It is no sin to say, “Lord, this time in my life is overwhelming and uncomfortable. I need Your strength and courage.” He invites that kind of confession and prayer. But God does have a problem with Christians who say, “I moved out in faith but when I began to feel a lack of peace, I knew it wasn’t from the Lord. So I stopped.”
Here is the problem with that line of thinking. If we stopped walking in faith every time we had a lack of peace, we would never do anything in obedience to the Lord.
Yes, we should have a prevailing peace that undergirds all we do. Such peace comes from God’s immovable Word. But we have to know that if we are about our Father’s business, our peace will be rocked from time to time. Even a man of faith like Joshua could be shaken. That’s why God told him, “Be of good courage; don't fear” (see Joshua 1:6, 7 and 9).
I know my father, David Wilkerson, never would have gone to New York City to work with gang members if he had thought every lack of peace was God telling him to stop. There are times we have to hear God’s voice in the midst of being rocked. His desire for us in chaotic times is not to quit but to discern the Spirit’s voice. That’s how we find peace when our world is being shaken.
A century ago in China, many faithful missionaries spent decade after decade toiling with very little to show for their efforts. Some had only one or two converts; others had none. They suffered under decades of harsh, repressive conditions and many died or were kicked out. There was no reason to believe their efforts amounted to anything more than one massive failure.
Today, tens of millions of Chinese Christians worship God in the underground church alone. Sociologists say that by 2050 the church in China will outnumber all believers in the rest of the world.
Were those missionaries’ efforts a failure? Not at all. Those servants faithfully planted seeds, not knowing what would result. And most of those missionaries died never knowing the results. I urge you, take their example to heart. Whenever we face negative circumstances, it is our call to obey Him. The results are up to Him.
I had just shared the Word at Times Square Church, the congregation in Manhattan pioneered by Pastor David Wilkerson. He and I had eaten supper and as we were walking back together, I wanted to ask him for counsel, as our church was due to open in several months. Pastor Wilkerson, the author of more than forty books, founded the Teen Challenge Centers that are bringing freedom to addicts all over the world. He began World Challenge, a Christian organization supporting missions around the world, as well as countless other ministries. In his later years, Pastor Wilkerson spoke in conferences to thousands of pastors face to face and is considered to be a man who truly marked our generation for God.
I was a bit nervous. Pastor Wilkerson was a very humble man, nice, kind and considerate, yet he was also extremely serious and very intense. I love, respect and admire him and am so grateful for all he has done for me and the work of God in the French world.
As I was walking with him through the crowded streets of New York City, lit as brightly as if it were daytime, I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. I finally got up the courage and just blurted out, “Pastor Dave, we are soon going to begin our church. Do you have a key, a piece of advice you would like to share with me? What I’m trying to say is, if there was one thing that I should do or that I should know, what would you say it is?”
I was astounded by his answer. He stopped dead in his tracks and began to say with amazing intensity and a burning passion, “You want to know what the key is? Do you really want to know?”
I answered him in a faltering voice, “Yes, sir, I really would like to know.”
All of a sudden, his expression and tone of voice changed, and his entire face lit up. Like a child who knows a secret, he said, “Find the poor! Give to the poor! Help the poor! Put your heart and your passion into helping people who will never be able to pay you back or do anything for you.” Then he paused for a second and with absolute joy, he added, “And then watch God bless you!”
“Blessed are those who help the poor” (Proverbs 14:21, NLT).
Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.
I am convinced that right now the faith of the Body of Christ is under fierce satanic attack.
We know that Satan has always brought intense attacks against God’s people, causing awful suffering. For centuries, the blood of martyrs has been spilled. Godly saints like Job have been tried severely. But the onslaught against the faithful we see today is Satan’s last stand.
Just as wickedness abounds around the world today, so do the afflictions and trials of God’s Church. We’re seeing an unprecedented barrage of sickness, affliction, trouble after trouble, one problem after another—all of which make an overcoming life seem impossible to any believer.
Our faith and strength may grow weak, but in our times of weakness, God has given us marvelous promises to renew and strengthen us. Here are some of His promises that sustain me:
Do you believe your God is strong, as the Psalmist declares? If He is, no power can stand before Him. Commit everything into His mighty hand of strength and He will make a way. Most of all, believe His word: “In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul” (Psalm 138:3).
I may not see the evidence, but God is always at work. Every moment of the day, every hour I sleep, He is making a way for me. And His plan is right on schedule, at all times, even when there seems to me to be a delay in His holy work. He is getting at things deep down in me that must be settled so that He can fulfill His promises.
One day I will look back at these trying times and say, “Lord, now I see. You were there all the time, working my miracle!”
Those who are in despair may be tempted to shut themselves out of communion with God. Yet doing so can be fatal. In Psalm 88, you may find a description of what you are going through. A godly man named Heman tells of his hopeless situation:
“My soul is full of trouble. I have been brought down to the pit, and I am among the dead. God has laid me in the lowest pit in darkness, and his wrath lies hard on me. My friends have forsaken me; I am shut up, closed in. I mourn because of my affliction” (my paraphrase).
Heman then challenges God: “Wilt thou show wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise thee? Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? And thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” (Psalm 88:10–12).
Heman is saying, in effect, “I need a miracle now, Lord, not at the resurrection. This is my last hope. Soon it will be too late, because I’ll be dead. You face a deadline here, God. Help me! Why are You casting me off? Why do You hide Your face from me? Why don’t You answer my cries?”
This is hopelessness, despair, an apparently impossible crisis.
What can a godly soul do? How does a righteous soul react? Like Heman, we are to cry night and day: “O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee. Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry. . . . Unto thee have I cried, O Lord; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee” (Psalm 88:1–2, 13).
Here are three things I do in my times of great affliction:
Sometimes we are too casual about prayer. But in times of trouble we find ourselves wrestling with the Lord in prayer every day, until we are assured in our spirit that He has everything under control. The more we want to be reminded of that assurance, the more we go to our prayer closet.
The truth is, God never allows an affliction in our lives except as an act of love. We see this illustrated in the tribe of Ephraim in Israel. The people had fallen into great affliction, and they cried out to God in grief. He responded, “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus” (Jeremiah 31:18).
Like David, Ephraim testified, “Thou has chastised me . . . as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me . . . for thou art the Lord my God” (31:18). In other words: “Lord, You chastened us for a reason. We were like a young, untrained bull, full of energy, but You chastened us to tame us for Your service. You brought our wildness under control.”
You see, God had great plans for the tribe of Ephraim, fruitful, satisfying plans. But first they had to be instructed and trained. Thus, Ephraim declared, “I repented; and after that I was instructed” (31:19). They said, in effect: “In the past, when God had us in the classroom preparing us for His service, we couldn’t take correction. We ran away, crying, ‘It’s too hard.’ We were stubborn, constantly slipping out of the yoke He put upon us. Then God put on us a tighter yoke, and He used His loving rod to break our stubborn will. Now, we yield to His yoke.”
We also are like Ephraim: young, self-centered bulls that don’t want to be put under a yoke. We avoid the discipline of plowing, experiencing pain, being under the rod. And we expect to have everything now—victory, blessing, fruitfulness—by merely claiming God’s promises, or “taking them by faith.” We chafe at being trained in secret prayer, at having to wrestle with God until His promises are fulfilled in our lives. Then, when affliction comes, we think, “We’re God’s choice people. Why is this happening?”
The prayer closet is our schoolroom. And if we don’t have that “alone time” with Jesus—if we’ve eased off from intimacy with Him—we won’t be ready when the flood comes.