The prophet Isaiah pronounced a woe on Israel: “‘Woe to the rebellious children,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 30:1, NKJV). The Hebrew word Isaiah uses for “rebellious” means backsliding, stubbornness, a turning away. What, exactly, were God’s people turning away from? And what caused their backsliding?
Near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, a group of religious people got so mad at him that they tried to kill him. While preaching in the synagogue in Nazareth, the town where he grew up, Jesus said something so offensive to his listeners that they formed a lynch mob.
“And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:45-47, NKJV).
My friend the evangelist Nicky Cruz calls the church a Holy Ghost hospital. I couldn’t agree more. The church is and should be a place of healing. In my decades as a pastor, I’ve counseled a lot of people who needed restoration after lifelong heartbreak.
Jesus foresaw a crisis of belief when he asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8, NKJV). Our Lord knew many would lose their faith in the last days. Paul spoke of this as well, writing, “The Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). In fact, Paul warned Timothy to hold fast to his faith because so many believers “concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck” (1:19).
When Christians hear the phrase “Upper Room,” one of two biblical scenarios comes to mind. For charismatics and Pentecostals, the predominant sequence happens in Acts 1 and 2. In Chapter 1, the disciples gathered in the upper room of a house, and “with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:14, ESV). Then, in Chapter 2, things get really dramatic.
I’m convinced we can’t fully obey God’s Word until we understand why the Lord calls for perfect obedience. Why does God demand this? Is it because he’s a despot, a tyrant who delights in placing heavy yokes and burdens on his people? No, not at all. Jesus tells us the burden he places on us is light and easy (Matthew 11:30). His commands aren’t grievous.
Have you ever been overwhelmed? Are there days when you face things that seem too difficult to deal with? The Bible isn’t silent on the subject. God’s Word provides great encouragement to us as we seek to overcome the seemingly insurmountable odds positioned against us.
I know what it’s like to believe the promises of God and not see them realized. I know the promise of unspeakable joy and also years of discouragement and even depression. I know what it’s like to hear God’s promise of an overcoming, victorious life and spend long seasons overwhelmed and defeated. I know the promise that we’ll know his love—the height, depth and breadth of it—and yet not sense that love but instead feel driven to earn it.