The Most Loving Father

Jim Cymbala

Martin Luther, the sixteenth-century priest who initiated the Protestant Reformation, was initially afraid of God because he believed that the Lord was a holy but angry judge — which is what the legalism of his day taught him to believe. No matter how hard Martin tried to please this holy God, he failed, felt condemned by God, and experienced the guilt of his sin.

Some of us have the same battles — we are up against a god who is some sort of harsh, austere king that delights in punishing us. But that is not who God is. He is a loving Father, full of mercy and patience. Without a proper understanding of who he is, a life of intimate fellowship is impossible.

I love spending time with my grandson Levi. I enjoy just having him on my lap and being with him. He doesn’t have to do anything; I don’t need him to perform or sing to give me great joy. Similarly, the Lord is that kind of Father who delights in his family. He wants us to come into his presence because he loves us and desires to spend time with his children.

In Romans 8, Paul says, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (8:15-16). What an important passage! Paul tells us that the Spirit will bear witness to our spirit — our innermost being — that we are God’s children and he is our Father.

Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we can experientially know that God loves us. We don’t have to be afraid. He is not merely the omnipotent creator and ruler of the universe. He is also Abba, Father, the most loving dad anyone could have as a parent.

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.

God Has a Plan at Work

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Beloved, it is important that you realize others are watching your life and being influenced by your behavior. So, I ask, how are you behaving? Are your children being established in Christ as they observe your walk? Are less mature Christians being inspired to know him better because of your testimony? Are sinners being drawn to Jesus because of your loving responses? When you encounter challenges in your daily walk, are you quick to yield to the Holy Spirit? Or do you complain and blame and eventually become cold toward your heavenly Father?

All your trials are designed to throw you into the arms of Jesus, producing in you the sweet aroma of trust and faith in your Lord. We have a tendency to forget all the good things God has done for us, so it is good to remind ourselves of past victories and divine intervention. Or we may think that the latest challenge is just too severe, and we say, “Oh, God, this time it’s too much for me to endure.” And God replies, “Simply look back and remember me.” This is what David did before he went out and defeated the giant Philistine.

“Moreover David said, ‘The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine’” (1 Samuel 17:37).

At another time David said, “[The Lord] also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me. The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness” (Psalm 18:19-20).

 If you ever feel like you are being chastened by God, rest assured it is because he delights in you and he has a plan at work. “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Your Best Work Is Ahead of You

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Looking back over my life, I am amazed as I recall the sorrows, deep waters, and flaming fires I have endured. Even the memory of some of these experiences is painful. Yet, I can say with assurance, “God’s Word is true. He brought me out of every trial and I praise him!”

I am certain that many of you reading this can describe many troubles in your past and you have a story to tell. What would your story sound like? If you love Jesus with all your heart, your testimony likely would be, “God has always brought me through. I never went completely under and those things are behind me now. I’m still here and I’m still praising the Lord!”

God is not satisfied with merely a heartfelt “thank you” from us, however. He says, “Wait just a moment, my child. I didn’t bring you through all your challenges just to make you a grateful overcomer. No, I have made a big investment in you and I won’t let you waste your experiences. Your best work is ahead of you!”

When Paul was an older man with years of experience, he spoke to his friends from his heart: “The most wonderful thing for me right now would be to go home and be with my Lord. That is my true desire. But I’m a veteran and I know I am needed here. This generation needs to see a sufferer who survives and rejoices in any affliction. Others are going to face all that I have faced and they need to know that God will bring them through. I not only have survived but I have done so with true hope. I rejoice in the Lord for all he has done for me” (see Philippians 1:21-26).

Do not let your sufferings be in vain. Be determined to learn more about God’s love and faithfulness in the midst of them.

Training for God’s Purpose

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

“I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12). Paul is telling the Christians in Philippi not to worry about all the things he had endured.

Interestingly, Paul wrote this epistle while bound in a Roman prison. At that point he was a seasoned warrior of the gospel, having endured every conceivable hardship. If you have studied Paul’s life, you know the kinds of things he had faced: shipwrecks; beatings; mockings; hunger and thirst; defamation of character. And, sadly, Paul’s worst afflictions had come at the hands of those who called themselves born-again believers.

Some of Paul’s opponents were envious church leaders who turned their entire congregations against him. They ridiculed his lifestyle, mocked his preaching, misrepresented his message, and questioned his authority. Everywhere Paul went it seemed that he was met with trouble and sorrow.

But listen to his testimony! “None of these things move me” (Acts 20:24). And another place he said, “No one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this … We told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation” (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4). 

Paul was not complaining, he was reassuring these believers. “Why are you so surprised? I’ve told you all along that if you are going to walk with Jesus, you will face afflictions.” This goes directly against a philosophy in today’s American Church that says, “If you have your faith worked out correctly, you will prosper and not suffer.” But that is not what the Bible teaches.

God certainly has the power to keep us from all afflictions, but he allows us to go through certain things. Every trial God allows is an investment he is making in us, a training exercise behind which is a divine purpose. Listen to what the psalmist says, “For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined” (Psalm 66:10).

The Precious Blood of Jesus

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Without a doubt, the blood of Jesus Christ is the most precious gift our heavenly Father has given to us. Christians used to sing about the power of the blood in a favorite old song that said, “There is power, power, wonder-working power in the precious blood of the Lamb.”

I fear, however, that we fail to comprehend the great significance of the blood of Jesus. While it is true that through his blood we are made free from the bondage of iniquity — all our sins are covered — there is much more virtue and value in the preciousness of his blood.

Most Christians know that Jesus shed his blood for us. When Christ lifted the cup at the last Passover, he said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). We memorialize his sacrifice every time we participate in communion. But in Scripture the blood is spoken of in two ways: bloodshed and blood sprinkled.

A familiar example of the “blood sprinkled” is when the Israelites were commanded to take hyssop, dip it in the blood of a slain lamb, and sprinkle it on the lintel and side-posts of their front door for protection from the death angel. The house with the blood applied was then passed over unharmed (see Exodus 12:22-23). If the blood had simply sat in the basin, it would have had no effect. It had to be applied — sprinkled — in order to achieve efficacy.

This blood in Exodus 12 is a type of the blood of Christ. The blood that flowed at Calvary was not wasted — it did not fall to the ground and disappear. It was collected in a heavenly fountain, ready to be sprinkled on the doorposts of your heart, not only for forgiveness but also for protection against all the destroying powers of Satan. Proclaim the victory of Jesus’ blood in your life and begin praising him in a new way!