“Go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money: take that and give to them for Me and you” (Matthew 17:27, NKJV).
We understand that Jesus wanted to make sure they paid the temple tax. The question is, Why didn’t Jesus simply reach into His pocket and give Peter the coin? Why did He give him the elaborate instructions of going down to the sea, casting in a hook, and finding money in the mouth of the first fish that he pulled up? After all, if Jesus didn’t have the money in His pocket, He surely could have manufactured it there as much as He could in the mouth of a fish! What was the point of all that?
Here is what Jesus was teaching Peter, which is the same lesson He is trying to teach us today: “If you will deal with the little things now, I will open to you the way of supernatural faith and provision. I will open to you something that will bring honor to the name of God.”
Imagine Peter going down to the seashore and explaining to the people that God had instructed him to catch a fish because it had money in its mouth to pay the temple tax. The other fishermen would conclude, “This guy has lost it! He has been hanging around with this Teacher too much!” Yet, when Peter returned an hour later with the coin in his hand, he would be able to testify, “It was just as the Lord told me! I caught a fish, opened its mouth, and there was money in it—enough for me and Jesus to pay the tax.”
This is a picture of how when you and I make the choice to do right, we will find the supernatural provision that we need—provision to be honest, provision of joy, provision of comfort that we might have been trying to obtain elsewhere. And it all starts when we allow Jesus to go into the corners of the temple (that temple being you and me) and say to us, “I want to talk to you about something.” When Jesus was talking to Peter in the temple, Peter easily could have walked away and said, “Okay, I’m free, so I am not going to pay the temple tax.” Yet, thank God he didn’t, for Jesus was teaching him something about the supernatural.
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001.
In 1988, God called our ministry to go to New York City and start a church in Times Square. Leaving our comfortable Texas environment and coming to the city required a great step of obedience. We had no congregation, no building, and little money. The only thing God told us was, “Go, and I will be with you. I will bless you. I’ll be your reward.”
So we did go—and the Lord became a shield to us, giving us Himself year after year. Decades later, we have a growing, maturing, missions-minded congregation in the midst of Times Square that stands as a testimony to His miracle.
God’s Word abounds with special, specific promises for those who are called to step out in obedience. Here are just a few of those promises to carry with you to the throne of God. You can lay your life on the line by these:
We also have an ironclad promise that the Holy Ghost will be with us through all our steps of obedience and in our times of testing: “We are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (Acts 5:32).
If God is telling you to lay down something, step out and do it. The Bible clearly says that if you obey the Lord, He will give you the Holy Spirit to be your guide and your strength. He will provide you with everything you need to complete the act of obedience.
When God asks His servants to step out into the unknown, it is not a one-time event. It is a walk that is required our entire lifetime. Yet our obedience wins us a great reward: “The word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1).
God is making a glorious statement to us here: Those who obey Him—who step out not knowing what will happen to them, yet blindly trusting in His Word—will never be outside of His protection. He says, “I will hover over them as a shield. And I will be their reward. I’ll give Myself to them.” “For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favor wilt thou compass him as with a shield” (Psalm 5:12).
A former member of our church, an acclaimed actress, was asked by God to give up show business completely as an act of obedience to Him. She knew in her heart the Lord was telling her to leave it all behind. So she set aside a best supporting actress award and stepped out into the great unknown. She had no job or guarantees of work of any kind; she went out not knowing where she was going.
The very next day her agent called to tell her she had been offered a starring role in a movie with three of the best-known actors in the business. After she hung up, she said, “No, Satan, I know what you’re trying to do. I won’t change my mind.”
Beloved, that’s the way it is going to be for many. Whenever you step out in faithful obedience, the devil will bring some enticement to draw you back to the side of disobedience. Obedience will always cost you something!
That same week, the actress went to court and won a great victory in a child custody battle. Her shield was working for her! She had won Christ, and her reward had been the Lord Himself.
God demanded an incredible act of obedience of Abraham: He asked him to step out into an unknown future. Abraham was able to take this step with nothing more tangible than this promise from God: “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee” (Genesis 12:1).
The writer of Hebrews says, “Abraham, when he was called to go out . . . obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went” (Hebrews 11:8). The Lord didn’t lay out before Abraham a neat, detailed travel plan. Instead, he said simply, “Gather your family, pack up your belongings, leave your kin, and go to a place I will tell you about.”
At seventy-five years of age, Abraham was asked to cast himself fully upon God’s faithfulness. He was given no explanation or warning of the possible dangers involved. And so Abraham went out—not knowing. All he had to rest upon was this promise: “I will show you. And I will bless you.”
His wife, Sarah, probably was no different from any modern-day woman. She may have asked the questions any wife would ask: “Are we going south or north? What kind of clothes should I pack? Will we settle down or stay on the move?” All Abraham could answer was, “God said to go, so we’re going. He’ll show us the next step, as soon as we get moving.”
We sometimes think that when God commands us to do something and we obey, everything will be smooth sailing. We think He’ll be grateful for our obedience so He will place us on a four-lane freeway to blessing. Abraham obeyed God’s Word, but the fact is, one act of obedience doesn’t add up to a walk of obedience.
Abraham had a promise from God, but along the way he had to go through the Negev desert, over snow-covered mountains, through another desert, and past the warring people of Canaan. Then he ended up in the midst of a famine in Egypt. I’m glad God didn’t tell Abraham about the path he would be walking!
This particular path was like no other Abraham had walked. Yet, through it all, he was never in any danger. Nobody could touch him. God was his shield and protector every day. And because of his faith, Abraham was becoming a friend to God.
Every Christian claims to trust the Lord. Yet, in reality, many of God’s children aren’t ready to face the black storm coming upon the world. Unless we lay hold of a special, unshakable trust in our Lord, we won’t be ready for the hard times, now or in the future.
When the full fury of the storm breaks and uncertainty falls over humankind like a cloud, multitudes of Christians will not be able to handle it. Overcome with fear, they will lose their song of victory. Who are these believers who won’t be prepared to endure the storm? They are those who haven’t cultivated a life of prayer with the Lord and are not grounded in His Word.
For years godly shepherds have urged Christians to set aside a time each day to meet God in prayer. Thank the Lord, many have learned to pour out their hearts to Jesus and they are being rewarded with a holy faith and trust. Indeed, their faith grows daily by their reliance on His Word.
You see, communion gives birth to trust. By pouring out to the Lord all our worries, we come away with His rest and assurance: “Trust in him at all times . . . pour out your heart before him” (Psalm 62:8). According to this psalm, “trusting” and “pouring out” are inseparable. If we are to trust God at all times, including the darkest times, then we must be pouring out our hearts to Him without ceasing.
As the days become more frightful, there will arise a people of God who become bolder and bolder. These are believers who call daily on the name of the Lord, “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6). Revelation from God’s Word will uphold them in the hardest of times.
David learned to call upon the Lord in every crisis of his life. Time after time this godly man ran to his secret place, emptying all his fears before the Lord: “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears. . . . He delivered me” (2 Samuel 22:7, 18).