the pages of Scripture
  3. Seek Wisdom through personal research
  4. Seek Wisdom through wise counselors
  5. Seek Wisdom from life itself

To sum up: The ultimate Source of the wisdom that is needed in decision-making is God. Accordingly, we are to ask Him to provide what we lack. God mediates His wisdom to us through His Word, our personal research, wise counselors, and the applied lessons of life. Regarding counselors, one should seek two kinds: Of those who possess deep spiritual insight, the question should be asked: “Are you aware of any biblical principles that touch upon my decision?” To those who have gone through relevant personal experiences, the question should be: “When you went through a similar experience, did you gain any insights that would be of value to me?”

Principles of Decision Making – The Way of Wisdom

  1. In those areas specifically addressed by the Bible, the revealed commands and principles of God (His moral will) are to be obeyed.
  2. In those areas where the Bible gives no command or principle (non-moral decisions), the believer is free and responsible to choose his own course of action. Any decision made within the moral will of God is acceptable to God.
  3. In non-moral decisions, the objective of the Christian is to make wise decisions on the basis of spiritual expediency. Spiritual expediency, put simply, means what works best to get the job done within God’s moral will. Wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.
  4. In all decisions, the believer should humbly submit, in advance, to the outworking of God’s sovereign will as it touches each decision.

God’s Sovereign Will and Decision Making

  1. God’s sovereignty does not exclude the need for planning; it does require humble submission to His will.
  2. Circumstances define the context of the decision and must be weighed by wisdom — not “read” as road signs to God’s individual (as opposed to His moral) will. Such events are determined by God, to be sure, but they are not to be viewed as “signs” to be read. Circumstances must be evaluated, not to determine some clue from God, but to help decide the advisability of a given course of action. Circumstances indicate many of the pros and cons, but they carry no “yes” or “no” tags.
  3. Open doors are God-given opportunities for service — not specific guidance from God requiring one to enter. Opportunities, like everything else, come through God’s sovereignty. The nature of such opportunities indicates that most of the time “open doors” should be utilized as part of wise, resourceful living for the Lord. If a greater opportunity or more pressing work is at hand, it is acceptable and proper to pass by the open door. An “open door” is not a direct providential sign from God telling the believer to go in a certain direction. A door is used, not because it is a sign, but because doors facilitate entrance. Considering the concept of “closed doors,” if one were sovereignly prevented from pursuing a plan, and yet the plan itself was sound, one simply might wait and try again later. In this view, a blocked endeavor (i.e., closed door) is not necessarily a sign from God that a plan was faulty. One might accept the fact that he could not pursue it at this time and continue to desire, pray, and plan for the eventual accomplishment of the goal.
  4. “Putting out a fleece” is an invalid practice that sometimes works when it is really wisdom in disguise.

Applicational Solutions of the Wisdom View

  1. Ordinary Decisions: One should exercise good judgment and not waste time.
  2. Equal Decisions: One should thank God for the opportunity to select from acceptable alternatives, and choose one’s personal preference.
  3. Immaturity: One should apply maturity by gathering and evaluating data, devoting sufficient time to the process, giving personal desires their proper place, and basing the decision on sound reasons.
  4. Subjectivity: Since God’s moral will has been completely revealed and the means of acquiring wisdom has been explained, the knowledge required for decision making is fully attainable.

The believer already has at his disposal everything that God is going to tell him about his decisions.

The moral will of God is objective, complete, and adequate. God’s Word does not tell one what to decide in every situation; it teaches how to come to a decision that is acceptable to God. It is from Scripture that we learn the necessity of determining those choices that are both moral and wise.

It is the Bible that tells us to acquire wisdom and apply it to our decisions. It is the Bible that tells us where wisdom is to be found. It is the Bible that tells us of God’s involvement in giving us wisdom. It is the Bible that established the objective standard by which we may define and recognize what is moral and wise. It is assumed in Scripture that knowledge of God’s moral will and the necessary wisdom for good decision-making are attainable.

The Bible indicates that one’s depth of wisdom and knowledge of God’s moral will certainly will increase progressively over a period of time. The believer is expected to study the Word sufficiently to become personally convinced of its meaning. As he grows in spiritual insight and understanding of God’s Word, his convictions will be appropriately revised, his judgment will mature, and his decisions will reflect greater wisdom. But at any given point, the believer can acquire a sufficient knowledge of God’s moral will and an adequate level of wisdom to make a decision that meets God’s approval.

Wisdom Signs Pointing to God’s Moral Will and Wisdom

  1. Bible
  2. Inner Impressions
  3. Personal Desires
  4. Special Guidance
  5. Circumstances
  6. Mature Counsel
  7. Common Sense
  8. Results

Impressions can come from a multitude of sources. They must be judged by the moral will of God and by wisdom. On the basis of that evaluation, the believer determines his response to the impression. Those impressions that conform to God’s moral will and to wisdom may be followed.

The presence of peace or the lack of it may or may not mean a decision is the best. The lack of peace may indicate immaturity, fear of one’s inability to keep a potential commitment, concern about the wisdom of a course of action, or uncertainty about one’s judgment in the decision at hand. The way of wisdom judges the emotional makeup and momentary emotional state of the believer himself as one of the valid circumstances in the situation. That “concerned feeling” should be judged by wisdom. One’s emotional makeup should be judged by wisdom. In the final analysis, every good thing comes from God. So any thought, impression, or feeling that is both moral and wise has its ultimate origin in Him.

According to the Bible, God is involved in our decision making at several levels.

First, He has provided the resources for making decisions that are acceptable to Him. He has revealed His moral will in its totality. He has instructed us in His Word to seek wisdom for making decisions, and has informed us how to do it.

Further, He has given us a new nature which makes obedience of His moral will possible. As a loving Father, He has equipped us with everything we need to make decisions that are pleasing to Him. As we work through the process of arriving at a decision, God is continually present and working within us. The words of Paul remind us that “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). Specifically, His grace enables us to trust in Him (Acts 18:27). He gives the believer the desire to obey His will. By His Spirit, He provides the enablement to keep His commandments.

Furthermore, it is God who sovereignly opens doors of opportunity for us. When we ask for wisdom, He gives it through the channels He has established for our benefit. He also answers the related prayers we offer concerning our decisions. And He brings to successful completion those of our plans that are within His sovereign will. Along the way, He utilizes the circumstances and the very process of decision- making to change our character and bring us to maturity.

Finally, He works through our decisions to accomplish His purposes – not only in us, but through us. We can trust that if anything more is needed for guidance – such as an audible voice, an angelic messenger, or some other form of supernatural revelation – He will supply it just as He has when it was necessary in times past.

Decision Making and the Will of God

Do You Avoid God’s Will Because It Hurts?

SOURCE:  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network

I was recently in a situation in which a close friend revealed some information that was quite surprising.

After absorbing the information and then prayerful consideration, I knew what God wanted me to do. Discussing with my friend what God laid on my heart was going to be uncomfortable for me. And I knew it would be even more uncomfortable for my friend to hear. Actually, I was concerned that sharing what God put on my heart might actually end this important friendship. I could have avoided the conversation and saved myself some pain (seemingly), but that would have been ignoring and dishonoring God.

Well I said it. I told him my views on his situation and advised what I would recommend as next steps. This is what he asked of me. We processed it and he agreed with my view. After consideration, he disagreed with my recommendation of next steps to apply that principle to end some of his sinful behavior, but we remained friends.

I know you’ve been in a situation, too, when it was necessary to confront a loved one with the truth you knew he wouldn’t like. How did you feel?

Incidents like this in the past really pushed me to examine myself, and I had to admit that at times, I actually feared the will of God.

That is, I actually feared doing what God told me to do because I was afraid of the material sacrifices or human relationship disruptions that might occur if I do the right thing. I have a fear that totally aligning my life with the will of God will actually cause me pain. So unfortunately, I would do what I want, avoid what God wants, and seemingly minimize my immediate discomfort. Then I realized my mistake. My fear was an emotional response.

Emotions are a great warning system of potential trouble or danger. But God never intended that we make decisions based on our emotions. Basing my decisions on His will, not my need to be comfortable, is the only way to be spiritually at peace. Then I will also have the fruit of the Spirit, psychological growth and peace, and brain chemistry renewing as bonuses.

One of Satan’s greatest lies is getting us to believe God’s way is costly … that Satan’s way (or our fleshly way) is on-sale, cheaper, better and less costly. Satan’s ways will always result in immediate spiritual, psychological, and physiological (actual brain) damage. The enemy’s solutions also cause long-term damage in the 3 spheres of spirit, mind, and body. They aren’t cheaper at all. That is just a sales gimmick. Satan’s answers are way more costly. How sad that we don’t see the cost even though the fruit of the flesh is clearly described to us.

The Word of God continually calls us to transcend living … to go beyond what is natural and to do what is supernatural. God’s will is so much deeper than our own understanding. And though His will may entail sacrifice and pain, it’s important to remember that His will not only does what is good for Him … it does what is best for us. Following God’s will always accomplishes what is best for you and those around you. The best part: it is way cheaper than Satan’s heavily advertised false imitations that masquerade as solutions.

Today, practice submission to authority. Stop at every stop sign, don’t go over the speed limit, pass up that cookie or extra serving, go to bed at the right time, don’t look at that cleavage, hold your tongue, serve your spouse, and you can think of others. Write a thank you letter to the King of the Universe who is giving you and your life special attention, guidance, and instruction.

Take a deep breath and dive into the depths of absolute trust in Him. Do the right thing regardless of how uncomfortable it makes you or how the other person might feel. Live by faith … not by sight.

The agenda, God’s will or your fleshly needs, that drives you is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father, I confess that while I pray for Your Will to be done, I am often afraid of the discomfort this will actually cause. I know that at times Your Will includes pain. When I am hurting physically, emotionally, or spiritually … I search for ways to relieve or escape my pain. The escape becomes my focus as I obsess about how I will solve my problems. I pray to You, Father, to help me really believe that Your way is perfect. Help me to rely on your peace and comfort. I pray in the name of the One who always followed Your will, Jesus Christ; – AMEN!

The Truth
As for God, his way is perfect … He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him.

2 Samuel 22:31

We live by faith, not by sight

2 Corinthians 5:7

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:19-23

Teaching Kids About Sexual Purity

“How Far Is Too Far?” Is the Wrong Question

Four convictions parents must develop as they teach their kids about sexual purity.

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by  Dennis and Barbara Rainey

Centuries ago, a popular queen was interviewing applicants to serve on a six-man team to transport her on a portable throne on long journeys. As she interviewed each man the queen asked, “If you were bearing me along a mountain path, how close would you go to the edge of a cliff with me seated on my throne?” 

Some men answered, “Your Royal Highness, I am so strong I could go within a foot of the edge of the cliff.” 

Others boasted, “Not only do I have superior strength, but I also have almost perfect balance. I could go within six inches of the edge.” 

But others answered, “Your Highness, I would go nowhere near the edge of a cliff. Why would I want to endanger your valuable life by leading you close to danger?” 

Guess who earned the job? The wise queen chose men who would keep her far away from the edge of disaster.

We parents should heed that story as we guide our children through the adolescent years. Will we allow our children to walk near the edge of the cliff as they pursue relationships with the opposite sex? Or will we guide them so far away from the edge that we help protect them from potential disaster?

Our friend and coworker Josh McDowell makes the point well: “I would rather build a rail at the top of a mountain than have an ambulance service at the bottom of the valley.” The choice between sexual purity and sexual experimentation is an important battleground for the souls of Christian youth today. This deadly trap snares millions of teens, scars their lives, and leads them away from a vital relationship with Christ.

What do you believe?

The first step to protecting your child in this area is to determine what you believe. Most of us grew up in a permissive culture strongly influenced by the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s. The goal of that movement was to challenge moral standards and boundaries. Guilt and shame were to be thrown off as repressive, and the experience of unfettered pleasure became the god of our culture.

To determine your own convictions in this area of sex is a formidable task. We would advise a lot of thinking and communicating as a couple, but above all, that you do a lot of praying and reading of the Scripture.

The first step to take in determining your convictions is to make an honest appraisal of your own history (including your mistakes and regrets) and learn how this has affected your views. Is guilt about your own compromises (past or perhaps present) keeping you from developing conclusions about right and wrong in this area? Are you afraid your child will ask about your own sexual experiences prior to marriage? Are you afraid of looking like a hypocrite if you challenge your child to uphold standards that you did not keep?

Past failures must not prevent us from calling our child to the standard of God’s Word. We’ve all lied, yet we still teach our children to tell the truth. We have all stolen something, but that doesn’t stop us from teaching that stealing is wrong. We believe the ultimate enemy of our souls is behind this conspiracy of silence in our homes.

Once you have evaluated how you have been influenced in this area, it’s time to develop a strong set of convictions as a foundation for teaching your children about sex. Here are four convictions we believe all parents should uphold:

Parent’s Conviction #1: Our children need to learn a godly perspective about sex primarily from us.

Where is the best place for your child to truly hear a godly perspective of sex? It had better be at home. Why would we want our children to learn about this sacred aspect of marital love from anyone else?

Talking about sex may be the single most powerful way parents have of entering into the lives of their children. It also can be the most difficult. Talking about reproduction and the most intimate nature of what it means to be a man and a woman is not like discussing tomorrow’s math test or last night’s ball game. When you dare to broach the subject with your child, you communicate, “You are important enough to me that I will risk talking about this uncomfortable topic.”

And because you’ve had this conversation, your child may feel it’s safe to talk about other intimate issues with you. It has to be a relief for your child to be able to discuss this part of his life with someone he can trust, namely his parents.

Even if your child does not want to talk about sex, press through your fears, inhibitions, memories, and embarrassment. A few minutes of blushing, stammering, and clammy hands will deepen your relationship and could literally save your child’s life.

If you have been faithful in appropriately teaching your son or daughter from an early age about sex, you will be tempted to relax when your child hits preadolescence. But teenagers need moms and dads who stay involved in their lives all the way through their teen years by breaking the silence and discussing matters of human sexuality and sexual response.

King Solomon had these talks with his son. Huge chunks of the book of Proverbs are dedicated to gritty talks about the snare of sex. For example, read Proverbs 5–7, where the king implores his son to be wise about a seductive young lady.

Men in particular may back off from talking about sex with their teenagers because they just don’t know what to say. Or maybe they haven’t done a good job in other areas of parenting and they feel defeated. Regardless, dads need to pursue their children.

Parent’s Conviction #2: Sex education consists of more than an explanation of human reproduction. 

Of course, your children need to know the biological basics. If you’ve never had a good, explicit discussion of human reproduction with your child, do it now.

But even if you’ve done a great job of instructing your children about the biological facts of sex, you need to finish the process with moral training. Of all the discussions we’ve had in our family about sex, probably 95 percent of them have concerned character issues. We’ve had discussions about God’s purposes for sex, the importance of sex and marriage, why you should wait for marriage before you have sex, how to avoid situations in which you are tempted, how different types of media shape our thoughts in this area, the types of movies to see and avoid and why, how to respond when someone challenges your convictions, and many other topics.

We’ve found that the issues surrounding human sexuality, such as self-control and obedience to God, are the foundational character qualities every parent wants to build into his teenager.

Parent’s Conviction #3: We must teach and model true biblical standards of purity and innocence.

If you were asked “What are you teaching your child about sex and morality?” my guess is that you might say something like, “We are teaching him that he should wait until he is married to begin having sex.”

Okay, what does that mean?  How will your teenager interpret and apply the exhortation to “Wait until marriage before having sex?”

In this culture, challenging your child to remain a virgin until marriage is not enough. Nor is virginity the ultimate biblical goal. The problem is that too many Christian teenagers are engaging in sexual activities reserved for marriage, yet are maintaining technical virginity.

This point was underscored during a television news report on churches that are teaching abstinence to their teens. One teenage girl who was interviewed was adamant about maintaining her virginity until she was married. Yet in the next breath she mentioned that heavy kissing and petting were okay as long as she didn’t engage in sexual intercourse!

Kids today are going to push the boundaries—they’ll ask “How far is too far?” when it comes to sex.  But Scripture does not command us to preserve a technical virginity. The Bible presents a number of pointed principles to ensure that our relationships with the opposite sex are appropriate and rewarding. The key words underlying all of them are purity and holiness. Here are several basic passages:

  • “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.…For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, 7).
  • “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
  • “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

Ask yourself a couple of questions (these helped us clarify our convictions): Just how much of sex do you want your child to experience before his marriage bed? How much of sex do you think God wants your child to participate in outside of marriage?

We must set our sights high and challenge our children to the highest standard—God’s standard. As parents, don’t we want them to arrive at marriage innocent of evil, pure in their sexuality, and with a healthy view of marriage—not encumbered by a lot of emotional baggage from sexual mistakes during the teenage years?

No matter what you teach your child, your model of purity will go farthest in protecting your child. He needs to see a commitment to purity in your life.

If there is anything that can disqualify a parent from being able to talk to a son or daughter about sex, it is being presently involved in sexual sin, sexual addiction, an affair, or an affair of the heart.

Parent’s Conviction #4: We need to create a home environment that provides love, security, and physical affection for our children.

The teenage years are filled with self-doubt. This is your chance to teach your child that how he feels about himself is not based on his relationships with the opposite sex; it is based on a growing relationship with God.

Your home needs to be your child’s emotional watering hole. An oasis where he learns about trusting Christ. A place of refreshment for his soul, where he goes for love and affection (even when he doesn’t seem to want it from you).

As a child grows up and develops physically into a young woman or man, a concern may grow in the parent about how much physical affection should be given if the child is of the opposite sex. The tendency is to think he is grown and doesn’t need the affection. Don’t stop lavishing your child with physical affection; he needs those hugs and kisses more than ever! A mom hugging her son and a dad hugging his daughter will send the message to both—you are a young man or a young woman who is worthy of attention and affection from someone of the opposite sex.

The years between 10 and 12 are a crucial time to teach your child about purity.  By the time he reaches age 10, he should already have learned from you about the basics of sex, along with lessons on modest dress, manners, language, and the need to keep his mind away from sexual content on television or the internet.  Now, in the last year or two before he reaches puberty, you have a great opportunity to prepare him for what is coming up.

The Wisdom of God in Affliction

Source:  Thomas Watson as posted by Deejay O’Flaherty

The wisdom of God is seen in making the most desperate evils turn to the good of his children.

As several poisonous ingredients, wisely tempered by the skill of the artist, make a sovereign medicine, so God makes the most deadly afflictions co-operate for the good of his children.  He purifies them, and prepares them for heaven. 2 Cor 4:17.

These hard frosts hasten the spring flowers of glory.  The wise God, by a divine chemistry, turns afflictions into cordials.  He makes his people gainers by losses, and turns their crosses into blessings.

 
–Thomas Watson–Body of divinity pages 74-75 Banner of Truth edition

[Thomas Watson – (c. 1620—1686) was an English, Puritan preacher and author.]

Why does God allow me to experience difficulties?

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries

God’s Purpose in the Storm

Believers have a choice about how they will respond to life’s “storms.” Either they can cast blame while becoming resentful and bitter, or they can turn to the Lord and ask, “What is Your purpose?”

Since recognizing God’s purpose and plan is the way that faith grows, Christians have the right to ask “why?” Like a child learning new concepts, we see that when x happens, God does y, just as He promised. If we could choose the number of difficulties we want to face in a month, most of us would pick zero. Yet, God sees value in difficult times.

For instance, in the Old Testament, King David made destructively wrong choices for which God allowed cleansing storms into his life. The leader of the nation had wandered off the right path, but painful experiences drove him back to the center of the Lord’s will. We might consider the divine method cruel, but David would disagree. He wrote, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep Your word. . . . It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Ps. 119:67, 71).

When a storm rages into our life, the Lord is already planning how to turn destruction into good. Just like David, we need to seek His objective and learn to work with Him to achieve it. We must believe that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Rom. 8:28). The promise of that verse is that we will reap blessings from our losses. Through the Lord’s mighty power, He uses trials to accomplish His plans–to grow us from children into mature disciples of Jesus Christ.

1. One purpose God has for us is a growing intimacy in our relationship with Him. But He knows we struggle to put Him first over our interests. Many of us place higher priority on family and friends than on companionship with God. For others, finances, work, or even personal pleasures interfere. When the Lord sees that our attention is drifting away from Him, He might use hardships to draw us back so we’ll refocus.

2. Another reason God allows difficulties is to conform us to the image of Jesus. Pain is a tool that brings areas of ungodliness to the surface. God also uses it to sift, shape, and prune us. The sanctification process, the building of Christlike character into our lives, starts at salvation and ends with our last breath.

3. A third purpose for stressful circumstances is to reveal true convictions. Our faith is tested in tough times. It’s easy to say, “God is good,” when life is peaceful. But when everything goes wrong, what do we believe about Him? Do our words and actions reveal an attitude of trust?

King David endured much heartache: a disintegrating family, personal attacks, and betrayal by close friends. But through his trials, he gained deeper intimacy with God, stronger faith, and more godly character. Won’t you let God accomplish His purposes in your present situation?

Returning believers to right fellowship is only one of God’s purposes for a season of trials. Some difficulties are meant to blow away all distractions so we can focus our attention on the Lord. Other “storms” break our worldly mold so that we can be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Our personal pleasure is not the top priority. God’s primary concern is to shape a wise and obedient follower who loves Him.

“Unanswered” Prayer From A God Who ALWAYS Answers

SOURCE:  Pastor Mark Driscoll

Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” – Mark 11:23-25

If you have breath, you’ve probably said a prayer that hasn’t been answered. How do we reconcile unanswered prayers with Jesus’ words in Mark?

Unanswered prayer is an issue that challenges believers and non-believers alike and often challenges our perceptions of God’s goodness. C.S. Lewis famously observed, “Every war, every famine or plague, almost every deathbed — is the monument to a petition that was not granted.”[1]

More recently, Philip Yancey confesses to “…obsessing more about unanswered prayers than rejoicing over answered ones.”[2] And it’s not unusual to hear about medical studies showing no real correlation between prayer and physical healing.[3]

Therefore, Jesus’ statements in Mark 11:23-25 provide a difficult problem: do these verses promise that God will answer every prayer, every time?

Two polar views on prayer

In Christianity today, there are two polar views on prayer: prosperity and poverty.

On one hand you have those who preach a false gospel of prosperity, which views God as a cosmic genie who answers our every desire and whim. Want a new Porsche? Pray. Have a debilitating illness? Pray. Need a bigger house? Pray. If you have enough faith, God will grant your wishes. Underlying this belief system is a misunderstanding about faith. It’s assumed that if you don’t have your prayers answered, it’s due to a lack of faith. Jesus promises he’ll answer your prayers if you believe, the teaching goes. So, unanswered prayers must mean a lack of belief.

Unfortunately, this is simplistic, not true, and often damaging, as many people devastated by the effects of sin in this world are deceived into thinking they must work harder in order to earn God’s favor. Only then will he answer your prayers. Even worse, this teaching most often revolves around what is known as health and wealth. God’s will, it’s taught, is to make you rich and healthy. The sign of faith, thus, becomes one’s bank account and material possessions and one’s ability to avoid contracting viruses. This effectively makes anyone poor or sick not victims of sin, but rather victims of a God who doesn’t deem their faith to be substantive enough to warrant answered prayers.

Essentially, the prosperity gospel places the power of answered prayer in our hands and places limits on God’s ability to answer prayer by making him rely on our faith, which is not only unfortunate but also absolutely wrong. God is sovereign over his creation, not the other way around (Isaiah 22:44, 45:5-7; Psalm 115:3, 135:6; Daniel 4:35, Matthew 5:45, Deuteronomy 32:39).

On the other hand you have those who preach a poverty gospel, which views God as cosmic curmudgeon who doesn’t desire to give good gifts to his children. Instead of encouraging people to pray for good things, the poverty gospel teaches an aestheticism that calls for denial of material goods. Want a nice car (or even one that runs)? Sin. Give to the poor instead. Have a debilitating illness? Thank God for salvation, that is enough. Want a bigger house (or even a house at all)? Stop asking. Be glad you have a roof over your head.

Unfortunately, this is also simplistic, wrong, and often damaging, as many people experiencing the effects of sin in the world are deceived into thinking that God is happy to save us but not to enrich our lives in any way outside of spiritual sustenance.

The effects of the poverty gospel result in a people who mark their faith on how little they can get by on rather than the fullness of God’s mercy and love for his children and wrongly views those enjoying God’s blessing as lacking in faith because they don’t sell everything they have and force their children to wear hand-me downs and their spouse to use second-hand tea bags. God is our perfect Father who desires to give us good gifts and to take care of both our earthly and spiritual needs (Luke 11:13, Genesis 12:2, Exodus 23:25, Deuteronomy 7:13, Psalm 67:6).

Tota Sola Scriptura

The distortions on prayer found in both prosperity and poverty theology stem from not taking into account all that the Scriptures have to say on prayer. Those that advocate prosperity theology only take into account those verses that talk of God’s blessing. Conversely, those that advocate poverty theology only take into account those verses that speak negatively about riches and that call for sacrifice.

The answer, as is almost always the case, is a both/and, taking into account all that Scripture has to fully say, and ultimately hinges on a fully biblical view and understanding of God’s sovereignty and his will. A few key verses help us navigate the middle ground of the Scripture’s teachings on prayer.

In 1 John, the apostle teaches, “This is the confidence which have in [God], that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him (5:14-15). Elsewhere, Jesus teaches us to pray according to God’s will, asking that it be done (Matthew 6:10), and he exemplifies this in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

As Wayne Grudem reminds us, when we pray, we can first determine God’s will by reading his Word. Thus, we know that we cannot ask God to grant a prayer that is contra to his Word. For instance, if we ask for a new spouse because we’re tired our current one, we know that no matter how hard we pray, God won’t answer, as it’s asking for God to help us sin.

On other matters, we simply can’t know what God’s will is because the Scriptures don’t speak to our request.

However, there are many situations in life where we do not know what God’s will is. We may not be sure, because no promise or command of Scripture applies, whether it is God’s will that we get the job we have applied for, or win an athletic contest in which we are participating (a common prayer among children, especially), or be chosen to hold office in the church, and so on. In all these cases, we should bring to bear as much of Scripture as we understand, perhaps to give us some general principles within which our prayer can be made. But beyond this, we often must admit that we simply do not know what God’s will is. In such cases, we should ask him for deeper understanding and then pray for what seems best to us, giving reasons to the Lord why, in our present understanding of the situation, what we are praying for seems to be best. But it is always right to add, either explicitly or at least in the attitude of the heart, “Nevertheless, if I am wrong in asking this, and if this is not pleasing to you, then do as seems best in your sight,” or, more simply, “If it is your will.”[4]

This means that we can pray for the whole range of needs and wants in life without feeling guilty because we’re free to ask our Father and also free to rely on the comforting truth that he will accomplish his will. This moves prayer from what we do or don’t have to what we can always be assured of, God’s sovereignty and that he will always do what is good for us and his plans in this world (Philippians 2:12-13).

The Context of Mark 11:23-25

As Jesus taught on prayer in Mark 11:23-25, the Dead Sea was visible from the Mount of Olives. It’s easy to see where the imagery of verse 23 comes from.[5] Many of Mark’s references to “the sea” are referencing the Sea of Galilee but also occasionally reference is made to the destructive power of “the sea.”[6]  In 11:23, “Mark portrays Jesus as utilizing the generally destructive power of the sea for his own purposes.”[7]

The reference to moving mountains has parallels in the teaching of early Rabbis,[8] and as the ESV Study Bible says, “Moving a mountain was a metaphor in Jewish literature for doing what was seemingly impossible (Isa. 40:4; 49:11; 54:10; cf. Matt. 21:21–22). Those who believe in God can have confidence that he will accomplish even the impossible, according to his sovereign will.”

However, Jesus’ specific claim that faith could move mountains was without parallel. The restructuring of the natural world was meant to reveal the presence of God’s future kingdom, a thought that was emphasized by the Old Testament[9] as well as other Jewish texts.[10] Therefore, Jesus’ statement in verse 23 was meant to indicate that the day of salvation had already dawned.

Still, Jesus’ words indicate that prayer is effective. In the Old Testament, for example, God caused the sun to stand still in response to Joshua’s prayer (Joshua 10:12-14). Does God desire to answer prayer? Would a father give his child a stone instead of bread (Matthew 7:9-10)? Prayer is indeed effective so long as it is rooted in God’s will—this is why Jesus tells His disciples that “if you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14, emphasis added).

The Burden of Unanswered Prayer

Even in scripture we see the emotional burden of unanswered prayer. The psalmist laments that “I cry out by day, but you do not answer” (Psalm 22:2). Paul’s prayers that God remove the “thorn in the flesh” go unanswered (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Even Jesus’ own prayer to have the cup of God’s wrath removed was not answered (Luke 22:42). We are no better than our savior and can expect that not everything we ask will be granted by God, but just as Jesus rested in God’s will, so can we.

There may be several reasons why God chooses not to answer prayer:

First, there is simple logic: God cannot go against His own character. God cannot build a square circle. Nor can He answer a prayer to approve of sin.

Second, God’s perspective differs from our own. Some suffering is used to reveal God’s glory (cf. John 9:3). We cannot always know God’s purposes; even the very worst tragedies might later be used for God’s glory.[11]

Third, some desires are selfish (James 4:3). God’s greatest desire might not be for our job promotion or the new car. “For prayer is not a means by which God serves us. Rather, it is a means by which we serve God. Prayer is not a means by which we get our will done in heaven, but a means by which God gets His will done on earth.”[12]

Finally, Mark 11:25 seems to assume a condition to prayers of forgiveness: an unforgiving heart may result in a lack of God’s forgiveness.

Conclusion

To answer our initial question, Jesus’ statements cannot be taken to mean that God will grant every prayer for every person at every time. Prayer, therefore, has less to do with obtaining things and more to do with an ongoing life with God.

A helpful matrix I like to use when it comes to prayer is yes, no, and later. When we pray, God answers sometimes yes, sometimes no, and sometimes later—just as a father does with his own children. Sometimes the later is later in this life. Sometimes the later is in the life after this life. But God does hear and answer every prayer. We must be content with his answer and trust in his sovereignty. For example, one friend of mine was praying for years and finally was healed from an illness that plagued him. Another died and was then healed forever in the presence of Jesus after praying the same kind of prayer for many years.

At the end of the day, the real purpose of prayer is not to obtain things from God, but to relate to God. Philp Yancey writes:

Prayer has become for me much more than a shopping list of requests to present to God. It has become a realignment of everything. …In prayer, I shift my point of view away from my own selfishness. I climb above timberline and look down at the speck that is myself. I gaze at the stars and recall what role I, or any of us, play in a universe beyond comprehension. Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view.[13]

Still, we should seek God in prayer for all things. As the writer of Hebrews says, “Draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help [us] in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). To not seek God for our needs and desires is not a mark of maturity, but the absence of it.

Jesus’ message in Mark 11 is that a relationship with God is greater than a religious system. It’s purchased by His blood. We may therefore enjoy the benefits of God’s kingdom, including access to God’s throne. When we see prayer in this light, even unanswered prayers become a part of our relationship with God.


[1] C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer.  (United States: Mariner Books, 1964), p. 58.

[2] Philp Yancey, Prayer: Does it Make a Difference? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), p. 16.

[3] Benedict Carey, “Long-Awaited Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer.” New York Times, March 31, 2006.  Appearing online at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html?pagewanted=all.  Accessed November 7, 2011.  The article sites six studies that do not seem to show correlation between patients’ healing and prayer.  This simply reflects the cultural expectation that prayer yields near-immediate results.

[4] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), p. 383.

[5] William Lane, The Gospel According to Mark.  (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), p. 410.

[6] Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, Narrative Space and Mythic Meaning in Mark, (New York: Harper and Row, 1986), 58-9.

[7] Ibid., p. 78.

[8] Rabbinical texts include the following statements:

T. Sol. 23:1 A demon says to Solomon: “I am able to move mountains;” b. Sanh. 24a.: “You would think he was uprooting mountains and grinding them against each other,”b. Bat. 3b: “I will uproot mountains;”

[commenting on Lev 6:13] Lev. Rab. 8:8: “[Samson] took two mountains and knocked them against one another”

Cited in Craig Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20.  (Grand Rapids: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2001), p. 189.

[9] Cf. Isaiah 40:3-5; 45:2; 49:11; cf. 54:10; Zechariah 14:4-5.

[10] Pss Sol. 11:4; Bar. 5:7.

[11] An excellent perspective on this is the well-known post on the Desiring God website entitled: “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.”  Written February 16, 2006.  Appearing online at http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/taste-see-articles/dont-waste-your-cancer.  Last accessed November 7, 2011.

[12] Norm Geisler and Thomas Howe, The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992), p. 374.

[13] Yancey, Prayer…, p.  29.

30 Life Principles

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries

Dr. Stanley’s 30 Life Principles

1. Our intimacy with God – His highest priority for our lives – determines the impact of our lives.
More about Our Intimacy with God

2. Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.
More about A Life of Obedience

3. God’s Word is an immovable anchor in times of storm.
More about Our Anchor in Times of Storm

4. The awareness of God’s presence energizes us for our work.
More about Energized by His Presence

5. God does not require us to understand His will, just obey it, even if it seems unreasonable.
More about The Unreasonable Will of God

6. You reap what you sow, more than you sow, and later than you sow.
More about The Principle of Sowing and Reaping

7. The dark moments of our life will last only so long as is necessary for God to accomplish His purpose in us.
More about The Dark Moments in our Life

8. Fight all your battles on your knees and you win every time.
More about Fight Your Battles on Your Knees

9. Trusting God means looking beyond what we can see to what God sees.
More about The Thrill of Trusting God

10. If necessary, God will move heaven and earth to show us His will.
More about God Will Show You His Will

11. God assumes full responsibility for our needs when we obey Him.
More about His Promise to Provide

12. Peace with God is the fruit of oneness with God.
More about The Key to Continued Peace

13. Listening to God is essential to walking with God.
More about Listening to God – Walking with God

14. God acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.
More about God Acts on our Behalf

15. Brokenness is God’s requirement for maximum usefulness.
More about God’s Pathway of Brokenness

16. Whatever you acquire outside of God’s will eventually turns to ashes.
More about When Plans Turn to Ashes

17. We stand tallest and strongest on our knees.
More about Standing Tall and Strong Through Prayer

18. As children of a sovereign God, we are never victims of our circumstances.
More about Victim or Victor?

19. Anything you hold too tightly, you will lose.
More about Holding Too Tightly

20. Disappointments are inevitable, discouragement is a choice.
More about Overcoming Discouragement

21. Obedience always brings blessing.
More about Obedience Always Brings Blessings

22. To walk in the Spirit is to obey the initial promptings of the Spirit.
More about Walking In The Holy Spirit

23. You can never outgive God.
More about You Can Never Outgive God

24. To live the Christian life is to allow Jesus to live His life in and through us.
More about The Key to the Christian Life

25. God blesses us so that we might bless others.
More about Passing on God’s Blessing

26. Adversity is a bridge to a deeper relationship with God.
More about Burden or Bridge

27. Prayer is life’s greatest time saver.
More about Prayer: Our Time-Saver

28. No Christian has ever been called to “go it alone” in his or her walk of faith.
More about Together In the Christian Life

29. We learn more in our valley experiences than on our mountaintops.
More about The Valley Experiences In Our Life

30. An eager anticipation of the Lord’s return keeps us living productively.
More about Anticipating The Lord’s Return

All Trouble and Affliction Comes From God’s Hand (Part 2 of 2)

Source:  Bishop Myles Coverdale (written by Deejay O’Flaherty)

[Myles Coverdale  (c. 1488 –  1569) was a 16th-century Bible translator who produced the first complete printed translation of the Bible into English.]

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And to speak properly concerning safeguard, it is all one, so that we tempt not God, whether we live in poverty or in riches, in the fire or in the water, among our enemies or among our friends, seeing that God seeth, knoweth, disposeth, and ruleth all things, as withesseth the first book of the Kings 2:1 “The Lord bringeth to death, and restoreth again unto life; bringeth into the grave, and raiseth up again; putteth down, and exalteth also.”

And Job also testifieth in his misery: “The Lord hath given it, and the Lord hath taken it again.” And Christ saith: “There falleth not a sparrow upon the earth without your Father’s will; yea, the hairs of your head are all numbered.” Luke 12.

Seeing then that all our troubles and afflictions come from God, we ought to humble and submit our hearts and minds unto the obedience of God, and to suffer him to work with us according unto his most holy will and pleasure.

Wherefore, whensoever unseasonable weather shall hurt and perish the corn and fruit of the earth, or when a wicked man shall misreport us, or raise up any slander of us, why should we murmur and grudge against the elements, or go about to revenge us of our enemies?

For if we lift not up our minds, and consider that God layeth his hand upon us, and that it is he that striketh us, we are even like unto dogs, and no better, which, if a man do cast a stone at them, will bite the stone, without any respect who did cast the stone. And again, no man ought to be unwilling or discontent to render again that talent or pledge that was committed to him only to reserve and keep. Matthew 25.

It is that God, that giveth us life, health of body, strength, wife, children, friends, riches, honor, power, authority, peace, rest, and quietness for a time, so long as pleaseth him. Now if the same God will take again some of these firings, or all, he taketh nothing but his own, and even that which we did owe unto him. For the which cause, to murmur against his will, and to strive against his judgment, it cannot be but a heinous and grievous sin.

All Trouble and Affliction Comes From God’s Hand (Part 1 of 2)

SOURCE:  Bishop Myles Coverdale (by Deejay O’Flaherty)

[Myles Coverdale  (c. 1488 –  1569) was a 16th-century Bible translator who produced the first complete printed translation of the Bible into English.]

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I Call all that trouble and affliction, whatsoever is reputed to be contrary to the desire and appetite of man’s nature; as the unquiet suggestions of the flesh, the temptations of the devil, sickness of body, a wicked and forward mate in matrimony, to have disobedient children, unkind and unthankful friends, loss of goods, to be deprived of any old liberty or privilege, loss or blemish of name and fame, the malice and displeasure of men, hunger, dearth, pestilence, war, imprisonment, and death. And in this register do I put all kinds of crosses and afflictions, whether they be bodily or ghostly, our own or our friends’, private and singular, or universal and general, privy and secret, or open and manifest, deserved or undeserved.

Every Christian man ought first of all to consider the very root, ground, and beginning, after this wise: that all things, whatsoever God sends, we ought to take and receive them patiently.

For this is once true, that God is our Creator and Maker, and we his workmanship; he is our King, our Lord, and Father; and like as it is not seeming that the pot should murmur against the pot-maker, (Isaiah 45:64, Jeremiah 18) even so is it much less convenient that we should murmur and grudge against God’s will and judgment.

And although trouble and affliction rises and springs oftentimes by the wickedness of enemies, and through the instigation of the devil, or else by some other means; yet ought we never to imagine that it cometh by fortune or chance, without the permission, sufferance, determination, and will of God, but by and with the foreknowledge, providence, and appointment of God.

Ezekiel 28, Job 1, Matthew 10.

Puritan Advice on Discovering God’s Will

SOURCE:  Jonathan Parnell based on the work by John Flavel

If therefore in doubtful cases you would discover God’s will, govern yourselves in your search after it by the following rules:

  1. Get the true fear of God upon your hearts. Be really afraid of offending him. God will not hide his mind from such a soul. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant” (Psalm 25:14).
  2. Study the Word more, and the concerns and interests of the world less. The Word is light to your feet (Psalm 119:105), that is, it has a discovering and directing usefulness as to all duties to be done and dangers to be avoided. . .
  3. Reduce what you know into practice, and you shall know what is your duty to practice. “If any man do his will he shall know of the doctrine” (John 7:17). “A good understanding have all they that do his commandments” (Psalm 111:10).
  4. Pray for illumination and direction in the way that you should go. Beg the Lord to guide you in straits and that he would not permit you to fall into sin. . .
  5. And this being done, follow Providence so far as it agrees with the Word and no further. There is no use to be made of Providence against the Word, but in subservience to it.

John Flavel (1627–1691) was an English Presbyterian clergyman and author.

The Mystery of Providence, 1678, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2006), 188-9, emphasis mine.

What Believers Ought To Do And Pray In Time Of Trouble


SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Ligon Duncan [First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS] 

Luke 22:39-46 [reveals] Jesus, on the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane.

J.C. Ryle’s words about two aspects of this passage are rich. He says: “The verses before us contain Luke’s account of our Lord’s agony in the garden. It is a passage of Scripture which we should always approach with peculiar reverence. The history which it records is one of the ‘deep things of God.’ While we read it, the words of Exodus should come across our minds, ‘Put off your shoes from off your feet; the place where on you stand is holy ground.’ (Exod. 3:5)

“We see, firstly, in this passage, an example of what believers ought to do in time of trouble. 

The great Head of the Church Himself supplies the pattern. We are told that when He came to the Mount of Olives, the night before He was crucified, ‘He knelt down and prayed.’

“It is a striking fact, that both the Old and New Testaments give one and the same receipt for bearing trouble.

What does the book of Psalms say? ‘Call upon me in the time of trouble-I will deliver you.’ (Psalm 50:15) What does the apostle James say? ‘Is any afflicted? let him pray.’ (James v. 13) Prayer is the remedy which Jacob used, when he feared his brother Esau. Prayer is the remedy which Job used when property and children were suddenly taken from him. Prayer is the remedy which Hezekiah used when Sennacherib’s threatening letter arrived. And prayer is the remedy which the Son of God Himself was not ashamed to use in the days of His flesh. In the hour of His mysterious agony He ‘prayed.’

“Let us take care that we use our Master’s remedy, if we want comfort in affliction. Whatever other means of relief we use, let us pray. The first Friend we should turn to ought to be God. The first message we should send ought to be to the throne of grace. No depression of spirits must prevent us. No crushing weight of sorrow must make us speechless. It is a prime device of Satan, to supply the afflicted man with false reasons for keeping silence before God. Let us beware of the temptation to brood sullenly over our wounds. If we can say nothing else, we can say, ‘I am oppressed-undertake for me.’ (Isaiah. 38:14)

“We see, secondly, in these verses, what kind of prayers a believer ought to make to God in time of trouble.

Once more the Lord Jesus Himself affords a model to His people. We are told that He said, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me-nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.’ He who spoke these words, we must remember, had two distinct natures in one Person. He had a human will as well as a divine. When He said, ‘Not my will be done,’ He meant that will which He had as a man, with a body, flesh and blood, like our own.

“The language used by our blessed Master in this place shows exactly what should be the spirit of a believer’s prayer in his distress. Like Jesus, he should tell his desires openly to his heavenly Father, and spread his wishes unreservedly before Him. But like Jesus, he should do it all with an entire submission of will to the will of God. He should never forget that there may be wise and good reasons for His affliction. He should carefully qualify every petition for the removal of crosses with the saving clause, ‘If you are willing.’ He should wind up all with the meek confession, ‘Not my will, but yours be done.’

“Submission of will like this is one of the brightest graces which can adorn the Christian character. It is one which a child of God ought to aim at in everything, if he desires to be like Christ. But at no time is such submission of will so needful as in the day of sorrow, and in nothing does it shine so brightly as in a believer’s prayers for relief. He who can say from his heart, when a bitter cup is before him, ‘Not my will, but yours be done,’ has reached a high position in the school of God.” (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke)

 

Will God Reinforce My Lack Of Trust?

Trust Your Father in Heaven!

SOURCE:  Charles Spurgeon

You have been unable to trust God to give you day by day your daily bread, and therefore you have been craving for what you call “some provision for the future.”

You want a more trusty provider than providence, a better security than God’s promise.

You are unable to trust your heavenly Father’s word, a few bonds of some half bankrupt foreign government you consider to be far more reliable; you can trust the Sultan of Turkey, or the Viceroy of Egypt, but not the God of the whole earth!

In a thousand ways we insult the Lord by imagining “the things which are seen” to be more substantial than his unseen omnipotence. We ask God to give us at once what we do not require at present, and may never need at all; at bottom the reason for such desires may be found in a disgraceful distrust of him which makes us imagine that great stores are needful to ensure our being provided for.

Brethren, are you not to blame here, and do you expect the Lord to aid and abet your folly? Shall God pander to your distrust? Shall he give you a heap of cankering gold and silver for thieves to steal, and chests of garments to feed moths? Would you have the Lord act as if he admitted the correctness of your suspicions and confessed to unfaithfulness?

God forbid!

Expect not, therefore, to be heard when your prayer is suggested by an unbelieving heart: “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him and he shall bring it to pass.”

From a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon entitled “The Conditions of Power in Prayer,” delivered March 23, 1873. 

Answers in Times of Great Disaster

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley

Read | Deuteronomy 29:29

Almighty God reserves the right to reveal some things and conceal others. Although we may not know why natural disasters occur, the biblical truths we do know with absolute certainty allow us to trust the Lord even in times of great suffering. These include:

1. God is in control (Ps. 103:19).

Nothing in heaven or on earth is outside of His rule and authority. He does not react to events but sovereignly ordains or permits them to run their course. Although we cannot know for certain if He has sent a catastrophe or allowed it, we can trust in His goodness and wisdom.

2. The Lord loves people and wants them to be saved (John 3:16-17).

Giving His Son for the salvation of the world proves without a doubt that He loves each person. This truth stands firm despite the fact that many reject the Savior. He cares for us, even when we can’t feel it or won’t accept it.

3. God ordains or permits events for His good purpose (Isa. 46:10).

Though we cannot fully comprehend what He is doing in each incident, every disaster is a wake-up call for humanity. He is alerting us of the need to repent—so the lost can be saved and the saved can be revived to live totally for Him. Catastrophes open our ears to hear from the Lord.

The One who loves us perfectly is in full control, working everything out according to His good purpose. Knowing this should fill us with hope, even in the midst of crisis situations. The Lord even promises to turn disaster to good for those who “are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

SUBMISSION – What of that undeserving spouse, parent, governor, boss, pastor?

The gospel of radical submission

SOURCE:  Joel J. Miller

The Scripture commands husbands to love their wives, wives to respect their husbands, children to honor their parents, citizens to obey the authorities, employees to follow their employers, and believers to subject themselves to the elders of the Church.

None of this has anything to do with how much or well the other party deserves it. There are plenty of unlovable wives, disreputable husbands, dishonorable parents, unworthy governments, ill-willed employers, and untrustworthy church leaders out there. I’m sure any one of us could run out of fingers just counting the ones we know if given the opportunity.

Deserts, just or otherwise, have little to do with it. God is trying to knit together a world of mutual submission, all of it in submission to him. That requires something from each of us in whatever station we find ourselves.

The word “submission” means to go where someone asks you to go, to follow their direction, to go their way and not your own. Words like “hard,” “dangerous,” and “risky” come next to mind when I think of that. What might I lose? What am I forfeiting? Possibly everything. And by losing — in the inscrutable asymmetry of the gospel — we gain.

“Among Christians such are the conditions of victory,” wrote Basil the Great, “and it is he who is content to take the second place who wins a crown.”

A world of radical, mutual submission looks like one united by grace and peace. Consider these words from the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

[F]ulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

It also looks like a world in which our sanctification is realized through humility.

Paul’s very next words to the Philippians are these: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” this mind of preferring others to ourselves, of lowliness in mind, of subjecting our personal ambitions. God desires that our hearts be shaped by humility, and we take on its contours as we learn submission. Jesus learned obedience by the things he suffered, as Paul says in Hebrews. And so do we if we can say with Jesus, “Not my will, but yours.”

What of that undeserving spouse, parent, governor, boss, pastor? A few verses later in the same passage, Paul tells us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

We have no idea what that person needs for their salvation. But that’s not our concern anyway. We’re to work out our own, and in the context of the passage, it’s clear Paul wants us to start with radical submission and Christlike humility.

Discerning Depression (and Medication)

SOURCE:  Based on an article by  SUSAN PALWICK

Anyone who works with psychiatric patients will tell you how difficult it can be to get them to take their medication. No one with a chronic illness, whether bipolar disorder or high blood pressure, likes taking pills every day; everyone with chronic illness, whether diabetes or depression, sometimes slides into imperfect self-care. We’re people, not machines. We don’t like doing the same thing all the time, and we don’t always function at the highest level.

There’s a popular belief that creative people are more prone to mental illness, or that mentally ill people are more prone to creativity, than the general population. This is a dangerous attitude on several levels: it romanticizes mental illness, portrays creativity as dangerous, and denies the creativity present in everyone. But like most myths, this one contains a kernel of truth. Kay Redfield Jamison, a clinical psychologist and expert on bipolar illness who suffers from the disorder herself, observes in her book Touched by Fire that bipolar tendencies and extreme creativity tend to run in families. Distinguished poet Anne Sexton, who according to her close friend Maxine Kumin heard the trees talking to her every June, found herself unable to write on any of the medication she was given to quiet those voices.

I may have bipolar tendencies. As I’ve written here before, I’ve had depression for most of my life. I’m a writer. And my relationship to medication is ambivalent, at best.

I’ve been on antidepressants for two extended periods. I took them for four years starting near the end of graduate school, and then, after a hiatus of eight years, began taking them again about four years ago. Let me emphasize that I’ve never been suicidal, hospitalized, or completely unable to function: at my worst, I’ve merely been riddled with self-loathing, wracked by daily or hourly crying jags, and unable to imagine a tolerable future. The meds largely remove those handicaps. They make me more resilient to stress, more graceful in social situations – including the teaching by which I earn my living – and generally happier and more optimistic.

They also deaden my writing, which loses the spark and verve it has when I’m off meds.

My husband has also noticed this, so I don’t think it’s my imagination. My psychiatrist believes that I have to be on meds for the rest of my life. But writing’s a huge part of my life and my career, and also my deepest and truest joy. Not being able to do it as well as I can when I’m not on antidepressants (and yes, I’ve tried a variety of meds) makes me, well, depressed.

The situation challenges my spirituality. God gave me the gift of writing, as well as the particular brain chemistry that predisposes me to depression. My depression is as much blessing as curse, if only because it’s given me more compassion for others with mental illnesses. I believe that God wants me to write as well as I can. I also believe that God wants me to be as happy as I can. How, then, am I to respond to the fact that the two seem incompatible?

The easiest answer would seem to be that I should learn to be happy without meds, as I’ve done with some success for the all-but-eight years I haven’t been on them. Those hard-won joys, though, have come at the cost of a social isolation I’m not quite willing to endure again, at least not right now. People seem more comfortable with me when I’m on meds.

This isn’t a problem I can solve quickly or easily, and having it makes me very sympathetic to people who won’t take their medication. I do take mine, although I pray daily about whether I should keep doing so. My current plan is to try to go off it again in a year or two. I’ve recently lowered my dosage, with my psychiatrist’s blessing. I’m writing a little better now, but I’m also a little less comfortable in my own skin. I doubt that God wants me to be a creature of halves and compromises. For now, I take each step as it comes, trying to discern God’s will and my own health, trying to see the path ahead.

—————————————————————————————-

A practicing Episcopalian, Susan Palwick volunteers as an ER Chaplain at a hospital in northern Nevada. She currently teaches as an Associate Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Reno, and is also a Clinical Associate Professor of Medical Education at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, where she specializes in Narrative Medicine.

“YOUR will be done.” Do I really mean this??

SOURCE:  Oswald Chambers

. . . that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us . . . —John 17:21

If you are going through a time of isolation, seemingly all alone, read John 17 . It will explain exactly why you are where you are— because Jesus has prayed that you “may be one” with the Father as He is.  Are you helping God to answer that prayer, or do you have some other goal for your life? Since you became a disciple, you cannot be as independent as you used to be.

God reveals in John 17 that His purpose is not just to answer our prayers, but that through prayer we might come to discern His mind. Yet there is one prayer which God must answer, and that is the prayer of Jesus— “. . . that they may be one just as We are one . . .” (John 17:22). Are we as close to Jesus Christ as that?

God is not concerned about our plans; He doesn’t ask, “Do you want to go through this loss of a loved one, this difficulty, or this defeat?” No, He allows these things for His own purpose. The things we are going through are either making us sweeter, better, and nobler men and women, or they are making us more critical and fault-finding, and more insistent on our own way. The things that happen either make us evil, or they make us more saintly, depending entirely on our relationship with God and its level of intimacy.

If we will pray, regarding our own lives, “Your will be done” (Matthew 26:42), then we will be encouraged and comforted by John 17, knowing that our Father is working according to His own wisdom, accomplishing what is best. When we understand God’s purpose, we will not become small-minded and cynical. Jesus prayed nothing less for us than absolute oneness with Himself, just as He was one with the Father.

Some of us are far from this oneness; yet God will not leave us alone until we are one with Him— because Jesus prayed, “. . . that they all may be one . . . .”

Ten Aspects of God’s Sovereignty Over Suffering and Satan’s Hand in It

SOURCE:  John Piper/Desiring God

1. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s delegated world rule.

Satan is sometimes called in the Bible “the ruler of this world” (John 12:3114:3016:11) or “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) or “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), or a “cosmic power over this present darkness” (Ephesians 6:12). Which means that we should probably take him seriously when it says in Luke 4:5-7 that “The devil took Jesus up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, ‘To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’”

And of course that is strictly true: If the sovereign of the universe bows in worshipful submission to anyone, that one becomes the sovereign of the universe. But Satan’s claim that he can give the authority and glory of world kingdoms to whomever he wills is a half truth. No doubt he does play havoc in the world by maneuvering a Stalin or a Hitler or an Idi Amin or Bloody Mary or Saddam Hussein into murderous power. But he does this only at God’s permission and within God’s appointed limits.

This is made clear over and over again in the Bible. For example, Daniel 2:20, “Daniel answered and said: ‘Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings.’” AndDaniel 4:17, “The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” And when the kings are in their God-appointed place, with or without Satan’s agency, they are in the sway of God’s sovereign will, as Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”

Evil nations rise and set themselves against the Almighty. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision” (Psalm 2:2-4). And do they think that their sin and evil and rebellion against him can thwart the counsel of the Lord?Psalm 33:10-11 answers, “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.”

God is sovereign over the nations and over all their rulers and all the Satanic power behind them. They do not move without his permission, and they do not move outside his sovereign plan.

2. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s angels (demons, evil spirits).

Satan has thousands of cohorts in supernatural evil. They are called “demons” (Matthew 8:3James 2:19) or “evil spirits” (Luke 7:21) or “unclean spirits” (Matthew 10:1), or “the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). We get a tiny glimpse into demonic warfare in Daniel 10 where the angel who is sent in response to Daniel’s prayer says, “The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me” (Daniel 10:13). So apparently the demon, or evil spirit, over Persia fought against the angel sent to help Daniel, and a greater angel, Michael, came to his aid.

But the Bible leaves us with no doubt who is in charge in all these skirmishes. Martin Luther got it right:

And though this world with devils filled
Should threaten to undo us
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim
We tremble not for him,
His rage we can endure
For low his doom is sure.
One little word will fell him.

We see glimpses of those little words at work, for example, when Jesus comes up against thousands of demons in Matthew 8:29-32. They were possessing a man and making him insane. The demons cry out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”—they know a time is set for their final destruction. And Jesus spoke to them, one little word, “Go.” And they came out of the man. There is no question who is sovereign in this battle. The people have seen this before in Mark 1:27 and were amazed and said, “He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” Theyobey him. As for Satan: “We tremble not for him; his rage we can endure.” But as for Christ: even though they slay him, they always must obey him! God is sovereign over Satan’s angels.

3. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s hand in persecution.

The apostle Peter describes the suffering of Christians like this: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9). So the sufferings of persecution are like the jaws of a satanic lion trying to consume and destroy the faith of believers in Christ.

But do these Christians suffer in Satan’s jaws of persecution apart from the sovereign will of God? When Satan crushes Christians in the jaws of their own private Calvary, does God not govern those jaws for the good of his precious child? Listen to Peter’s answer in 1 Peter 3:17, “It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” In other words, if God wills that we suffer for doing good, we will suffer. And if he does not will that we suffer for doing good, we will not. The lion does not have the last say. God does.

The night Jesus was arrested, satanic power was in full force (Luke 22:322:31). And Jesus spoke into that situation one of his most sovereign words. He said to those who came to arrest him in the dark, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. Butthis is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:52-53). “The jaws of the lion close on me tonight no sooner and no later than my Father planned. ‘No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord’ (John 10:18). Boast not yourself over the hand that made you, Satan. You have one hour. What you do, do quickly.” God is sovereign over Satan’s hand in persecution.

4. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s life-taking power.

The Bible does not take lightly or minimize the power of Satan to kill people, including Christians. Jesus said, in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning.” John tells us, in fact, that he does indeed take the lives of faithful Christians. Revelation 2:10, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Is God then not the Lord of life and death? He is. None lives and none dies but by God’s sovereign decree. “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39). There is no god, no demon, no Satan that can snatch to death any person that God wills to live (see 1 Samuel 2:6).

James, the brother of Jesus says this in a stunning way in James 4:13-16:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

If the Lord wills, we will live. And if he doesn’t, we will die. God, not Satan, makes the final call. Our lives are in his hands ultimately, not Satan’s. God is sovereign over Satan’s life-taking power.

5. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s hand in natural disasters.

Hurricanes, tsunamis, tornados, earthquakes, blistering heat, deadly cold, drought, flood, famine. When Satan approached God in the first chapter of Job, he challenged God in verse 11, “Stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And then the Lord said to Satan (in verse 12), “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.”

The result was two human atrocities and two natural disasters. One of the disasters is reported to Job in verse 16: “The fire of God fell from heaven [probably lightning] and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” And then the worst report of all in verses 18-19, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead.”

Even though God had loosened the leash of Satan to do this, that is not what Job focused on. “Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’” (Job 1:20-21). And the inspired writer added: “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”

Job had discovered with many of you that it is small comfort to focus on the freedom of Satan to destroy. In the academic classroom and in the apologetics discussion, the agency of Satan in our suffering may lift a little the burden of God’s sovereignty for some, but for others, like Job, there is more security and more relief and more hope and more support and more glorious truth in despising Satan’s hateful hand and looking straight past him to God for the cause and for his mercy.

Elihu helped Job see this mercy in Job 37:10-14. He said:

By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen. Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God.

Job’s first impulses in chapter one were exactly right. When James wrote in the New Testament about the purpose of the book of Job, this is what he said, “You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11).

God, not Satan, is the final ruler of wind—and the waves. Jesus woke from sleep and, with absolute sovereignty, which he had from all eternity and has this very moment, said, “‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39; seePsalm 135:5-7148:7). Satan is real and terrible. All his designs are hateful. But he is not sovereign. God is. And when Satan went out to do Job harm, Job was right to worship with the words “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

There’s not a plant or flower below,
But makes Thy glories known;
And clouds arise, and tempests blow,
By order from Thy throne.
(“I Sing the Mighty Power of God,” Isaac Watts)

6. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s sickness-causing power.

The Bible is vivid with the truth that Satan can cause disease. Acts 10:38 says that Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” The devil had oppressed people with sickness. In Luke 13 Jesus finds a woman who had been bent over unable to stand up for eighteen years. He heals her on the Sabbath and in response to the criticism of the synagogue ruler he says (in verse 16), “Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” There is no doubt that Satan causes much disease.

This is why Christ’s healings are a sign of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God and its final victory over all disease and all the works of Satan. It is right and good to pray for healing. Christ has purchased it in the death of his Son, with all the other blessings of grace, for all his children (Isaiah 53:5). But he has not promised that we get the whole inheritance in this life. And he decides how much. We pray and we trust his answer. If you ask your Father for bread, he will not give you him a stone? If you ask him for a fish, he will not give you a serpent (see Matthew 7:9-10). It may not be bread. And it may not be a fish. But it will be good for you. That is what he promises (Romans 8:28).

But beware lest anyone say that Satan is sovereign in our diseases. He is not. When Satan went to God a second time in the book of Job, God gave him permission this time to strike Job’s body. Then Job 2:7 says, “Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.” When Job’s wife despaired and said, “Curse God and die” (2:9),” Job responded exactly as he did before. He looked past the finite cause of Satan to the ultimate cause of God and said, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not accept evil?” (2:10).

And lest we attribute error or irreverence to Job, the writer closes the book in the last chapter by referring back to Job’s terrible suffering like this: “Then came to him all his brothers and sisters . . . and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (42:11). Satan is real and full of hate, but he is not sovereign in sickness. God will not give him even that tribute. As he says to Moses at the burning bush, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11; see also 2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

7. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s use of animals and plants.

The imagery of Satan as a lion in 1 Peter 5:8 and as a “great dragon” in Revelation 12:9and as the “serpent of old” in Genesis 3 simply makes us aware that in his destructive work Satan can, and no doubt does, employ animals and plants—from the lion in the Coliseum, to the black fly that causes river blindness, to the birds that carry the avian flu virus, to the pit bull that attacks a child, to the bacteria in your belly that Drs. Barry Marshall and Robin Warren just discovered cause ulcers (winning for them the Nobel Prize in medicine). If Satan can kill and cause disease, no doubt he has at his disposal many large and microscopic plants and animals.

But he cannot make them do what God forbids them to do. From the giant Leviathan that God made to sport in the sea (Psalm 104:26) to the tiny gnats that he summoned over the land of Egypt (Exodus 8:16-17), God commands the world of animals and plants. The most vivid demonstrations of it are in the book of Jonah. “The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah” (Jonah 1:17). And he did exactly as he had been appointed. “And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land” (Jonah 2:10). “Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah” (Jonah 4:6). “But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered” (Jonah 4:7).

Fish, plant, worm—all appointed, all obedient. Satan can have a hand here, but it is not sovereign. God is.

8. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s temptations to sin.

Much of our suffering comes from the sins of others against us and from our own sins. Satan is called in the Bible “the tempter” (Matthew 4:31 Thessalonians 3:5). This was the origin on earth of all the misery that we know—Satan tempted Eve to sin and sin brought with it the curse of God on the natural order (Genesis 3:14-19Romans 8:21-23). Since that time Satan has been tempting all human beings to do what will hurt themselves and others.

But the most famous temptations in the Bible do not portray Satan as sovereign in his tempting work. The Bible tells us in Luke 22:3-4 that “Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot. . . . And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them.” But Luke tells us that the betrayal of Jesus by Judas was the fulfillment of Scripture: “The Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas” (Acts 1:16). And therefore Peter said that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). As with Job, the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away—the life of his Son, Jesus Christ. Satan was not in charge of the crucifixion of Christ. God was.

Even more famous than the temptation of Judas is the temptation of Peter. We usually think of Peter’s three denials, not his temptation. But Jesus says something to Peter in Luke 22:31-32 that makes plain Satan is at work here but that he is not sovereign: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again [not: if you turn], strengthen your brothers.” Again, as with Job, Satan seeks to destroy Peter’s faith. God gives him leash. But Jesus intercedes for him, and says with complete sovereignty, “I have prayed for you. You will fall, but not utterly. When you repent and turn back—not if you turn back—strengthen your brothers.”

Satan is not sovereign in the temptations of Judas or Peter or you or those you love. God is.

9. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s mind-blinding power.

The worst suffering of all is the everlasting suffering of hell. Satan is doomed to experience that suffering. Revelation 20:10 says, “The devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Satan’s aim is to take as many there with him as he can. To do that he must keep people blind to the gospel of Jesus Christ, because the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). No one goes to hell who is justified by the blood of Christ. “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9). Only those who fail to embrace the wrath-absorbing substitutionary work of Christ will suffer the wrath of God.

Therefore, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” This blinding is the most deadly weapon in the arsenal of Satan. If he succeeds with a person, their suffering will be endless.

But at this most critical point Satan is not sovereign, God is. And Oh, how thankful we should be! Two verses later in 2 Corinthians 4:6 Paul describes God’s blindness-removing power over against Satan’s blinding power. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” The comparison is between God’s creating light at the beginning of the world and God’s creating light in the darkened human heart. With total sovereignty God said at the beginning and at your new birth, “Let there be light.” And there is light.

We were dead in our trespasses and sins, but in great mercy God made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5). We were blind and spiritually dead. We saw nothing compelling or beautiful in the gospel. It was foolishness to us (1 Corinthians 1:1823). But God spoke with sovereign Creator authority, and his word created life and spiritual sight, and we saw the glory of Christ in the gospel and believed. Satan is a terrible enemy of the gospel. But he is not sovereign. God is. This is the reason that any of us is saved.

10. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s spiritual bondage.

Satan enslaves people in two ways. One with misery and suffering by making us think there is no good God worth trusting. The other is with pleasure and prosperity making us think we have all we need so that God is irrelevant. To be freed from this bondage we must repent. We must confess that God is good and trustworthy. We must confess that the pleasures and prosperity of life do not compare to the worth of God. But Satan hates this repentance and does all he can to prevent it. That is his bondage.

But when God chooses to overcome our rebellion and Satan’s resistance, nothing can stop him. And when God overcomes him and us, we repent and Satan’s power is broken. Here it is in 2 Timothy 2:24-26:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhapsgrant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Satan is not sovereign over his captives. God is. When God grants repentance, we are set free from the snare of the devil—and spend our days celebrating our liberation and spreading it to others.

Conclusion

The evil and suffering in this world are greater than any of us can comprehend. But evil and suffering are not ultimate. God is. Satan, the great lover of evil and suffering, is not sovereign. God is.

“He does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35)

He declares “the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” (Isaiah 46:10)

“Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” (Lamentations 3:37-38; see Amos 3:6)

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21; see 16:9)

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33)

Therefore, “if God is for us, who can be against us? . . .Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:31-37).

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Are Evil And Suffering God’s Will?

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by  John MacArthur

“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).

Many people assume that somehow everything that happens is God’s will. But that’s not true. Lives destroyed by murderous aggressors and families broken by adultery aren’t God’s will. Children and adults ravaged by abuse or crippled by disease aren’t God’s will. He uses sin and illness to accomplish His own purposes (Rom. 8:28), but they aren’t His desire.

Eventually God will destroy all evil and fulfill His will perfectly (Rev. 20:10-14), but that hasn’t happened yet. That’s why we must pray for His will to be done on earth. We can’t afford to be passive or indifferent in prayer. We must pray aggressively and not lose heart (Luke 18:1).

That’s how David prayed. His passion for God’s will compelled him to pray, “Make me understand the way of Thy precepts, so I will meditate on Thy wonders. . . . I shall run the way of Thy commandments, for Thou wilt enlarge my heart. Teach me, O Lord, the way of Thy statutes, and I shall observe it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may observe Thy law, and keep it with all my heart. Make me walk in the path of Thy commandments, for I delight in it” (Ps. 119:2732-35).

But David also prayed, “Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; and let those who hate Him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish before God. But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; yes, let them rejoice with gladness” (Ps. 68:1-3). He loved God’s will, but he also hated everything that opposed it.

When you truly pray for God’s will to be done, you are aggressively pursuing His will for your own life and rebelling against Satan, his evil world system, and everything else that is at odds with God’s will.   Pray for wisdom to see beyond your circumstances to what God wants  to accomplish through them.

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