Even now my mind is fresh with the faces of helplessness I saw in the heart of the Bronx. Faces of all shapes and colors and ages. Boys and girls, men and women, blacks, whites, Spanish, Asian. So many were lost. So many needed Jesus.
We were in the final stages of a six-week outreach to the inner cities of New York. For weeks we had been evangelizing in the streets, conducting events on neighborhood corners throughout the city, all the while inviting people to our final outreach in the Bronx.
I remember standing on the platform in front of several thousand people. Our stage was set up at the end of a long, narrow street in one of the most drug-infested neighborhoods in all of New York. High rise apartment buildings towered overhead on either side.
For several seconds I just stood, surveying the crowd. Gang colors were everywhere. Prostitutes, pushers and addicts were scattered throughout the crowd, waiting to hear what I had to say. I glanced at the buildings and noticed people hanging out their windows, children crowded together on fire escapes. Teens huddled together as mothers and fathers watched.
I prayed in my heart, “Dear Jesus. Look at them. So many poor and hurting people—people who need You. Open their eyes, Lord. Touch their hearts. Use my words to bring them to You!”
As I began to share my testimony, I sensed a calmness falling on the neighborhood. I couldn’t get over how attentive the people became. The feeling is impossible to describe. It is the presence of God. It is the wholesale retreat of the enemy as God’s Spirit moves in and settles on a crowd of people.
As I spoke I could feel the Holy Spirit enveloping the crowd, working on their hearts, bringing so many to conviction. Before I had a chance to invite people forward to accept Jesus, dozens streamed toward the stage, falling on their knees to the ground in repentance.
Hundreds came forward to receive Jesus that night. God brought such a wave of conviction that we were overwhelmed by the response. We were completely in awe of the work that God was doing in this hurting, forsaken neighborhood.
“And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:20).
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.
Scripture says that during Elijah’s time in the cave when he was fleeing from Jezebel, “A great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind” (1 Kings 19:11). God was not in that message.
“After the wind [came] an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake” (19:11). Do you expect to hear a fiery word? “And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire” (19:12).
God knows just the kind of word you need to hear when you’re bruised and wounded. And it’s not a word of judgment, not a hard word, not a red-hot sermon. I believe the Lord is telling us in this passage, “When you are bent down by your trials, I will not treat you harshly.” No, Elijah needed to hear a soft, kind voice: “After the fire [came] a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). Some manuscripts translate this phrase as “a gentle blowing,” meaning, “a soft, refreshing breeze.”
This same gentle, still small voice comes to us from the heart of the Father today. And its message is the same: “[Ye] have seen the [outcome] of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11).
“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger forever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. . . . Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him” (Psalm 103:8–11, 13).
Here is your word of deliverance: Rise up and trust! The time has come for you to believe Jesus is with you in your storm. He will give you the strength to endure it.
Don’t believe the lie that you’re going to be crushed. The devil will not have the upper hand. The Lord has said, “No matter how bruised you feel, I will not allow you to be broken. I won’t let the fire go out. My Spirit is going to blow on the embers, and your flame for Me will come back again.”
You have lived as a faithful servant, you have prayed diligently, and you have known God’s voice. You have won victories in the past, and you deeply love the Lord. But now you’re bruised deeply, wounded as never before, and you can’t even bring yourself to pray.
Beloved, this Christian walk is warfare. It means battles, weariness, wounds, and a ferocious enemy who is out to destroy you. And that’s when you’re most vulnerable to condemning thoughts. Your conscience tells you: “You’re not praying the way you did before. You don’t study the Word enough. You’re dried up and lukewarm, your fire is going out, and you’re simply not a good testimony. Now you’ve allowed Satan to rob you of the peace God gave you. You just don’t have what it takes.”
And we think, “I’ve let my Lord down. I have not obeyed His Word.” Your wavering faith is a wick that’s smoldering, and the devil is eager to see it snuffed out.
Like the prophet Elijah, you’re worn out and discouraged; all you want to do is sleep. Scripture says that is just what this godly man did: “He lay [down] and slept” (1 Kings 19:5). He simply couldn’t carry the burden anymore.
But the Lord didn’t rebuke Elijah for this. God knew His servant had come to a breaking point. I picture our precious Father saying of him, “Look at this faithful man, bruised and hurting. He has reached the end of his rope, unable to explain his pain to anyone. I have promised him, ‘I will not break a bruised reed.’”
So, what happened? “The angel of the Lord came . . . and touched [Elijah], and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee” (1 Kings 19:7).
Here is an incredible word for every bruised reed who is reading this message. It doesn’t matter how bruised you are, how bent down by your flood of testing, God has made you a promise: “You will not be broken. I won’t allow your flame to go out. Your faith will not be quenched.”
Dear saint, this message is to you from heaven. You are being touched with a word that calls to you: “Rise up now. God isn’t mad at you. And He’s not going to let you go down. He knows this situation is too great for you to handle. He will supply you with supernatural strength. He’s going to give you what you need to move on.”
Jesus once turned to some of His earthly relatives and said, “The world cannot hate you” (John 7:7).
With these words, Jesus gives us the litmus test of a true church and a true disciple. I wonder how many churches and Christians these words could be spoken of today: “The world cannot hate you.”
Christ is saying, in essence, “You have so brought the world into the church—you’ve so diluted My gospel—that the world embraces you. You’ve become a friend to the world.” James gives us this warning in his epistle: “The friendship of the world is enmity with God . . . whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
Of course, Jesus was a friend to politicians and sinners. But it is also written that He was “separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). He ministered to sinners, yet as one under submission to His Father. Like Him, we are called to be in the world, but not of it.
“Remember the word that I said unto you. . . . If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). You don’t have to look for persecution. It won’t come because of your job performance, or your race, or your appearance. No, it will come simply because you make Christ your Lord.
Now let me give you a word of encouragement. Even though the world hates and persecutes Christ’s true disciples, we find a growing love and godly affection among the members of His Church. Indeed, that which causes the world to hate us causes our righteous brothers and sisters to embrace us all the more.
In the days ahead, the love in God’s house is going to become more precious. We’ll be hated by the whole world, mocked by the media, ridiculed by Hollywood, made a laughingstock by society. But when we come into God’s house, we’ll be entering a place of incredible love as we love one another as Christ loves us.
It won’t matter what persecution we’ve faced. We’ll be received with these words: “Welcome home, brother; welcome home, sister. Here is where you’re loved.” We’ll be built back up, to continue going out as our Lord commands us, with His true gospel.
A true Christian is loving, peaceful, forgiving and caring. Those who obey Jesus’ words are self-sacrificing, meek and kind.
Common wisdom tells us that it is not natural to hate those who love you, bless you and pray for you. Rather, people hate only those who abuse, rob and curse them. Why, then, are Christians so hated?
Jesus says, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. . . . If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18, 20). Why is this so?
The Church is hated because of its mission, which is much more than just telling lost people, “Jesus loves you.”
You may draw back in surprise when I remind you of what our mission is. Simply put, our mission as Christians is to take back from the ungodly what is most precious to them: self-righteousness.
The most precious thing to a worldly person is his self-righteousness. Think about it: He has spent his whole life forming a good opinion of himself. He’s built an idol to his good works. He praises himself that he’s really good at heart and kind to others. He is sure that he’s good enough for heaven, and too good for hell.
This ungodly man has spent years beating down his conscience and searing it. He has taught himself to still every voice of conviction that comes to him. He enjoys a false peace and has become so deceived that he actually believes God admires him!
And now, just when he has shut down the voice of his conscience, you—a Christian—come along. And the truth you bring speaks more loudly than his dead conscience: “Unless you’re born again, you can’t enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Suddenly, you’re a threat in this man’s mind. You’re someone who wants to deprive him of his assurance that all is well with his soul. All this time he thought he was okay, but now you’re telling him that all his good works are as filthy rags.
I tell you, this man doesn’t see you as someone who’s bringing good news. No, in his eyes you’re a tormenter, someone who’s out to take away his peaceful sleep at night.