Success that Leads to Failure

Jim Cymbala

King Asa had some godly influences in his family line, and he started off good. King Asa was actually one of the best kings in the Bible, and he prayed one of the greatest prayers found in the whole Old Testament (see 2 Chronicles 14:11).

When he became king, he tore down idols and destroyed Baals that his father and grandfather had brought into Judah. He was courageous and brought reformation, preached God’s Word to the people and strategically built up the cities. Thirty-six years into his reign, though, he made this deal with Syria and won a battle.

While everyone was high-fiving, a prophet approached the king with a message of judgment. “Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, ‘Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you…. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.’ Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in the stocks in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. And Asa inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time” (2 Chronicles 16:7-10, ESV).

This army invaded, and King Asa wasn’t praying. He wasn’t trusting God. He got smart in the last couple years, and in getting ‘smart,’ he became a fool. No prayer, no humbling himself, no God in the decisions. The man who once believed “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31), that wasn’t Asa anymore. He was ‘advanced’ now; he was going to figure out a really hot marketing plan, and guess what? It worked.

The things that work for us away from God, though, often don’t work out in the long run, not really. Asa’s smart strategy paid off, but he was the loser in the end.

Sometimes, we’ll trust God with big things, but otherwise, we try to figure it out ourselves. Those medium sized problems are what often indicate where we really are with the Lord. We depend on money, strategies or formulas. We just try to keep people happy, and it can work…for a little while, and then we’re left with nothing.

The truth of our trust in God will always come out in the end.

Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.

Getting to Know the Father

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

I believe our natural children get to know our nature and character toward them most during their times of crisis. When they’re in the midst of pain, suffering and need, they recognize our deep care and provision for them.

When my children were growing up, I didn’t have to lecture them about what I’m like. I never had to say, “I’m your father. I’m patient, kind, full of mercy and lovingkindness toward you. I’m tenderhearted over you, ready to forgive you at all times.” It would have been ludicrous for me to make this kind of proclamation. Why? My kids learned about my love for them during their crisis experiences. Now, as they’re grown and married with children of their own, my sons and daughters are getting to know me through a whole new set of experiences. They’re learning even more about me by my attitudes and actions toward them in this new time of need in their lives.

It is the same with us as we get to know our heavenly Father. From the time of Adam down through the cross of Christ, the Lord gave his people an ever-increasing revelation of his character. He didn’t do this simply by proclaiming who he is. He didn’t try to reveal himself by merely announcing, “The following names describe my nature. Now go and learn these, and you’ll discover who I am.”

The Hebrew expressions and names for God do describe the wondrous glories and provisions that are wrapped up in our Lord’s nature. However, God revealed these aspects of his nature to his people by actually doing for them what he promised. He saw his children’s needs, foresaw the enemy’s strategy against them and intervened supernaturally on their behalf.

I urge you to get to know your heavenly Father slowly, purposefully, on a heart level. Ask the Holy Spirit to recall to you the many facets of heavenly provision God has given you during your times of need. Ask the Holy Spirit to build into you a true heart-knowledge of I AM, the God who is everything you need at all times.

The Making of a True Worshipper

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

A true worshipper is one who has learned to trust God no matter what his situation in life. This person’s joy isn’t just in his words but in his whole way of life. His world is always at rest because his trust in God’s faithfulness is unshakable. He isn’t afraid of the future because he’s no longer afraid to die.

Gwen and I saw this kind of unshakable faith in our twelve-year-old granddaughter Tiffany. Sitting at her bedside in her final days, we beheld in her a peace that surpassed all our understanding. She told me, “Grandpa, I want to go home. I’ve seen Jesus, and he told me he wants me to be there. I don’t want to be here anymore.” Tiffany had lost all fear of death and deprivation.

That is the rest God wants for his people. It’s a confidence that says, like Paul and like Tiffany, “Live or die, I am the Lord’s.” This is what makes a completely sold-out follower of God. God wants his people to have a faith that declares, “He who began this miracle for us will finish it. He has already proven to us he’s faithful."

A true worshipper isn’t someone who dances after the victory is won. It isn’t the person who sings God’s praises once the enemy has been vanquished. That’s what the Israelites did. When God parted the Red Sea and they arrived on the other side, they sang and danced, praised God and extolled his greatness. Yet, three days later, these same people murmured bitterly against God, at Marah. These weren’t worshippers; they were shallow shouters!

I pray that all who read this message can say in the midst of their hardships or worries, “Yes, the economy may collapse. Yes, I may still be facing a sickness or failing relationship, but God has proven himself faithful to me. No matter what comes, I will rest in his love for me.”

As we look back, we will see that all our fears are wasted. We will see that God desires only to do good to us. We’ve seen his power and glory on our behalf. Now we must be determined to no longer live in fear. Live or die, we are the Lord’s.

Do These Three Things

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

In the midst of one of Israel’s most severe trials, Moses told the people to do three things: “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:13-14, NKJV).

Soon dusk fell over the camp. This was the beginning of Israel’s dark and stormy night, but it was also the beginning of God’s supernatural work. “Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night. The strong east wind…made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided” (Exodus 14:21). The Hebrew word for wind here means “violent exhaling.” Israel’s tent-dwellings must have shaken fiercely as those mighty gusts blew through the camp.

What was God up to here? Why would he allow such a terrible windstorm to go on all night? Why didn’t he just tell Moses to touch the water with his mantle and part the waves in a more gentle supernatural way? What possible reason did God have for permitting this awful night to take place?

God was at work the whole time, using the terrible storm to make a path for his people out of the crisis. He also sent an awesome, protective angel to stand between his people and their enemy. Yet the Israelites who were hiding in their tents couldn’t see it, but those who came outside witnessed a glorious light show. They also beheld the glorious sight of waves mounting up, mighty walls of water rising to form a dry path through the sea. When the people saw this, they must have shouted, “Look, God has used the wind to make a way for us. Praise the Lord!”

I believe God still sends protective angels to camp around all who love and fear him (see Psalm 34:7). Dear saint, if you’re a blood-bought child of God, he has put a warrior angel between you and the devil, and he commands you, just as he told Israel, “Do not fear. Stand still. Believe in my salvation.”

The Works of True Faith

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Hebrews 11 gives us this image of Jacob in his old age: “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21, NKJV). Why is Jacob portrayed in his dying days instead of when he was outsmarting his deceitful father-in-law or wrestling with an angel?

Jacob knew his life was about to end. What does Jacob do as he looks back on the events of his life? He is moved to worship. As he leaned on his staff, he marveled at the life God had given him. Jacob worshipped God in that moment because his soul was at rest. He had proven God faithful beyond any shadow of a doubt. Now the patriarch concluded, “It never mattered what battle I went through. God proved himself faithful to me. He has always been faithful. O Lord, almighty God, I worship you!”

That’s why we see him giving his blessing to his grandchildren. Jacob knew God would fulfill his covenant to the nation of Israel beyond even his own life. His blessing to his grandchildren, his actions, spoke to this faith. There was a reason God wanted this kind of faith for Jacob and his descendants. They would endure slavery, deprivation, danger and suffering. God said, “I want a people who aren’t afraid of death because they know I am trustworthy in all things.”

God wants the same faith in his promises from us. We are called to walk and act in faith that he will see every promise to completion.

This is why James wrote, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14-17).