Consider the way God himself described his relationship with Abraham: “Abraham my friend” (Isaiah 41:8, NKJV). Likewise, the New Testament tells us, “Abraham believed God…and he was called the friend of God” (James 2:23).
What an incredible commendation, to be called the friend of God. Most Christians have sung the well-known hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” These biblical passages bring home that truth with power. To have the Creator of the universe call a man his friend seems beyond human comprehension, yet it happened with Abraham. It’s a sign of this man’s great intimacy with God.
The Hebrew word that Isaiah uses for friend here signifies affection and closeness. The closer we grow to Christ, the greater our desire becomes to live wholly in his presence. Moreover, we begin to see more clearly that Jesus is our only true foundation.
The Bible tells us Abraham “waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). To Abraham, nothing in this life was permanent. Scripture says the world was “a strange place” to him. It was no place to put down roots. The heavenly country Abraham yearned for isn’t a place on earth. Rather, it is being home with the Father. You see, the Hebrew word for the phrase “heavenly country” is pater. It comes from a root word meaning Father. So, the heavenly country Abraham sought was, literally, a place with the Father.
Yet Abraham was no mystic. He was not an ascetic who put on holy airs and lived in a spiritual haze. This man lived an earthly life, heavily involved in the world’s affairs. After all, he was the owner of thousands of head of livestock, and he had enough servants to form a small militia. Abraham had to be a busy man, directing his servants and buying and selling his cattle, sheep and goats.
Yet somehow, despite his many business affairs and responsibilities, Abraham found time for intimacy with the Lord.
Years ago, I experienced a severe back injury. I used to do long-distance bike riding; but after the injury, I was unable to move like I had been before. I gained probably 20-25 pounds. That shocked me a bit, so I started working on getting my health back, exercising and trying to eat right. A serious problem is I hate vegetables. They’re awful, but I try to eat my greens.
I have another problem too. Every time I start to lose weight, there’s a number that’s not as low as my original goal, but it’s where I begin to get satisfied. At first, losing weight is no problem, but then I hit that number like a roadblock. I can’t seem to get under it, and then my brain starts telling me, “Hey, you’re looking pretty good!” That last hurdle is the hardest part because I become satisfied with ‘good enough.’
This mentality is so dangerous for us because it leaves us without the fullness of what we desire. What’s worse, many of us have this in the church.
We get a word on Sunday, or we hear an online sermon that blesses us, or we have lunch with a Christian friend who inspires our heart, and that’s good enough for us. We’re satisfied. Do any of you fill your car’s gas tank only three-quarters of the way? Or maybe you only fill it halfway? Who puts just a quarter of a tank of gas in the car? The Holy Spirit wants to fill us with life and life abundant, but many of us get a touch of the Spirit, and then we’re satisfied. We think, “Good enough.”
Let me tell you, half-fillings of the Spirit, yesterday’s fullness and partial measures of outpouring are insufficient in these wicked days. You will be beaten down and defeated. You will be overrun if you only take half measures.
What God has available for you is far beyond what you’ve ever dreamed, thought or imagined. The fullness of God is what he is holding for you so that you can truly experience the things of Jesus Christ. God wants to raise up a generation of his people who are full of his presence, those who will take a stand against the darkness and hear Christ say, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18, ESV).
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:13-14, ESV).
The word ‘truth’ here in the “belt of truth” actually doesn’t mean the Word of God. Most people don’t realize this. The sword of the Spirit, mentioned later on in this series of verses, is called the Word of God. Truth here simply means sincerity. God has armor for us, and one of the first things he wants us to put on is sincerity. In other words, be real because you can’t be protected if you’re an actor.
Satan is the master actor, the master deceiver. He comes as an angel of light (see 2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
So any act of insincerity — act one way at church and another way at home, anything secret, anything hidden, anytime we cover up with a false exterior — that’s just like whistling for the enemy to come and attack.
He’s going to launch an attack against many of us at one point or another anyway, so why invite more of his attention? How many of us, since we became a Christian, have gone through some battles with the enemy? How many of us have experienced spiritual warfare? It’s hard for some of us to even admit that because we’re afraid that someone will hear that and say, “Whoa, I thought you were victorious in Christ! What do you mean Satan’s attacking you?”
He attacked Jesus for 40 days and 40 nights! This is why the Bible says, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). You don’t know what the person beside you is going through, but if we can be honest and sincere with one another and encourage one another with God’s promises, we will be able to stand firm against our enemy.
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.
I was led to read and study Revelation 9:1-12, the chapter on the locusts. As I read verse 4 about God’s command to the locusts not to destroy anything green, a thought leaped out at me.
I realized that the key to remaining safe in any time of terror was to “stay green.” David wrote, “I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever” (Psalm 52:8, NKJV). The “green” that David refers to here signifies spiritual health. It means to flourish, grow, be fruitful. David is telling us, “My health comes from trusting God. I flourish because I turn to him. My trust in him produces spiritual life in me.”
Here is a glorious truth about the power of staying green. “Thus says the Lord; Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited” (Jeremiah 17:5-6).
The Lord is warning us, “Don’t trust in man. If you put your faith in human power rather than in me, you’ll be cursed.”
The passage goes on, though, to describe what our faith will produce if we put our trust in the Lord. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).
As we trust wholly in the Father, we put down roots in his river, and his divine strength—luscious, green, spiritual health—flows in us and through us. While everything around us is decaying, we’ll flourish as green trees, healthy and strong. When the hour of trial comes, we won’t languish or wilt. Instead, our faith will be growing.
Sadly, much of Christ’s body today resembles a modern-day Valley of Dry Bones (see Ezekiel 37:1-14). It is a wilderness filled with the bleached skeletons of fallen Christians. Ministers and other devoted believers have flamed out because of a besetting sin. Now they are filled with shame, hiding out in caves of their own making. Like Jeremiah, they have convinced themselves, “I will not make mention of [the Lord], nor speak anymore in His name” (Jeremiah 20:9, NKJV).
God is still asking the same question he asked Ezekiel: “Can these dry bones live again?” The answer to this question is an absolute “Yes!” How? It happens by the renewing of our faith in God’s Word.
The Word of the Lord is a consuming fire. Indeed, it’s the only true light that we have during our dark nights of despair. It’s our only defense against the enemy’s lies when he whispers, “It’s all over. You’ve lost the fire, and you’re never going to get it back.”
The only thing that will bring us out of our darkness is faith, and faith comes by hearing God’s Word. We simply have to cling to the Word that has been implanted in us. The Lord has promised, “I will not let you go down; therefore, you have no reason to despair. There’s no cause for quitting. Rest in my Word.”
You may think, “But this dark night is worse than anything I’ve ever known. I’ve heard a thousand sermons on God’s Word, but none of it seems of any value to me now.” Don’t fret; God’s fire still burns in you, even if you can’t see it. You’re to pour onto that fire the fuel of faith. You do this by trusting the Lord. When you do, you’ll see all your doubts and lusts consumed.
God’s Spirit is breathing life again into every set of dry bones. He’s reminding them of the Word he implanted in them. Those who once lay dead are being revived, and they’re crying as Jeremiah did, “God’s fire has been shut up in me for too long. I simply can’t hold it any longer. I can feel the Lord’s power raising me up. He’s putting life in me, and I’m going to speak the Word he gave me. I’m going to proclaim his mercy and healing power.”