Growing Bitter or Growing Better

Keith Holloway

In our humanity, we seem to have an inclination toward focusing on our problems. Sometimes rightfully so because they can be tremendous challenges that are overwhelming.

Many of you are facing unbelievable things. In our ministry at World Challenge, we get thousands of letters and emails coming in with people just pouring their hearts out in prayer requests. I've read some of those lately. Honestly, it’s shocking what many people are living through: drug addiction, alcoholism, infidelity, broken relationships, financial troubles. The list goes on and on.

Yet so many people get their ‘daily bread’, if you will, from watching the news, reading online reports or watching reality shows that are filled with lies, cheating, murdering, stealing and all manner of depravity over and over again. It's not surprising that people are in depression and suicide is at an all-time high.

Even many believers are being shaken in their faith and in their walk, feeling like God is not with them. People have turned against them, and they have started asking the questions of “Who am I? What am I here for? Is it worth it?”

I want to bring you a word today that I believe is a wonderful word.

Peter wrote the early church and encouraged believers, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7, ESV).

When trials come, we can either grow better or grow bitter. The opportunity is there, but it's our response to crisis. Crises aren’t what causes our faith to falter or that change us. Our response to a crisis is what determines whether we grow better or we grow bitter.

Conduct yourself courageously. Admit and recognize the pain and suffering, but also equally recognize and admit that we have an eternal hope. Hope is an expectation of God's good to come to us, no matter how deep, no matter how dark, no matter how long our troubles are. We have a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

The mercy of God is abundantly available to us today. He's born us again into a living hope.

Preparing to Do Spiritual Battle

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

You’ve heard of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, a highly trained army-within-an-army, an elite unit of dedicated soldiers. Special Forces are made up completely of volunteers, fighters who have been noticed and called out by their superiors.

Before the war in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden had said American soldiers were weak, cowardly and not trained for mountain warfare. He predicted the Taliban would send U.S. troops home in shame, but he hadn’t counted on America’s Special Forces. This fearless unit invaded Afghanistan with a mere 2,000 soldiers. Within days, it had located all the enemy’s strongholds.

I believe God is doing something similar in the spiritual realm. While in prayer, I was impressed by the Holy Spirit with the concept that God has been at work in the heavenlies on a covert operation. He’s raising up an army-within-an-army, searching his regular troops to form an elite unit of volunteers. This special force is made up of warriors he can touch and stir to do battle with the enemy. We see a picture of this in the Bible with Saul’s special militia. The Word tells us, “Saul also went home to Gibeah; and valiant men went with him, whose hearts God had touched” (1 Samuel 10:26).

God’s special forces today include the young, the middle-aged, even the elderly. They’ve been training in their secret closets of prayer. Their intimacy with Jesus has taught them how to fight. Now they know how to do battle on any spiritual plane, whether in the mountains or in valleys.

Scripture says, “The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits” (Daniel 11:32), and “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

God’s army-within-an-army is in place in every nation. Its activity may be covert now, but soon we’ll see it doing exploits in the name and power of Christ. God’s Word is coming forth, and the famine is ending. The Lord will prevail. His Word shall conquer all.

Our Advocate to the Father

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Claiming the power that is in Christ’s name is not some complicated, hidden theological truth. There are books in my library that are written solely on the subject of Jesus’ name. The authors wrote them to help believers understand the deep implications hidden in Christ’s name, but most of these books are so “deep” that they go right over readers’ heads.

I believe the truth we’re meant to know about Jesus’ name is simple enough that a child could understand it. When we make our requests in Jesus’ name, we’re to be fully persuaded that it’s the same as if Jesus himself were asking the Father.

How could this be true? Let me explain.

We know that God loved his Son. He spoke with Jesus and taught him during his time on earth. God not only heard but answered every request his Son made. Jesus testified to this, saying, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. And I know that you always hear me” (John 11:41-42, NKJV). In short, the Father never denied his Son any request.

Today, all who believe in Jesus are clothed in his sonship. The heavenly Father receives us as intimately as he receives his own Son. Why? It’s because of our spiritual union with Christ. Through his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus has made us one with the Father. “That they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:21).

Simply put, we are now family, one with the Father and one with the Son. We’ve been adopted with the full rights of inheritance possessed by any child. This means all the power and resources of heaven are made available to us through Christ.

Praying “in the name of Jesus” is not a formula. It is not the phrase that has power in simply speaking it. The power is in believing that Jesus takes up our cause and brings it to the Father on his own merits. He is our advocate; he is doing the asking for us. The power is in fully trusting that God never denies his own Son and that we are the beneficiary of the Father’s utter faithfulness to his Son.

Maturity in Our Faith

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Paul warned the Ephesians, “We should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14, NKJV). You may think, “This verse doesn’t apply to me. My foundation is biblically solid. I’m not taken in by all the new gospel fads and frivolous gimmicks that are distracting people from Christ. I’m rooted and grounded in God’s Word.”

However, listen to the rest of Paul’s verse: “…carried about… by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Ephesians 4:14). Perhaps you can’t be fazed by false doctrine. Paul says you could still be carried away by a whole other matter. He’s asking, “Are you tossed about by the evil plans of those who oppose you?”

Paul’s message calls us to examine ourselves yet again. How do we react to people who call themselves our brothers and sisters in Christ yet spread falsehoods about us?

When Paul commands, “Be no more children,” he’s telling us, “Those enemies of yours — the ones who use gossip and slander, fraud and manipulation, cunning and craftiness, deception and underhandedness — I tell you, they’re all rebellious children. They’re devious and spoiled. They haven’t allowed God’s grace to do a work in them. Don’t fall for their wicked, childish games. They want you to react to their meanness as a child would, but you are not to answer them with childishness.”

In the next verse, Paul urges us to move on to maturity. “Speaking the truth in love, [you] may grow up in all things into him who is the head — Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16).

You can’t help the slights you receive, the hurts done to you, the gossip spoken against you, the fraud and deception aimed at you. However, you can use these things to grow in grace. View them as opportunities to become more Christlike. Respond softly with a meek spirit. Forgive those who spitefully use you.

The Prayer God Seeks

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

When the book of Daniel was written, Israel was in captivity to Babylon. By chapter six, after a long life in ministry, Daniel was eighty years old.

King Darius promoted Daniel to the highest office in the land. He became one of three co-equal presidents, ruling over princes and governors of 120 provinces. Darius favored Daniel over the other two presidents, putting Daniel in charge of forming government policy and teaching all the court appointees and intellectuals (see Daniel 6:3).

Obviously, Daniel was one busy prophet. I can only imagine the kinds of pressures placed on this minister with his busy schedule and time-consuming meetings. Nothing, however, could take Daniel away from his times of prayer; he was never too busy to pray. Prayer remained his central occupation, taking precedence over all other demands. Three times a day, he stole away from all his obligations, burdens and demands as a leader to spend time with the Lord. He simply withdrew from all activities and prayed, and God answered him. Daniel received all his wisdom, direction, messages and prophecies while on his knees (see Daniel 6:10).

Daniel had always been a praying man. In his old age, he had no thoughts of slowing down. Scripture makes no mention of Daniel being burned out or discouraged. On the contrary, Daniel was just beginning. Scripture shows that even as this man turned eighty, his prayers shook hell, enraging the devil.

What is a prayer that shakes hell?

It comes from the faithful, diligent servant who sees his nation and church falling deeper into sin. This person falls on his knees, crying, “Lord, I don’t want to be a part of what’s going on. Let me be an example of your keeping power in the midst of this wicked age. It doesn’t matter if no one else prays. I’m going to pray.”

Too busy to pray? Do you say, “I just take it by faith”? You may think to yourself, “God knows my heart; he knows how busy I am. I give him thought prayers throughout the day.”

I believe the Lord wants quality, unhurried time alone with us. Prayer then becomes an act of love and devotion, not just petition time.