The heavenly Father wasn’t willing to lose His beloved creatures to the powers of hell so He formed a rescue plan for us. “Thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people” (Psalm 89:19). The Father said to His Son, “Humankind is going to grow weak and miserable because of their sin, helpless to find their way back to Me. I appoint You as My holy one to help bring them back into My favor.”
We hear the Son’s own covenant words: “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). Everything Jesus did on earth was in fulfillment of His terms of the covenant: “I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12:49).
The Bible states these terms clearly. Jesus was to divest Himself of all heavenly glory, taking on a human body: “[He] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). He was to endure reproaches and suffering, “a man of sorrows” acquainted with grief. He was to grow up undesirable to the world: “He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). After all this, He was to submit Himself into the hands of wicked men, and in great agony lay down His life as an offering for humankind’s sin. In making atonement He would have to endure God’s wrath for a season.
God then laid out the type of ministry His Son would undertake to redeem humankind. He told Jesus, “Your ministry is going to be that of a priest. I’ve known all My children from the foundation of the world, and now I give them as a flock for You to shepherd.” Jesus testified on earth, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
Finally, the Father instructed His Son, “If You choose to go, these works will be required of You: Preach good tidings to the meek; bind up the brokenhearted; proclaim liberty to the captives. Open prison doors to those in bondage; bear with the weaknesses of the frail; bear tenderly with the ignorant; supply their shortcomings with Your strength. Feed the flock; carry them in Your bosom; gently lead the young; lend Your strength to the weak. Guide them all with Your counsel; promise to send them the Holy Spirit to carry on the work of their freedom; and bring them home to glory with You” (see Isaiah 61:1-3).
The list of David’s mighty warriors in 1 Chronicles 11:22 introduces us to Benaiah, whose exploits included overcoming two of Moab’s best men. He also killed a lion in a snowy, slippery pit. Perhaps most amazingly, he took on an Egyptian tall enough to be a starting forward for the Chicago Bulls. This seven-and-a-half-foot giant wielded a spear with a shaft as sturdy as a lead pipe while Benaiah had only a wooden club.
Even so, Benaiah “snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada. . . . He was held in greater honor than the Thirty” (1 Chronicles 11:23-25).
It was not a Ph.D. degree that brought honor to a person in those days. Honor did not necessarily flow to the person with money or leverage or media access. Honor came as a result of doing exploits for the king.
Who is doing exploits for God today? Where is the enemy being driven back? That is the great yearning of all spiritually minded people. They are not enchanted with polished sermons and slick organizational technique. Where are the mighty men and women anointed by God to truly make a difference?
I think I know at least one of God’s mighty people. Rina Gatdula, a Filipino lady, is like a sister to my wife, Carol, and me. God sent her in the early days of the Brooklyn Tabernacle with a valiant spirit that proved to be a tremendous blessing. When our ushers were intimidated by the occasional drunk or hostile person who wandered in, Rina would confront them with a head-on fearlessness granted by the Holy Spirit.
Although not especially gifted as a public speaker, she had a ministry of prayer and intercession that helped to carry us through many battles. Whether it is the need for a larger building or the need for a backslider to return to the Lord, she has the spirit of Benaiah. She will not let go of God when needy people come to the altar seeking help. She knows the fine art of “praying through” with people; many have found deliverance in Christ because she has stood with them at the throne of grace.
Today Rina travels among the churches the Brooklyn Tabernacle has begun, both in this country and overseas, reminding them of the exploits they can do through God. She always seems to spark a spirit of prayer. Whether in Harlem, San Francisco, or Lima, Peru, she is a living example of a heroine of faith.
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 and a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world.
The Lord's first wake-up call to Israel came in an invasion by Assyria. This archenemy attacked two Israelite provinces, Zebulun and Naphtali. Fortunately, the attacks were limited to these two points, and the damage was minimal. Yet God was clearly speaking to His people. The Lord's chosen nation lost their sense of security and missed the message God was speaking.
Israel then received a second wake-up call and this one was very severe. Two nations whom Scripture calls the "enemies of Israel"—the Syrians and the Philistines—combined forces for a sudden attack. According to Isaiah, this attack came from both "before, and . . . behind" (Isaiah 9:12). This means the invaders came from the east and the west, surrounding Israel. And their sudden attack was totally devastating.
After the attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, most Americans were asking: Where was God in this sudden invasion? What were His people to make of the disaster that had come upon them? Isaiah tells us God was faithful to speak to His people in Israel’s day: "The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel" (Isaiah 9:8). God spoke a clear word and He sent the message to the whole nation.
Beloved, this verse tells us something very important at our own time of devastation. It says simply, "God always sends His word." Never in history has the Lord left His people clueless in a time of calamity. He has never abandoned us and forced us to figure out things on our own. He always provides a word of understanding.
Even now the Lord is raising up godly watchmen to speak for Him in these times. These shepherds are grieving, weeping and repenting as they seek God's face. And I believe they're hearing and understanding the Lord's message behind the present events. Moreover, they're not afraid to proclaim dire warnings, because they know they've heard from God. They're compelled to speak of His purposes behind our calamities.
Ministers and theologians everywhere are saying, "God has nothing to do with disasters. He wouldn't allow awful things to happen." Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. This kind of thinking is causing our nation to rapidly miss the message God wants to speak to us through tragedy.
The fact is, we have to have a word from God. Like many pastors, I've wept and grieved over awful calamities. I've sought the Lord in prayer and through His Word. And I want to tell you, I've experienced a grief that's even deeper than the mourning for innocent people dying. It's a grief that says if we miss God's message, if we turn a deaf ear to what He is loudly proclaiming, then much worse is in store for us.
The prophet Isaiah speaks directly to what we've experienced. If you object to using the Old Testament for examples, consider Paul's words on the subject: "All these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Corinthians 10:11). Paul makes it clear that the examples of the Old Testament reveal just how God moves in times like ours.
At the time that Isaiah prophesied, God had been dealing patiently with Israel for about 250 years. The Lord had sent "light afflictions" upon His people, calling them to repentance. He was trying to woo them out of their brazen idolatry and back into His blessing and favor.
All the prophets throughout the years had spoken to Israel the same essential word: "Humble yourselves." Scripture says, "They served idols . . . yet the Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes" (2 Kings 17:12-13).
But God's chosen nation rejected His call to repentance. "They would not hear, but hardened their necks" (17:14). These people mocked the prophets who called them to humility. And, instead, they "followed vanity, and became vain . . . and they left all the commandments of the Lord their God . . . and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord. . . . Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel" (2 Kings 17:15-18).
I want to be a soldier who is fully prepared for the battlefield. I know that victory is won long before the battle begins. It's won in boot camp, in training and conditioning. When the enemy suddenly comes at me, I'm going to need all available ammunition, and that ammunition is supplied by the powerful Word of God as I hide it away in my heart. So, the next time the devil attacks, I'm confident I'll have reserves to draw on. I'll have won the battle alone with God, prior to the battlefield.
Are you a committed soldier, believing that God is equipping you even now? If so, then you're fulfilling three requirements:
1. You're a diligent reader of God's Word.
As you study Scripture, you're beginning to understand how much God loves you. If you're not convinced of His absolute love, you won't be able to handle any crisis that comes. And you become convinced of His love only by devouring His Word.
2. You're cultivating intimacy with God daily, through time in quality prayer.
Our Lord wants us to cry out to Him in our times of crisis. But prayer during our hardships isn't enough. We have to seek our Father in good times as well. Our faith isn't meant to be merely situational. It has to come from a developing relationship with the Lord.
3. You're trusting that God won't allow you to face any trial without making a way for you to endure it.
Should a great trial come upon you, you don't have to worry whether you'll be strong or faint. Our Father gives grace when it's needed. And if you've developed a close, intimate relationship with Him, He'll pour His enduring grace into you when you need it.
God invites you to enter into His rest—today.
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).