One of the greatest burdens I have as a shepherd of the Lord is, “Oh, God, how do I bring hope and comfort to believers who are enduring such great pain and suffering? Give me a message that will cancel their doubt and fear. Give me truth that will dry up the tears of the grieving and put a song on the lips of the hopeless.”
The message I hear from the Holy Spirit for God’s people is very simple: “Go to my Word, and stand on my promises. Reject your doubtful feelings.” All hope is born out of God’s promises.
I received a letter once that contained a beautiful living illustration of this. It’s from a mother who writes, “My daughter is sixteen years old. She has a physical degeneration of her muscles, ligaments and joints, and is in extreme pain twenty-four hours a day. I lost my son to suicide in 1997 due to the same pain. He was twenty-two when, after nine years of suffering, he took his life. He couldn’t handle the pain.
“My daughter was a ballerina and was looking forward to going to Julliard School in New York City. But her dreams were shattered when she was stricken with the same disease that tormented her brother. The doctor said that her pain on a scale of 1 to 10 is at 14. The amount of painkiller needed to be effective for her would destroy her kidneys, so she can’t take the medicine.
“She loves the Lord, and is a joy to be around. She is a wonderful poet whose writings have appeared in over 15 publications, and she is listed in the ‘International Who’s Who in Poetry.’”
In the face of everything, amid a relentless shaking of body and soul, this mother and her daughter have put their hope in God’s Word to them. And he has given them peace.
Has the enemy tried to tell you that God has bypassed you? Have you been tempted to conclude that the Lord isn’t with you? Have you almost given up your faith? Put your hope in the Lord’s Word to you:
“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).
“The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:9-10).
Caleb, whose name means “forcible, fortitude,” is a type of Christian who goes all the way! He was inseparable from Joshua, a type of Christ, and represented one who continually walks with the Lord.
Caleb had been over Jordan with the spies. While there, he was drawn by the Holy Spirit to Hebron—“the place of death.” With awe he climbed that hallowed mountain and faith flooded his soul. Abraham and Sarah were buried here, as were Isaac and Jacob. Years later, David’s kingdom would begin there. Caleb prized that hallowed place! From that time on he wanted Hebron for his possession.
It was said of Caleb that he “followed me [the Lord] wholly” (Numbers 14:24). He never wavered to the very end. Solomon wavered in his later years and “he went not fully after the Lord.” But at 85 years of age, Caleb could testify: “As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me; as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in” (Joshua 14:11).
At 85 Caleb waged his greatest battle! “Now therefore give me this mountain (Hebron)…” (Joshua 14:12). “And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb…Hebron for an inheritance…” (Joshua 14:13). “Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb…because that he wholly followed the Lord” (Joshua 14:14).
The message is glorious! It is this: It is not enough to have died to sin—to have entered fullness sometime in the past. The need is to grow in the Lord to the end! To keep your spiritual power and strength—to not waver, to “wholly follow the Lord”—even in old age! It should be an ever-increasing faith.
Those who choose to live on middle ground share certain characteristics. The characteristics of the two and a half tribes (Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh) can be found today in those who refuse to pulverize their idols and die to the world. Their Hebrew names expose them.
Reuben means, “A son who sees!” He was Jacob’s firstborn, but he lost his birthright because he was driven by lust. Jacob described his son Reuben as “…unstable as water, thou shalt not excel….” Reuben went into his father’s concubine, and Jacob, in his dying hour, said of him: “Then you defiled it—He went up to my couch.” (see Genesis 49:4).
Reuben had eyes only for this world—its lusts, it things, its pleasures. He was unstable because his heart was always divided, and this spirit was passed on to his posterity. Here was an entire tribe attached to the world and bent on having their own way.
Gad means, “Fortune or troop.” Simply put, this means soldiers of fortune or mercenaries. Moses said of Gad, “He provided the first part for himself…” (Deuteronomy 33:21). This tribe was outwardly obedient, “executing the justice of the Lord,” but the overriding characteristic was self-interest. Gad was consumed with its own problems and the need to “make it.”
Manasseh means, “To forget, to neglect.” This was Joseph’s firstborn son and he should have received the birthright. But even in his childhood there was a sad trait developing and Jacob saw it in the Spirit. Manasseh would one day forget the ways of his father Joseph and neglect the commandment of the Lord.
Consider these combined traits of middle-ground Christians: Unstable as water in spiritual convictions; never excelling in the things of God; lukewarm, weak with lust; ruled by selfish needs; neglecting the Word; not taking the Lord’s commandments seriously; making their own choices instead of trusting God; forgetting past blessings and dealings; unwilling to let go of certain idols; justifying their own decisions; not willing to die to all that would seduce them back to middle ground!
Let us determine to want the Lord’s fullness. God’s desire for you is to enter into a place of rest, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit. That required following him “with all the heart, all the strength.”
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Paul is telling us, “All who follow Jesus are blessed with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, where Christ is.” What an incredible promise to God’s people.
This promise becomes mere words if we don’t know what these spiritual blessings are. How can we enjoy the blessings that God promises us if we don’t comprehend them?
Paul wrote this epistle “to the faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1). These were believers who were sure of their salvation. The Ephesians had been well trained in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life. They knew who they were in Christ, and were assured of their heavenly position in him.
These “faithful ones” fully understood that “God…raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places” (1:20). They knew they’d been chosen by God from “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (1:4). They grasped that they were adopted “by Jesus Christ to himself” (1:5). God had brought them into his family, because when they heard the word of truth, they believed and trusted it.
Many forgiven, cleansed and redeemed people live in misery. They never have a sense of being fulfilled in Christ. Instead, they continually go from peaks to valleys, from spiritual highs to depressing lows. How can this be? It’s because many never get past the crucified Savior to the resurrected Lord who lives in glory.
In turn, Christ is in the Father, seated at his right hand. Therefore, if we’re in Christ, then we are actually seated with Jesus in the throne room, where he is. That means we’re sitting in the presence of the Almighty. This is what Paul refers to when he says we’re made to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). Yes, Jesus is in paradise. But the Lord also abides in you and me. He has made us his temple on the earth, his dwelling place.
Every generation of Christians must check itself to discern whether its mission and actions are God-honoring. We continually have to ask ourselves, “Are we still serving the Lord and our neighbor faithfully and sacrificially? Or have we drifted into a ‘bless me’ mentality?”
Christ knew exactly where the masses’ hearts were when they began following Him. “You want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs” (John 6:26). Why does Jesus refer to “miraculous signs” here? Think about what a sign does. It points to something, it isn’t the thing itself. When a road sign reads, “Denver 60 Miles,” we know we’re not in Denver yet but we’re on the way. In the same way, Jesus was letting the disciples know that the loaves and fishes weren’t the point. They revealed the loving care of the heavenly Father. His miracles are signs of His care for us.
The crowd’s response revealed their hearts. “Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6:31). They were playing Moses’ example against Jesus. It was arm-twisting, like a child who goes to each parent trying to get what he wants. Do we look for God in our midst or do we merely seek His provision? Let’s be honest, often when we pray we want an answer now, today, this hour. That’s an unfortunate trait of our world’s “have it all now” culture. In a spiritual sense, we lack a tremendous value: to know that by faith we’ll eventually see great blessings.
For the Christian, knowing God isn’t about being “blessed now.” The Lord won’t bend to our lusts to give us everything we want—when we want it. His desire is to have a relationship with us—an ongoing, long-term relationship that bears lasting fruit. So His blessings aren’t the end-all of the relationship; they’re signs of His faithfulness and compassion—traits that any of us would covet in a relationship. Christ’s miracles were evidence of those beautiful traits.