“Laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:1-2).
Do not blame God for not listening to your prayers if you have a grudge against another person lodged in your heart. Christ has laid out clear guidelines for us — he will not deal with anyone who has a wrathful and unforgiving spirit. We are to “lay aside” such attitudes. God’s law of prayer is clear on this matter: “I desire therefore that [you] pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8).
Do you have hard feelings smoldering in your heart? Do not look upon it as something you have a right to indulge. God takes such things very seriously and all the discord and friction among Christian brothers and sisters must grieve his heart more than all the sins of the ungodly.
If you think your prayers might be hindered, be sure you are not smoldering over your hurt feelings or mistreatment from others. Satan cleverly goads Christians into being more sensitive to their emotions than they are to the voice of the Spirit. This can lead to a spirit of revenge when there should be a spirit of forgiveness and love. Yes, even those who have hurt you the most deserve forgiveness in the name of Jesus.
Don’t go about giving in to feelings of hurt and retaliation, then run into the secret place of prayer at night and expect a miracle of deliverance. Jesus said to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
Time is short and the day of the Lord is at hand. Set your heart on following the words of the prophet Micah: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
Your feelings certainly do not affect your salvation or your relationship with the Lord. They may try to deceive you or rob you of your peace and joy in Christ; they may even harass or accuse. But it is time you recognize some unsettling feelings are messages from the enemy, intended to bring you down into despair and fear.
You may be walking in the Spirit, reading your Bible, praying and loving the Lord with all your heart when suddenly, unexpectedly, troubling feelings flood your mind and spirit. Wicked principalities buffet you with unwanted negative feelings when you least expect them. If left unchecked, your emotions can drag you down and distort your vision.
People may throw around theology and simple formulas, such as, “You shouldn’t feel like that! Where is your faith? God wants you to live in victory and constant joy.” But God wants to teach you some powerful lessons about feelings and how to deal with them — and it is vital that you arm yourself with the Word of God.
“For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Your loving Father did not give you feelings of fear and doubt; instead, his gift to you is a perfectly sound mind.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal … casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
These downcast feelings are tactics of the enemy that cause you to question God’s faithfulness. But God isn’t the author of them! Today you can turn the temptation to doubt into an opportunity for high praise as you cast down negative thoughts in the name of Jesus.
“Let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, KJV). The very word race suggests competition. God’s people are likened to runners in a long distance race, competing for a prize — the prize being a glorious revelation of the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
We corrupt the race towards eternity when God’s people compete with one another for success, prosperity and acclaim. Christ becomes nothing more than the sponsor, since all the runners claim to be competing in his name.
“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). There was a time when the race was not to the swift or prosperous but, rather, to the humble and weak. This race encountered persecution, privation, hardness and martyrdom. Why did these runners go through such turmoil and suffering rather than drop out? Simply because, to them, the prize was worth it all. They wanted nothing but Christ!
If faith is rewarded with anything short of the prize of a high calling in Christ Jesus, it is not worth competing for. The winner of this race is the child of God who wants to obtain nothing but more of Jesus, casting the things of this world at the feet of the cross as worthless junk.
The Christian who gives up competition for worldly objects and applause will discover what it means to be content. In all history, only those who have learned to renounce the world and all that is in it have discovered true happiness. One such person said, “I never knew what it meant to be happy until I quit striving to be great.”
Ask the Lord today to refocus your attention so that you will win the worthy prize of the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Have you ever experienced a time in your life when you no longer felt a hunger for the things of God? That passion, that stirring, that zeal to know him dulled because everything in your life was so comfortable; your thoughts occupied with earthly things. If this applies to you, it is time to look through God’s lens of eternity and grasp a picture of something bigger than yourself.
An old maxim goes, “God comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.” Sometimes God looks into the heart and realizes it’s time to shake things up — not that he would intentionally harm you, but he will bring along things to awaken you out of your lethargy. Why? Because he wants much more for you than your contentment and happiness. The Holy Spirit might be saying it is time to bring a little disruption into your life because he wants your heart to be eternally focused on him, loving him, knowing him — and, most of all, being his completely.
In Hebrews we read about earthly fathers who disciplined their sons “for a short time as it seemed best to them” (Hebrews 12:10). “But [God] disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (same verse).
David was no stranger to this discipline: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word” (Psalm 119:67). “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes … I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me” (119:71 and 75).
No one enjoys the feeling of correction, but if you do not submit to the gentle discipline of the loving Father, your faith will diminish and you will become more self-focused.
Pray this prayer with me: “Heavenly Father, give me a heart to love you more as you draw me ever closer to you. Break my heart with what breaks your heart and help me to reach out to those around me with your precious love.”
The next time you are faced with an insurmountable problem, I would advise you to look into the heavens on a clear night. The evidence of God’s greatness is right above your head. Scientists say there are about 7,000 stars visible to the naked eye, though only about 2,000 of these can be seen at any one time and place. So even on the clearest night you see less than a third of all the stars visible to people around the world.
But that is not the end of it. Recent studies indicate that there are far more stars than the eye can see, perhaps 200 billion in our own galaxy, and the Milky Way is just one of millions of galaxies! Though no one knows exactly how many stars that are, one estimate puts the number at three thousand million billion stars — a three with sixteen zeroes behind it!
As God assures us, the “heavens are the work of [his] hands” (Psalm 102:25). He merely “commanded and they were created” (Psalm 148:5). Just one word from him, and three thousand million billion stars came into being. What’s more, Scripture tells us that God “determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name” (Psalm 147:4). God promised to make Abraham the father of many children even though he was an old man married to Sarah, who was herself old and barren. The Lord said Abraham’s offspring would be so numerous that they could not be counted: “I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted” (Genesis 13:16).
Think about it! What “big” problem are you facing right now that is too hard for him? What possible need is beyond his ability to supply? Look up at night into the heavens and let every star inspire you to do what Abraham did — he believed God and received blessings that he could not possibly imagine.
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.