As we pass from one year to the next, it is natural to pause, reflect and set our hearts to go forward. In the last two years, the whole earth has faced new and exceedingly difficult challenges. The gravity of living in this current age is very serious.
As we move forward, we must set our hearts to be faithful to the Lord, no matter how much pressure the wicked of this world and the devil put forth. What will give us the wisdom and strength to hold fast in our faith and trust in the Lord’s provision on these stormy seas? The answer is found in keeping our eyes upon the Lord and purposefully staying close to Him, having Him guide us through whatever comes.
I find what Jesus said when closing the parable of the persistent widow, quite interesting,
As one who believes that Christians will go through a measure of tribulation (not God’s wrath) before the rapture, this section of verses really speaks to me. God will avenge what is done to His people and speedily. And imagine Jesus looking each one of us in the eye saying, “when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
In Matthew 10:22, 24:13 and Mark 13:13, Jesus has said we need to endure to the end to be saved. We can trust the Lord for provision, even if we have to be like Elijah and Elisha where we see how the Lord provided for them in very miraculous ways during harsh times (1 Kings 17, 18; 2 Kings 4).
Let’s look to the heroes and heroines of our faith. Abraham struck out from his homeland, trusting the voice of the Lord and after many years, really did become the father of many nations. Joseph’s faith stood fast even when his own brothers betrayed him and sold him into slavery. Though his prayers did not get answered in the way he wanted, God used him to save many lives, including the lives of his own family and heal their dysfunctional hurts. David was anointed to be king but had to endure years of being hunted down by the “wrongful king” wanting to kill him. In the end, God used him as king of Israel and a psalm writer whose verses still help people and bless God to this day. Daniel stood fast, even being taken captive when his country was overtaken, and many killed. God used him mightily in his day and even gave him incredible dreams, visions, and prophecies for the future.
Ruth (a Gentile) married into a foreign family (Hebrew) and became a widow, along with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law becoming widows too. Through her faithfulness, God provided for her and her mother-in-law in amazing ways. She became part of the lineage of Christ. Rahab was a prostitute but when the opportunity of faith came her way, she yielded to the Lord and helped save God’s people. She also became part of the lineage of Christ.
The Lord will take care of us in His wisdom, as we put our trust in Him. Our choices not only affect us currently but have the potential of eternal value. And not only do our decisions affect us, but affect our families, coworkers, and many others, whether we realize it at the time or not. And most importantly, our main motivation should be the Lord. Whatever we do, matters to Him. And He is the one who has given His all for us, (even with great pain, taking upon Himself our sins and even with much rejection) we can love and respect Him in return, and trust Him through whatever lies ahead. Both He and His love for us, have been proven to mankind since the Garden of Eden. Let us hold on to the Lord, let us hold on.
The night Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord, said to the nearby shepherds,
The angel spoke these great words of encouragement to the shepherds that day and since then, these words have blessed more people than we could count. The angel was announcing the Messiah, Christ Jesus. And even more, the angel said “a Savior” was born, and not just for the Jews, but for “all people.”
John, the apostle, recorded in 1 John 3:8b, that the Son of God came to “destroy the works of the devil.” Not only did Jesus come to be our Savior, paying the price for our sins, but He came to deliver us from the fallen nature that came with sin.
The first Adam was created pure and to be sinless, but when he disobeyed God and sinned, we, his descendants, have no longer been naturally born in the image of God, but instead, have been born with a fallen sinful nature. But the second Adam, Jesus Christ, came to us sinless and stayed sinless. And through the Lord and His sacrifice, we can be born-again. Jesus has made the way, for us to get back to the image of God, that man was first born in. We are still, born first, from our parents with a sinful nature, but when we become Christians, we become born-again in our spirits, which no longer have a sinful nature. This was a huge part of the mission of Jesus Christ when He came! Hallelujah!
In the flesh, we have the carnal, fallen image of the devil. In the spirit, we (born-again Christians), have the image of God. As long as we are in these bodies, we will have the war. The born-again us, has to constantly rule over the carnal nature. This is why we each, have to pick up our cross and carry it daily. It is our flesh, our carnal nature, that we must keep crucified.
In the following verse, we can see that each one of us, is either a child of the devil, or a child of God. Everyone, is one of the two.
We were born "children of the devil" through our earthly parents, but through Christ, we become the children of God!
This is what Jesus made possible! Not only did He acquire forgiveness for us, but He made it possible for all who will repent, believe upon and follow Him, to be able to be one with God. And when He ascended to heaven, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to indwell, comfort, strengthen and guide us! When we belong to the Lord, we are in Him and He is in us. All this is possible because Jesus came and made the way! When Jesus came, He brought life for us, and destroyed the works of the devil, for all who will receive Him!
Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God.
1 John 3:1a
The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.
The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy.
The goodness of God is an undeniable truth and so are all His attributes. Therefore, if we do not recognize His goodness in our lives, the problem is not with God, but with us. God is perfect, He does not have to change, nor does He need to do anything better than He already does. We are the ones who need to change.
Let us not forget that all that is good comes from God (“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” - James 1:17). On the other hand, sickness, all that is evil and can destroy us, come from the devil (“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” - John 10:10). Even the evil that our fellow men do to us, has its origin in the evil thoughts and impulses of the carnal nature or in what they receive from the evil one, and not from God (“... God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.”- James 1:13).
Maybe you are going through a difficult time, and have many reasons one could complain about, frustrations, fears and perhaps even lost a loved one and the pain you feel could only be fully understood by the Lord. Circumstances, feelings, previous experiences and traumas inherited from previous generations, all contribute to the level of suffering that each one of us has to endure at some point.
Maybe you have a difficult situation in the family, at work, at school or with people who are very important to you. Whatever the situation, if it is not up to us to change it, we must ask the Lord to show us how to handle it. He has the best solution for any problem. Maybe God has allowed us to be in a difficult place, that we can learn something from it, that we would not have learned any other way. Perhaps the Lord wants us to detach ourselves from problems and draw closer to Him through Bible study, prayer, praise, and worship. Maybe we need to learn how to love those who are hard to love and help them change. Maybe it's time to change something and get out of the environment we are in and where we do not belong anymore. Sometimes, the very fact that the situation becomes unbearable can be a sign that victory is near and the enemy is doing his best to make us doubt that the Lord is helping us and to accept defeat. The Lord's timing is very important. Let us not be ahead of Him, nor too late in what we have to do. When we act in God’s timing, success is guaranteed by the One who can do everything and for whom nothing is too difficult!
In any difficult situation it is very important to keep our heart pure, because the springs of life come out of the heart. If we allow frustration and dissatisfaction to build up, they become the source of the words we speak and our attitude becomes hostile and negative. It is well known that even if we cannot control the circumstances, we can control how we respond to them. We do not solve the problems if we get upset, agitated, lose sleep or even have a pity party. The correct solution comes from the Lord, and when we put our trust in Him, we find the patience we need and do what He leads us to do. Let us choose to believe that the Lord has the perfect solution for our problem and ask the Holy Spirit to show us God’s will and help us see the good side of the situation.
Let us remember what the following verses say:
Jesus is full of mercy for us, because He lived in a human body and was tempted in all aspects, even though He did not fall into temptation and sin. Jesus was the perfect “blameless and spotless” lamb, who was needed to be the perfect sacrifice for all the sins of mankind, including for each of us. So we can come boldly to “the throne of grace” with everything that bothers and upsets us. The Lord always cares about our suffering, He always has a solution, and He always wants to intervene for us, if we will but ask Him and choose to trust that He will. We reach the throne of the heavenly Father, only through Jesus Christ, and there we find all the love, mercy, and favor we need when we are struggling.
You may be wondering how we get to God's throne? The desire to communicate with the Heavenly Father is the first step, and if you have not yet surrendered your life to the Lord Jesus, this must be the second step (Romans 10:9-10, “that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”).
Because Jesus is the only way to God the Father, after He becomes the Lord of our lives, we can reach the "throne of grace" when we pray sincerely. The Lord looks at “the heart” of the one who prays and not at how sophisticated their prayer is. He wants us to tell Him the truth about what we feel, what hurts or makes us happy, and especially to want to receive His answer to our requests and obey it.
Sadly, many Christians believe that God must do or give them anything they ask for, regardless of His plans or wisdom. And when they do not receive what they asked for, they become frustrated and turn away from the Lord. The truth is, that when we choose to follow Jesus and receive salvation through His sacrifice, we are redeemed from the penalty of death for our sins. We then no longer belong to ourselves but belong to the One who paid for our salvation. Therefore, we must obey God’s will, that He teaches us through His Word, and what He tells us through the Holy Spirit. Everything God asks us to do is truly for our own good and has eternal implications. That is why it is up to us to give all our hurts to Him and take time daily to study and meditate on God's Word. By knowing the Scripture, it helps us learn to hear when He speaks to us and to recognize which thoughts are from the Holy Spirit or not.
Let us ask God to reveal more of Himself and of the depths of His love and grace to us, and help us to trust Him more. When our hearts are filled with gratitude and praise to God for all He has done for us, we can face difficult situations more easily and may even be filled with the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit as we focus on the Lord and not on the circumstances.
We live in a time when society is deeply divided by the choices we have to make; the fear of “what will happen tomorrow" is rampant and even more people have less hope for better days. Each of us has gone through different traumas throughout our lives, and each has responded to them, in his or her own way.
One person's trial, could be much worse than we could ever imagine, but because they are choosing to be strong, they will not be defeated by their circumstances. On the other hand, for a very sensitive person, their trial might seem much less, but the impact to them, might be much more devastating. What I mean is that, no one has gone through life from one happy moment to another. Even if optimistic people see something good in bad situations, and recover better, they still go through hard times, face discouragement, and even depression. God offers grace for all who trust in Him, to be able to handle hard situations, of which many are beyond our control, or caused by people who do not want to obey the Lord, but choose evil over good and hurt those around them.
Have you ever considered that when someone does not treat us right, it might be because of what they are going through, or because someone else treated them wrong? How often do we find ourselves in situations where we do not treat someone else as we should, because we are frustrated or in pain? We could better tolerate and forgive those who treat us wrong, if we would ask ourselves, what would we do if we were in their shoes, and if we would consider that they might have bigger problems than ours. Sometimes it is enough to remember what we already know about the person's past or current situation, to stop judging them, or even feel sorry for them. We do not even judge ourselves correctly every time, why would we think we can do it when it comes to someone else? Everything related to human nature is relative and subjective. Only God and His Word are the truth. Whatever the Bible teaches us is the standard we must follow.
Our minds store everything that happens to us and sometimes not accurately, because our memories can be influenced by past experiences, physical and emotional state and diet. There are many factors that contribute to our well-being. God created us for love, joy, peace and all that is good. When we live in fear, dissatisfaction, hatred, anxiety, stress and any negative emotions produced by toxic thoughts, our brain reacts by producing harmful chemicals, which lead to all sorts of imbalances that result in pain and sickness. In Romans 12:2, we are urged to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, through the Word of God. This is something we need to do, by replacing the worldly way of thinking with the truth of the Bible, so that we can have healthy, scriptural mindsets that restore our brains and help our systems to function properly.
Even if we cannot control what those around us are doing, we can ask the Lord to help us control our reaction to what we do not like, or what hurts us. I know from personal experience that when I try to think what may be behind the words or deeds of those who hurt me, the feeling of compassion helps me to get over it and forgive them more easily. When we do not forgive, the suffering is even greater and can have long-lasting effects. Any event, thought, image or sound that reminds us of what happened, will reproduce the initial pain and we will re-live what happened, strengthening its memory stored in the subconscious mind.
Jesus gave us the most perfect and useful commandments and counsel. Whatever we do contrary to His words, it costs us.
The better we understand this truth and choose mercy, compassion, and love for those who do us wrong, instead of having negative emotions, the happier and more pleasing to God we can be. When we do the opposite, no one wins and the biggest losers are ourselves. Whoever wronged us may not even know that they did it, while we lost our peace and joy. When we choose to respond with love and do good to those who hate us, we keep our hearts pure, pleasing to the Lord, and we have the greatest chance to change our relationship with those people for the better. Prayer is communication with God and when we tell the Lord what hurts us, and give Him the burden and pain, we release ourselves and make room for peace, forgiveness and "agape" love for others, which is the source of true happiness.
There are countless examples in the Bible that show that love overcomes hatred, good overcomes evil, and when we do what the Holy Spirit leads us to do, we overcome, no matter what we have to go through. Here are just a few of the verses that urge us to choose to do what is right.
When we take the time to pay attention to those around us, we may become a blessing to them, by acting right or saying the proper words. Jesus said that “‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35b). The satisfaction of serving or giving is greater than the joy of receiving. Also, when we give, it means we have something that someone else needs. Giving is not just about money. We can give of our time, warm words, encouragement, affection and whatever the Holy Spirit urges us to give. If we obey the urge to give, even if we do not have much, the Lord will bless and multiply what we have left. In God's economy, we first give, and then we receive. When we serve others, even if it is just a smile or a hug, we turn our attention from our problems to the right solutions for those whom we help. We are created to feel useful and to help each other and this is why wholehearted service is full of satisfaction.
Whenever someone bothers us, especially when we are driving, if we choose to pray to the Lord to help them be better drivers and be more careful, then we calm down more easily and keep our hearts pure. In any circumstance, prayer is the best solution, through which we give what upsets us to the Lord and receive the power to react correctly and not sin. The mission field is everywhere we meet people, we just have to look around and ask the Holy Spirit to show us what we can do for them.
If we want to receive God’s mercy and not what we deserve, then we need to show mercy to others. Let us not be quick to judge other people’s gestures and words, because at times, we might be the ones who triggered it by what we said or did in the first place. When we choose to replace the selfish thought “what about me?” with “what can I do to be a blessing?” our lives can change for the better and we can more enjoy our daily walk with Jesus. When we want to understand what other people go through, our hearts become more sensitive to the needs of others and to what God desires from us. As a result, we can smile more and help more people to find their joy and salvation in Jesus Christ.
But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
There is much to meditate upon involving these verses. What I would like to search out at this time is, “love” in them. As it has been written in Greek here, the word for love is “agape.” Hence, what does “agape love” really mean?
These are commandments. But how can the Lord command us to love? Is love not a feeling? Can feelings be commanded? How can this be?
“Agape” is a noun and “agapao” is its verb, which is Greek. The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon says the following about both.
Agapao, NAS Word Usage in the New Testament- Total: 143 times
beloved 8, felt a love for 1, love 1, love 75, loved 38, loves 20
Agape, NAS Word Usage in the New Testament - Total: 116 times
beloved 1, love 1, love 112, love feasts 1, love's 1
The definition from Strong’s says: perhaps from agan (much) [or compare <H5689> (`agab)]; to love (in a social or moral sense) :- (be-) love (-ed).
The truth about “agape love” is that most Bible dictionaries and lexicons do not do it justice.
We know that it is “a godly love.” The kind of love that is of God. It is the first fruit listed in Galatians 5:22-23.
We know from 1 Corinthians 13, that it is “the highest level of love” and without it, nothing else matters.
We could be the most gifted, the most knowledgeable or even do the most righteous deeds, even laying down our own lives for the poor, and without agape love, it is meaningless.
So what really is “this most important love” and how do we get it?
We can see it is a fruit of the Spirit. So He has it. We can see that this is the love listed in John 3:16. So God has “agape love for us” enough to send Jesus to make a way for our salvation.
We see it in our text verses, where Jesus, in His use of the Greek language, spoke it in Matthew 23:37, referencing Deuteronomy 6:5.
A lawyer of the Pharisees had asked Jesus "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" (Matthew 22:36). But in the reply of Jesus, He answered referencing two Scriptures and an explanation. Next Jesus said, “And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matthew 22:39) and then followed it with an explanation, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:40).
Jesus was referencing
I think we can all understand that if we would do right by God and our fellow man, in the manner the Lord has commanded, that we would not err or sin.
This is the same love word as in:
And also in
This is powerful. This is the dividing line between those who call themselves Christians and those who really are.
This is akin to the forgiveness verses. God has forgiven us a great debt and if we refuse to forgive others, then our forgiveness is cancelled (Matthew 6:14-15, 18:35, Mark 11:25-26). The Lord has said that if He extends us such great mercy, who are we to withhold it from another human? And that by comparison, we are forgiven so huge, and with another human, it so much smaller in comparison. This is a pale example, but what if we gave one of our adult children one million dollars, as a free gift. And his neighbor was in desperate need of 10 dollars, and he was asked to help and refused, so that he could hang on those ten, and the other 999,990 dollars. The Giver of all, Who owns it all, says this type of behavior is unacceptable. He rules. And He is also fair.
If we demand accountability of others to God, then by default, we must be accountable too. And with God, we all need the righteousness of Jesus, for we cannot save ourselves. And if we accept the love of God, but refuse to share it, then we put ourselves on the wrong side of God. We cannot eat from the Lord’s table of goodness and not share it with others. He will not have it.
So God chooses to love us, and says we are to love others with the same agape love and that if we do not, then we do not know Him. And for certain, on the day of judgment, we would hear,
We can say we believe, but obviously, if we have not love, then we are not really believing in the true life-changing way the Lord wants for us.
How could we accept such huge love, grace and forgiveness from God and be too stingy to pass it on? We would really have to think we are something and that His love and grace for us is not much. It is obviously possible to talk the talk, but not really be with His program.
We must realize that agape love is not a feeling. Agape love is a choice. If you choose to love in a hard case (an enemy or someone that in the natural you feel is undeserving) then you are doing right, feeling or not.
In researching for this message, I came across a great definition of agape love in someone’s message. They said it means, “to show preference to,” but I think “to give preference to” is more correct. With much research, I think they must have found the Helps Study of the Discovery Bible which says the following:
agapáō – properly, to prefer, to love; for the believer, preferring to "live through Christ" (1 Jn 4:9,10), i.e. embracing God's will (choosing His choices) and obeying them through His power. 25 (agapáō) preeminently refers to what God prefers as He "is love" (1 Jn 4:8,16). See 26 (agapē).
There may be similar definitions in the world, but this is the only I know of, that says it so clearly.
Jesus and the Father, saw our need and chose to sacrifice their own comfort, feelings and needs for our sakes. It was the most expensive choice ever made.
Even on the cross, Jesus was choosing to love. He “loved” the thief next to Him who came to repentance, and Jesus cried out for mercy for those who treated Him cruelly, even those unto death, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
I have spent many years loving some people who have repeatedly done me wrong. In this situation, many people have said to me, how can you do it? I can most honestly tell you, it is because of Jesus. But for Him, I would have shook the dust from my feet and let them hang their own selves. But I have chosen to love them anyhow and not allow hate to have its way. I am the winner. They are bound by hate and ugliness and I am free. And I pray they will wake up from the lies of the devil (I say this all humbly, believe me, I learned it the hard way, and God’s way is the best).
All of it, is only possible with God. If emotions happen to line up with agape love choice, great. If not, just do it with your love to God, in honoring what He commanded of us. If we want to go to heaven, then we must follow Jesus all the way. This is what the Lord who owns heaven and earth has done and this is what He expects of us.
The message that I found that really helped me and might bless you also, can be found at https://www.compellingtruth.org/agape-love.html.
For comparative analysis and meditation, each section of verses in the KJV and then the NIV2011.
Matthew 22:34-40 (KJV) But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Matthew 22:34-40 (NIV2011) Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Mark 12:28-31 (KJV) And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:28-31 (NIV2011) One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Lately, there are fewer and fewer constants that we can rely on and be sure of. Many freedoms and options seemed very normal to us, and we did not think we could ever lose them, until recently. We don't even realize how much we value what we have, until after we lose it and if we don't see the truth about what is going on around us, we can become discouraged and depressed. What are the constants that do not change, regardless of the circumstances, the time we live in, or of what is going on in the whole world?
The most valuable assurance is that God is alive and never changes. God is perfect and does not need to become better in absolutely any way. The Lord is the truth and He can never lie (Numbers 23:19). God is holy, faithful, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal, good, sovereign, kind, loving and even more. We can be sure that He loves each of us, knows everything about us, keeps His promises, can do more than we ask or think, has the best solutions to our problems, He is never too early or too late and He never leaves or forsakes us. All these are constants, and we can be sure that they never change.
On the other hand, everything related to our human nature is variable, as are the characteristics of the world we live in. We rejoice when bad things do not last forever and we grieve when what we like suddenly ends. Human nature is changeable and what we like now, we may not like later, and what we want today, tomorrow may be something we want to get rid of. Thank God that when Jesus ascended to heaven, the Lord did not leave us alone! He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell each of us to whom Jesus is Lord, to guide and teach us, so that we may enjoy how reliable and consistent the Lord and everything about Him is.
No matter what we go through, let us never forget that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) and because He is the Lord of our lives, He will help us get through all the storms of life.
The following verse teaches us a very useful truth, even if we would prefer that it would only partially apply in our lives. We would prefer that the part about suffering, which is referred to as something normal, to not be there, but it is an inherent aspect of life in this fallen world.
God shows us mercy, compassion, and goodness, without deserving any of it, if Jesus is our Lord. After realizing that only with the help of the Lord we can face the challenges and pains of this life and trust that He is with us in the good and bad times, God will change and complete us to become what He intended us to be. Only the Lord can equip, strengthen and establish us to be able to live for Him.
Unfortunately, none of us can become what God wants us to be without suffering. It is certain that everyone suffers in this life. But it is also true that all of us who love Jesus Christ and keep His commandments (John 14:21, 23), are helped by God while suffering and will spend our eternity in the most wonderful place with our Lord. The apostle Paul rightly emphasized that it is worth it to suffer here, in order to live for Christ and as a result, spend our eternity in God’s glory.
We can rely on God’s goodness, faithfulness, grace and love, even if, when it is hard for us, the enemy tries to convince us that God has forsaken us and no longer loves us. In this world we are tested by various trials, which the Lord uses to help us become what He wants us to be. Everything the Lord wants for us is wonderful, perfect, and desirable. The One who gave His Son to die in our place, so that we can spend our eternity with Him, loves us unconditionally and gives us the chance to live for Him until the end.
We can have God’s best for us, when we study the Bible, enter into the Lord’s presence, and have fellowship with Him through prayer or praise and worship. Praying only short prayers, on the run and reading a few Bible verses now and then, is not what our heavenly Father expects from His children. We will reap what we sow and that may be a long chain of failures and desperate moments. Why? Because it takes time in God’s presence to open our spiritual ears to hear what the Holy Spirit has to say, and if we do not seriously study the Bible, we cannot know our Heavenly Father's will, to be able to react and pray accordingly. God respects our free will and does not force us to spend time with Him. The Lord teaches and warns us, through the Holy Spirit and His Word, but we must choose to do His will. Whenever we follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can make the right decisions that the Lord blesses and helps us live the abundant life that Jesus Christ came to give us (John 10:10). Jesus told the Jews who did not believe that He was the Messiah, that in searching the Scriptures we can learn what we need to know about Him.
It is interesting to note that the Jews knew that eternal life could be found in the Scriptures, but they did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the incarnated Word, the way, the truth, and the life. The truth sets us free only after we know it, and this knowledge only comes from time spent in study and fellowship.
For Jesus to truly be our Lord, we must spend time with Him. Parents know how painful it is to only see their teenage children when they need money, and even then, only for a minute, because they are in a hurry. Why would we think that God is pleased with us when we give Him only crumbs of our time? Unfortunately, not even going to church is always a time dedicated to the Lord, because thoughts, worries and emotional problems can distract us, and we fail to enter into the presence of the One we should honor. If we sing without paying attention to the words and do not mean them wholeheartedly, then the time of worship loses its purpose. If we do not pay attention to the sermons, they cannot touch our hearts and help us change for the better.
We want to spend more time with those we truly love. When we are in love with Jesus, we want to know Him more and more. Jesus is the Word and He reveals Himself to us, through the Bible. Studying the Word not only gives us vital information about how to live right for God, but also transforms us, by renewing our minds, helping us change our attitudes, values and the way we perceive life, relationships, make choices and recognize what is beneficial or not. Jesus not only wants to be our Lord and Savior, but also our friend. He wants us to share with Him what makes us happy and what hurts us, what we like to do and what we don't, but still must be done. I can say from my own personal experience that when we ask the Lord, He can even help us learn to enjoy doing what we used to hate. With the Lord, not only is life easier, but it is also much more beautiful and really worth living.
When everything around us seems to fall apart, hopes and dreams seem to crumble and the future seems darker than ever, we still have the strongest and most secure anchor in Jesus Christ. We are just travelers on this Earth and our goal is to make it to where Jesus is, in eternal heaven. There are many verses that encourage us to focus on what awaits us after we leave these physical bodies, so we can more easily overcome the challenges and difficulties of life. Jesus has taught us what to do when we go through trials, by what He told His disciples the night before His arrest and crucifixion:
We can remain calm in the midst of life's storms, only if we choose to keep our emotions in check and not let them take control. We cannot do it on our own, but we are not alone! The Father and Jesus live in us through the Holy Spirit and if we pray, He helps us. We can have true peace only if we receive it from Jesus in our spirit, through the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 5:22-23, we read of the “fruit of the Holy Spirit” in our hearts, and the list begins with “love, joy, peace.” All of these are interdependent and mutually supportive. Jesus tells us to choose not to be troubled, by having faith in Him and in Father God, and knowing that our heavenly dwelling is being prepared in the most perfect and wonderful place possible, to spend eternity with our Lord. Only through Jesus can we reach heaven. If we sincerely love the Lord and seek to keep His commandments, we can be sure that He loves us and lives in our hearts.
By quoting the Old Testament, Jesus summed up God’s Law with two commandments: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37b-40). Jesus came to be love for us. He brought out the deeper perspective of the moral law given through Moses, from a list of “you shall not…,” to the law of love, which makes us to no longer want to sin. If we love God, we will not break the commandments concerning Him, and if we love our fellow man as ourselves, we will not do anything that may hurt others, and as a result, we may keep all ten commandments. True love makes us choose to please God and to treat people as we would like to be treated. (“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” - Matthew 7:12)
We know that we truly love God, when we choose to do what we know He prefers and pleases Him. We also know that we love our neighbor as ourselves, when we treat others as we would like to be treated. God's love penetrates the whole being of the one who truly receives it and will affect his thoughts, emotions, words, and actions. None of us have remained the same, after being touched by God’s love. The change becomes more and more obvious to those around the born-again person, in their speech, behavior, acts and decisions.
In conclusion, love is the path to happiness, blessing, and the abundant life that Jesus desires for us to have. When we love, we are kinder and more tolerant of those around us, we forgive more easily and are not so easily offended; all these are keys that open the door to happiness and fulfillment. Obedience to God does not necessarily involve love, but sincere love leads to obedience and submission to what God prefers, and we do it willingly. The more time we spend with the Lord, the more we want to do what pleases Him, and as a result we become happier and more confident in knowing that His will is always best for us. Nothing the Lord asks of us is to our detriment, even though our flesh often complains. Because we want to do God's will, we no longer want to live led by our carnal nature and its lusts, but rather by the Holy Spirit, who knows what is best for us and helps us to do what pleases God. We are called to continually choose to do the will of God, which is good, pleasing, and perfect.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
We all go through challenges in life, but at different times we react differently to similar situations. The way we respond, to what hurts us is affected by other variables in life. Some of which we cannot control, because they are the effect of the actions (or non-actions) of others, but there are also factors over which we have control, simply because they are directly related to us. Because God has given us free will, He never forces anyone to do what is right. The Lord speaks to our hearts and warns us when what we plan to do is wrong, but we decide whether to obey Him or not.
If Jesus Christ, who had no sin, learned obedience and was perfected through suffering (Hebrews 5:8-9), how much more must we go through multiple sufferings to learn to control our rebellion, selfishness, doubt, and anything else that stands between us and God, so that we can grow and mature spiritually.
We do not like to suffer or go through hard times. Because we live in this sinful world, where pride makes us believe we are great when all is well, suffering has the role of bringing us "down to earth," to realize that without God we are weak and unable to accomplish anything. We cannot even take our next breath without God’s help! But, praise God He is in us all the time and we can do all things He has called us to do, in Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:4)!
What strengthens us when we desperately cannot see any way out of the trouble we are in, or we do not believe that we will ever be made whole again? Let us never forget that the devil “does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy,” while Jesus came “that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). If we truly know that all evil comes from the enemy and that God wants what is best for us, we can handle the difficulties we go through much easier.
It is important to see things in the right perspective, when we face trials and tribulations, as well as in any of the facets of life. If we fear suffering and believe that the Christian life is only joy, success, and nothing can ever harm us, then we are certainly victims of the lies of the devil. Jesus did not promise us such a life here on earth. Perfect joy, happiness, peace and fulfilment, we will experience only in heaven, after we leave these physical bodies with all their problems and weaknesses.
If Jesus was rejected and mistreated by those who had the devil as their father (John 8:44), why would we believe that we would be treated any differently by those who are not God’s children, today? The Lord has warned us that we will suffer in this world.
If we look at suffering as an opportunity to see the manifestation of the Lord's love and goodness in our lives, knowing He will surely bring us "out of dire distress, into a broad place” (Job 36:16), it will be much easier for us to go through what the devil has planned for our destruction. We must always remember that, just as the Lord never forsook us in the past, He will not now or in the future either and “no one is able to snatch” us out of God’s hand.
What should we do when we find ourselves going through a hard time? The first step is to identify the lies that the devil whispers to us, that are the opposite of God's Word, and then firmly declare the truth. We need to declare out loud that we know that God loves us, that He values us, and that He will surely help us as He always has. By declaring God’s truth out loud, we hear it from the most credible source for our brain, and that is our own voice. As a result, we strengthen our faith, and instead of being despaired, we trust the Lord that He is for us, not against us. We can declare Bible truths such as: God is good, His goodness has no end, His faithfulness is new every morning, He loves us with a perfect love, and will cause all things to work together for our good, because we love and obey Him.
The “light affliction,” which Paul was referencing, lasted two decades, but because he put it in the right perspective, in relation to eternity, he could say that they lasted just a moment. We have all experienced hardships, which because they lasted longer than we expected, we feared they would never end.
Recently I had an experience that the enemy wanted me to believe was the most terrible, that it will never end and that nothing would never be the same afterwards. In such moments, because we are discouraged and we suffer, it is hard to be filled with the Holy Spirit. That is why it is easier to believe the lies of the evil one who wants us to doubt the love and help of the Lord, so that we lose our hope and faith and fall into the pit of despair. If we go through an illness that makes us unable to think logically, and we are not rooted in the truth of God’s Word, we may suffer greatly. Even if we fail to realize that the enemy is the source of discouraging thoughts, despair, fear, and doubt, if we have a living relationship with Jesus, we will not believe the lies for very long, because the Holy Spirit reminds us that God is good, loves us, and wants our best, even if we don't feel His presence. Sometimes while we are being tested, we no longer feel the presence or love of our Heavenly Father, because His desire is that we rely on the truth of His Word, which tells us that “He does not leave or forsake us” and that nothing can separate us from His love. A simple but truthful sentence can lead us from despair to victory, and this is, “Lord, You are good!” If we begin to tell the Lord how much we love Him and how grateful we are that He loves us, it will not be long before the Holy Spirit reminds us of other wonderful experiences, when the Lord has given us victories and brought us out of even more difficult situations than the current one. If we spend time daily studying and memorizing God's Word, the Holy Spirit will remind us of the verses we need to fight the devil's lies with and get through the hard times.
Sometimes while we are being tested, we no longer feel the presence or love of our Heavenly Father, because His desire is that we rely on the truth of His Word, which tells us that “He does not leave or forsake us” and that nothing can separate us from His love. A simple but truthful sentence can lead us from despair to victory, and this is, "Lord, You are good!" If we begin to tell the Lord how much we love Him and how grateful we are that He loves us, it will not be long before the Holy Spirit reminds us of other wonderful experiences, when the Lord has given us victories and brought us out of even more difficult situations than the current one. If we spend time daily studying and memorizing God's Word, the Holy Spirit will remind us of the verses we need to fight the devil's lies with and get through the hard times.
Mankind's greatest fear is death. But we already know that for a true Christian, death only means to leave the physical body and to instantly be in the presence of the Lord, where there is no more pain and torment. When we realize that we should not fear death, many other fears lose their effect on us, and it will be way easier to keep our peace and joy. Jesus shows us that the only fear we should have is the reverential fear of God. It is the fear to not sin against the One who has done and is doing everything for us and who deserves all our love, honor and obedience.
When we become convinced of the truth of Paul's words, "to live is Christ, and to die is gain," we will not fall so easily into the snares of the enemy. And if we do not fear death and know that the Lord is with us in every situation, and that "He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4), we trust that God’s help will come in His perfect timing. The Lord is never late and never early, but does everything exactly when it is needed.
The following verses strengthened me the most, during my recent tribulation:
Jesus is full of mercy and compassion, and He understands us because He too lived in the flesh and was tempted just like us. He experienced life in this world, but He never sinned. That is why He could be the perfect sacrifice to saves us. It means a lot, to know that we can “boldly” approach the Lord, who has absolute power and gives us "grace," that meets our every need. Jesus, our High Priest, fully knows what we need and will help us at the right time, if we have faith that He will do it. Also during my recent tribulation, the Lord helped me, as always, to the glory of His name, and I know He does the same for you. Let's choose to trust the Lord based on what the Bible says and not on how we feel. God's Word is the truth, and we can be sure that the Lord does not lie and is always there for us, in the bad and good times of life.
How many of us have fallen for the lie of the devil, that it is okay to have unforgiveness? How many of us have personally said, or heard another say, “you just do not know how wrong they did me” or “I hope God punishes them for what they did to me” or “they ruined my life” or countless other similar statements?
Let us seriously consider the heart of God on forgiving and being forgiven. There was a day when Jesus was approached and asked how we should pray. What is commonly known as the Lord’s prayer is recorded in two of the Gospels.
It is also recorded in Luke 11:2-4. The very next words that Matthew recorded of Jesus saying, is a matter of life and death!
The message of the Lord pertaining to the seriousness of forgiving others, is recorded in other places. In the parable about the talents, Matthew 18:23-35, a man was “forgiven much” but refused to forgive another man “of a small debt legitimately owed him.” This resulted in the master saying unto him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." – Matthew 18:32b-35
Our Father, generously and with His whole heart, has given us His “mercy and grace” for a multitude of sins and He does not take it lightly when we “refuse to give mercy and grace to others.” And the Lord provided that forgiveness for us out of love, mercy and grace, before we ever asked or were sorry. How dare we think that we can hold a single sin or error done to us, or even a boatload of wrongs from someone, and that it is okay with God. Consider what the Lord told Peter in the following verses.
This does not mean there is a limit of 490 times. It was a way of saying to keep on forgiving someone. When we pray “forgive us as we forgive us others,” it is very serious. In essence, we are praying, “to be forgiven in the manner, as we are forgiving others” and therefore if “we refuse to forgive,” our “forgiveness is refused also.”
To think we can hold grudges and not forgive others, and still go to heaven, is a lie from the devil. If we believe this lie, we will still go to hell. The measure of mercy and grace we give, is the measure of mercy and grace, God gives us.
If we have ought with anyone and it seems totally justified and we refuse to forgive them, even if they never even ask for it, we must realize that it will cost us eternally. By “demanding justice” instead of “giving mercy,” we are “requiring justice” upon ourselves and voiding the mercy we could be receiving.
We can go to church, read our Bibles, pray and even do good works, but if we refuse to forgive someone, no matter how bad the wrong is, we better be prepared to pay the eternal consequences.
This message might seem harsh, but time is of the essence. Everyday wasted believing the lie of the devil, that it is okay and justified to not forgive, is robbing us of the mercy and life that Jesus has for us and if we die in such a state, eternal death and hellfire awaits us.
If you are struggling over an issue, ask the Lord for help. Get counselling if need be, but make the choice to forgive and ask the Lord to help you continue doing so. It is not a onetime thing. At some point, a word will be said, an emotional reminder will come up, and one has to choose to keep forgiving. Eventually, one will even be able to pray for the one that did them or their loved one wrong, just as Jesus did on the cross (Luke 23:34). This is the kind of love that can only come from God, agape love. And the Holy Spirit is with us to help us love in His manner. In our own flesh, I believe it is almost impossible, but with God, it is totally possible.
The Lord never asks us to do something that He is not willing and able to help us do! The Holy Spirit is with us to help us live the life that the Lord has for us. There is nothing like having the slate clean between us and God but it is natural from time to time to fall into a snare of the enemy and for us to have to realize it, repent and ask the Lord to help us get back to where we need to be.
Prayer: Lord, help us to never let anything come between us and You. Please forgive us for the times we seriously fall and the little times too. Help us to forgive, and even love, as You have forgiven and loved us. And please help us in the days ahead to keep forgiving. We need Your help in every way, every day. Thank You Lord for Your mercy and grace and for the opportunity to pass it on. In the Name of Jesus, amen.
What do we do when the answer to our prayer, does not come the way we asked or wanted? Do we give up? Do we get mad at God? Do we toss our faith in the Lord, out with the garbage? How do we still believe for the rest of our prayers?
These are serious questions that every Christian must deal with. We must first ask, do we really expect God to answer according to our wisdom, or His? We know all too well, that we can only see in part and that the Lord sees all and in past, present and future tense. We also know His ways (agenda) are not our ways. We know He loves us and wants us to bring our cares unto Him. But we must trust that His agenda and wisdom are better than ours.
Maybe the answer is not, “no.” Just because the answer does not come exactly as we ask, does not mean His answer is no. For example, most of us pray for healing for ourselves and loved ones many times in our lives. We know God wants the best for us. We also know accidents happen in traffic, yards, sports, homes, work and everywhere else. We know genetics and diet can open the door for issues. Life happens. And we call on our Lord for healing and help. There is no doubt most of us prefer instant miracles. And there is no doubt many of us have received them. But most of the time, healing comes in time. If healing does not come that fast, then we can know there is a reason. Sometimes, the ailment is the one that will be the final one.
Do you remember this verse?
Many times in life, we believe our actions, or our parents actions, are the cause of an illness. And maybe, sometimes, it is true. But consider the answer of Jesus, about the man who was born blind. Sometimes, God allows these types of things, because God wants to work through the circumstances for His reasons.
The Amplified version says, “… he was born blind in order that the workings of God should be manifested (displayed and illustrated) in him.” This helped and taught the former blind man, and many others of that day. For those who had hearts to believe, it increased their faith. For those who had “hard hearts” toward God, their hearts grew even harder. And for all of us who have read this testimony with the leading of the Holy Spirit, have had our faith touched also. It spoke to all who saw and heard about it. It spoke to the religious leaders who where against Jesus. And their hearts and actions were displayed, for all who saw how ugly they treated the healed man and his parents.
We can rest assured that the following verses are true.
Many of us are glad to know, stand on and quote that last part of this section of verses, that all things are working for good for us, who love God and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). But consider what precedes that part. The Holy Spirit has been given to us to help us in our weaknesses. He has come to help us pray and intercede for us “according to the will of God.” This is important!
So how does it happen? It happens when we pray according to the Lord’s direction or leave the answer to our issue, completely up to Him. For those baptized in the Holy Spirit, with the gift of tongues, we trust the Holy Spirit is supernaturally directing our words and prayers. At other times, for us and for others, our humble cries from our hearts are heard before God, via the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, and He is in and with us. He relates our prayers to the Father.
Perhaps the following verse is not often viewed pertaining to prayer, but it certainly can and does apply.
We need to approach the Lord with respect and humility. At times, over the years I have heard people pray rudely to God. Demanding things of Him like a toddler would to a parent. If you were God, how would you answer such prayers?
If you are a child of the Lord, His ears are open to you. But we can know, our Father is not raising brats! When a person is disrespectful to God, he should not expect anything but correction. In the Lord’s mercy, He looks past a lot of our error, but in time, He certainly expects us to mature.
Naturally, there is another simple reason our prayers would not be answered in the way we asked. Sometimes we ask “amiss.” Asking God to bring vengeance on someone we should be forgiving and praying for their mercy or salvation could be a big one. But there are many other ways we can ask amiss. Unforgiveness of others can impede our relationship with God and even cost us eternally, if not dealt with.
Not only is it important to forgive others, but the Lord says we need to get their forgiveness too.
The measure of mercy we give to others, determines the measure of mercy we receive from God.
God will not be mocked, we will reap what we sow. If we are willing to receive the Lord’s mercy, we must be willing to give mercy also. If we do not forgive another human being for something they did once, twice or even a thousand times, why should God forgive us of our multitude of sins? God does not allow us to receive His pardon and then not be willing to forgive others. The result is that if we err in such manner, we are asking for justice of others (some of us even demand it of God), so that if that is the way we want it, then justice is what we have to receive also. This asking or demanding of justice about someone else, means mercy is no longer available and voids the pardon of Jesus for the one showing no mercy.
Jesus has shown us the way to pray with what is popularly called, “the Lord’s prayer,” but many of His personal prayers are recorded in the Gospels. He always prayed according to the leading of the Holy Spirit and kept the Father’s heart and will in mind. Even on the cross, Jesus prayed “Father forgive them for they no not what they do.”
Jesus Himself, never had to ask the Father for forgiveness, but we certainly need to. Salvation means picking up our cross and following Him daily. This means heeding the correction and conviction of the Holy Spirit at all times. We must not let sin come between us and God. We need to keep humble and clean hearts.
Anyone that believes and says a person only needs to repent at the moment of salvation, has been blinded by the devil. The whole problem with sin, is that it separates us from God. To be close to God, means keeping sin out as much as possible and when we err, to repent of it as fast as possible.
There is another hindrance I know of to our prayers and that involves how we treat our spouses. In the following verse, it pertains to how a husband treats His wife, but we can rest assured, that a wife is also accountable to the Lord on how she treats her husband.
Sometimes we have to go on blind faith, rejecting the circumstances and pressing on for the answers we need. The Lord is the very one who taught us about the persistent widow who kept coming before an evil judge with a petition. The judge ultimately wearied from her persistence and granted her the petition she sought (Luke 18:1-8). Sometimes also, we have to speak directly to the mountains in front of us ourselves (Matthew 21:21).
When it comes to prayer, the bottom line is that it is up to us to pray. And it is up to God, how He answers. There is no doubt that if we pray godly prayers with the direction of the Holy Spirit, we will see the best results. If we are in one accord with the Lord, we will be living right and praying right. And as such, we can pray and let it go. The answer is up to the Lord. In His time and according to His ways, He will answer. Praise the Lord, that He is all-wisdom, all-knowing and loves us with a pure heart. We can trust in Him, with all our cares because of who He is.
Eli Cockrell and Carmen Pușcaș share thoughts about the end times and life as a Christian in the world we live in today.