The apostle Paul accomplished incredible things for the cause of Christ. He oversaw churches throughout Asia and some parts of Europe while also serving as an evangelist and apologist. A true scholar, he made the case for Christ before courts and kings.
Paul was determined to take the gospel of Christ to the very epicenter of the world — Rome — and in Acts 27 we read about his journey to Italy. In this journey, he and his shipmates met severe resistance: “The winds were against us” (Acts 27:4). This was an obstacle of nature, but Paul might easily have seen it as a spiritual roadblock.
Paul’s ship eventually crashed onto the rocks, shattering into pieces, but he barely blinked when disaster came. He encouraged his men, “There will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul’ … Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me’” (Acts 27:22-24).
Paul had endured many tribulations to that point, and he was able to endure it all because his mind was always set on his mission: living, preaching and serving Christ. Every Christian is called to proclaim the grace of God to a fallen, sinful world. We are to minister to the poor, to love one another, and to worship together in true gospel community. In short, we are called to deliver God’s love to others through our words and actions so that the world might be changed. In doing all these things we bring the light of Christ to a world in darkness.
Christians who choose to sit on the sidelines of faith — going to church for comfort only — won’t get much resistance from the enemy. But if you are a believer who is determined to live for Jesus and you have a gospel vision for the lost and hurting, you will have Satan’s arsenal unleashed on you.
Paul never took his eyes off his calling, which was Christ. That’s why he was so calm throughout the storm. Be encouraged to follow the voice of the Master! He is in control and will never steer you in the wrong direction.
Jesus once said, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
A conflict is raging, a war in the heavenlies, and people who live in godlessness unwittingly become pawns of it. Their hearts are opened to darkness and they begin to move their hand against what they know is dearest to the heart of God.
In the book of Esther, a man called Haman worked his way up in government to second in authority. He wanted everybody to bow to his view of what society should look like. However, a certain people group refused to bend to ungodliness. This group was represented by one man at the gate named Mordecai, a devout follower of God. Haman became inflamed against Mordecai and all the Jews he represented, and he persuaded the king to pass laws with the ultimate goal of eradicating these people from the society.
In other words, Haman did what leaders right back to the devil himself have always tried to do — pass laws to threaten, harm, and marginalize the people of God in their day; to say, “We as a society with our new order are better off without these people.”
So what is God’s response to this? The apostle Paul said in the book of Corinthians that God takes the weak, and the foolish, and the things that are not to bring to nothing the things that stand in their own wisdom and strength (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-28).
In this case, God providentially placed a young Jewish girl named Esther in the king’s palace. When God called her to go in and make intercession for her people, Esther was unsure of her position with the king since he had not called her into his presence for thirty days. But despite her misgivings, she knew that she was still the bride of the king! She determined that no matter what it cost her, she would use whatever influence she had in order to save her people. God gave her favor and what the enemy meant for harm, God turned around for good.
Just as Esther, you have more power than you realize. You are not just a sideline player in a society that is plunging into darkness. You are the Bride of the King — the ultimate authority. Hallelujah!
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001.
God speaks to his people by his Spirit and he makes his voice clear to us: “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21).
Some people ask, “How can I hear his voice?” The voice of God’s Spirit comes to us primarily through scriptures. But before we can hear his voice of direction, God requires something of us. We must stand still and wait upon him to act. This is not a suggestion, but a commandment. And it is the secret to our total victory and deliverance. On many occasions the Lord commanded his people to stand still.
After Samuel anointed Saul as king, at one point he said to him, “Stand still here awhile, that I may announce to you the word of God” (1 Samuel 9:27). Samuel was saying, “Saul, I’ve just anointed you and already your mind is racing. You’re thinking, ‘What is God doing? How can I know his voice, his will?’ Stop striving, Saul. Do you want to hear from God and get his direction? Then stand still and listen.”
We see another instance of waiting on the Lord for direction in King Jehoshaphat. Judah was being invaded by a coalition of mighty armies and Scripture says, “Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” (2 Chronicles 20:3). The people began to cry out to God. There is nothing wrong with being afraid; in fact, God is longsuffering toward us and does not hold our fear against us.
“Then the Spirit of the Lord came … in the midst of the assembly” (20:14). Here is what the Spirit commanded: “Do not be afraid nor dismayed … for the battle is not yours, but God’s … You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you” (20:15-17).
We may fail in our discernment, our hearing, our decisions. But we can rejoice in our God, who is our strength! He will make us to walk in the right way. It is all his work. And we must simply yield, stand still and see his salvation!
Jesus came into this world for one reason only — to reach and save lost souls. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). And he made that our mission as well when he said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
When Jesus uttered these words, he was talking to insignificant, uneducated men and women. He was placing the very future of his church on their shoulders, which must have been quite overwhelming for that little band of believers. Try to imagine the conversations that took place after their master ascended into heaven.
“Did I hear him right? We’re penniless, ordinary people. How are we going to be able to start a worldwide revolution for Christ? People treat us with total disdain and the Romans are beating and killing us. If they treat us like this in Jerusalem, imagine how they’ll treat us when we get to Rome and start witnessing and preaching.”
In those times, society didn’t have all the exotic temptations our generation faces. There was no ungodly television, filthy cinema, computer access to everything imaginable. Today our government has essentially tried to outlaw God, our media is liberal to the point of godlessness and Wall Street grows increasingly greedy for more money. Worst of all, we are seeing the rise of a generation that curses the Christ we serve.
As followers of Christ, we need to look around us! See the multitudes without a Savior and ask God for a heart to reach out to them. Jesus knew that the power given to the disciples when he sent them out would be more than sufficient to meet every need and opposition. Likewise, the Holy Spirit gives us direction and power to reach out to those around us with the gospel. You don’t have to go to a foreign country to win souls. Your family members, co-workers, those you encounter in your day-to-day activities all need the Savior. Stay sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit and he will guide you in your witness for the Master.
Peter writes: “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations” (2 Peter 2:9). And in another place, the apostle Paul writes: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
It is clear that God does not want to keep us in our trials. He doesn’t get any glory from testing his children — but from the results of our testings! There is only one way to escape our trials and that is by passing the test. Think about it. When you were in school, how did you finally “escape”? You passed the final exam — and if you didn’t pass, you were sent back to class.
That was the case with ancient Israel when God brought them to the Red Sea. God was testing his people, trying them, proving them. He brought them to the very brink of destruction, surrounding them by mountains on two sides, a sea in front of them and an approaching enemy bringing up the rear (read the story in Exodus 14).
James’ phrase, “when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2), refers back to Israel’s testings. The phrase means, “being lowered into a pit and surrounded by enemies.” This is what happened with Israel — God dropped them into a humanly impossible situation. He wanted his people to acknowledge their helplessness and say, “We remember how God delivered us from the plagues and from the death angel. God delivered us then and he will do it again! Let us rejoice in his faithfulness.”
You might wonder how God could expect Israel to have that kind of reaction; after all, they were only human. But God wants something from all of us in our times of overwhelming troubles. He wants us to offer him a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
James discovered this secret when he admonished, “Count it all joy” (James 1:2). He was saying, “Don’t give up! Make an altar in your heart and offer up thanksgiving in the midst of your trials.” How you react in a crisis determines your walk with God thereafter. So bring to him your sacrifice of thanksgiving!