God is behind every glorious work and he will not share his glory. He needs clean vessels to do his work. At the very peak moment when his blessings and power are flowing freely through his people, he tells them, “Pause now and put everything on hold because I want to examine your heart.”
Our God wants to do mighty things through us, so if we’re clinging to something that gets in the way of his accomplishing that, he points it out to us. It may be some willfulness or a refusal to trust him for everything. God sometimes wants to add something to our lives before he brings his best. The Lord had made this promise to Joshua: “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses” (Joshua 1:3).
Joshua and his men performed mighty exploits, defeating their enemies, inheriting great lands, and seeing victory as never before. However, something happened during this time of great victory that had to be dealt with. “But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it” (Joshua 6:18). The Israelites were not to take any spoils from the enemies they defeated because the Lord wanted their eyes fixed on things above, not on material goods.
One man, Achan, disobeyed and took some things for himself, and although it wasn’t much— just a pretty coat and a handful of silver and gold—this could have held back God’s best. He confessed, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel” (7:20). It was just a small thing but God revealed it and redeemed the situation.
What is God putting his finger on in your life? Have you been negligent in some area? Don’t delay in your response to the Spirit’s faithful voice. One small thing can determine your whole future and God wants to give you his very best.
Moses met with God, often in dramatic fashion; the Word tells us that “the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush’” (Exodus 3:2). At that time God called Moses to lead the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt and he had to upend his life to follow the leading of the Lord. “So Moses went and returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and said to him, ‘Please let me go and return to my brethren who are in Egypt’ … And Jethro said to Moses, ‘Go in peace’” (Exodus 4:18-19). After Moses decided to obey God, he submitted to the leadership of Jethro, which is a significant principle to understand.
When we do the right thing in the right order, God says, “I’ve prepared the way and I’ll give you the directions for what’s going to take place next.” This is very important as we look at Moses’ life and ministry. He went back to Egypt and, as we know, was met with strong opposition in getting the children of Israel out of Egypt. Pharaoh was increasingly oppressive and the situation was seemingly hopeless (read the account in Exodus 5).
Even though God had done many great miracles for the Israelites, he didn’t seem to be working on their behalf at that point. Moses had done everything right and the Israelites were working as hard as they could, but God seemed silent. As we look at this story, we know that God was there all the time with Moses and the Israelites — and eventually they were delivered from Egypt into marvelous victory.
Perhaps you have heard from God, you’ve submitted to leadership, said whatever God wanted you to say, and gone where God wanted you to go. But it seems as though everything is going wrong and God is against you — but is he? No! Actually, he is just teaching you — to lead you into a place of promise. When Jesus felt furthest from God, he cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). But at that moment he was in the center of God’s will doing the work of redemption for all humanity!
Be encouraged if you’re going through a difficult season: “Know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Pastor Tim pastored an inner-city congregation in Detroit for thirty years before serving at Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC for five years. He and his wife Cindy presently pastor in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Some believers harbor resentment toward God, which can be very dangerous. Sadly, a growing number of ministers are becoming increasingly disillusioned, burned out, even angry with God, and are walking away from their calling. While this is hard to understand, many of them reason, “I was diligent, faithful — I gave it my best — but the harder I worked, the fewer results I saw. My congregation was not appreciative and all my prayers seemed in vain. Now I'm taking a step back so I can try to figure things out.”
The Bible gives us an example of a missionary who grew disheartened when things didn’t go as planned. “The word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, ‘Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you” (Jonah 3:2). He had disobeyed this command once before with dire consequences (remember the story of Jonah and the whale?) but this time he obeyed and preached the message God had given him.
Jonah expected the city to be destroyed and so he waited for it — but nothing happened! Why? Because God had mercy and changed his mind: “God saw their works … and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them” (3:10). In other words, the people of Ninevah repented and God showed them mercy and grace.
Jonah was grieved and disappointed because things hadn’t gone as planned. Also, his pride was wounded and this wounded spirit eventually devolved into rage.
God understands our pain and confusion; after all, our cry is a human one. Remember, the Lord has only good things in mind for you and he will heal you of all bitterness as you seek his face. Truly “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Hallelujah!
God promised the prophet Zechariah that in the last days, he would be a protective wall of fire around his people: “‘For I,’ says the Lord, ‘will be a wall of fire all around her’” (Zechariah 2:5). Likewise, Isaiah testifies: “There shall be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain” (Isaiah 4:6).
These promises are meant to comfort us before a great storm comes in the final days. Indeed, Jesus says this coming storm will be so frightful that people’s hearts will fail them as they see it developing (see Luke 21:26).
Now, if Jesus says this storm is going to be ferocious, we can be sure it will be an awesome moment in history. Yet, the Bible assures us God never sends judgment on any society without first revealing to his prophets what he plans to do: “Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
This is a marvelous expression of our Lord’s great love for his people. Just prior to an impending storm of judgment, he always commands his prophets to warn the people to return to him: “I have also spoken by the prophets, and have multiplied visions … through the witness of the prophets” (Hosea 12:10).
Always keep in mind that God lovingly calls his people back to himself in order to protect them in times of storm. Our nation has turned far away from God. Just look at the abortion rate, the conditions in the schools, the addiction and blasphemy and immorality present in our society.
How do we emulate Jesus’ attitude in these troubling times? The secret: Jesus kept the Father always before his face! David speaks prophetically of Christ: “I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken” (Acts 2:25). The literal meaning here is, “I was always in his presence, beholding his face.”
Beloved, if we're going to face the coming storm, then we need to be prepared so nothing disturbs our spirit. And the only way to do that is to spend time in the father's presence, beholding his face. We have to be shut in with him - on our knees — until we're thoroughly persuaded he's at our right hand!
Americans seem to have a habit of using cooking terms to describe emotions. For example, an upset person is described as steamed and an angry person is referred to as being boiling mad.
Think of the angry, accusing words that Joseph’s brothers leveled at him. Satan prompted those words because he wanted Joseph to hold on to bitterness and spend years stewing in the juices of anger, revenge and hatred. Thank God, Joseph laid it all down — he didn’t allow it to simmer!
Are you stewing or simmering over some hurtful thing said or done to you? Is the flame of anger still burning, bringing you to a slow boil, and yet you refuse to shut if off? If so, you are in danger of boiling over. Too many Christians have no life at all because they hold on to a simmering bitterness, letting the emotion stew.
The Word of God warns against harboring bitterness: “Pursue peace … lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:14-15). A bitter person will not listen to counsel; a bitter Christian will not even heed God’s Word. Why? Because anger blinds the heart to truth.
Beloved, the leaven in your heart is hard at work right now. You may not be stoking the fires in the oven. But, eventually, the leaven will cause a rise. And, in a single moment of rage, it will bring forth the bread of iniquity!
This describes the lives of many Christians today. They've got a little leaven in their heart - some small anger or hurt they've never dealt with - and they won't face it and repent. Instead, they simply turn a blind eye to it. They may believe their heart is clean, innocent. They may even testify, "I have nothing against that person. I'm not stewing over anything."
But the leaven of bitterness is still at work in them - reaching into every area of their life. And the time will come when it will surface again, rising up like leavened bread - because it hasn't been dealt with!
The Holy Spirit will empower you to turn off the fires of agitation that trouble you. Trust in Christ’s forgiveness and let him enable you to overcome every hindrance to fulfillment and maturity in him.