When you first came to know Jesus, your heart was probably filled with sharp, clear purpose. You experienced God's healing love and, like many new Christians, you longed to share it with others, evangelizing and serving. As you moved forward in this new life, you began to better discern your role in God’s kingdom and your gifts for serving him.
But then something peculiar began to happen. Almost daily, your singular focus on Jesus got crowded out by other demands. Little things popped up that captured your attention and distracted you to the point that you slowly lost your single-mindedness. Sadly, Christ began to fade into the background of your attention.
The Flying Wallendas, a family best known for performing high-wire acts without a safety net, demonstrate this need for laser-like focus. In June of 2013, Nik Wallenda added to his family’s legend by walking on a wire across a gorge in the Grand Canyon. With balance pole in hand and a gritty determination, he battled a fierce wind as he strode forward — and walked all the way across the chasm, never distracted for a moment. His focus was literally a matter of life and death!
As Christians, we have an even higher calling and we must not become distracted to the point of meandering and mediocrity. John the Baptist would not allow himself to become distracted. When a theological dispute arose and several disciples tried to draw him into it, he would not allow it. He told them, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent from Him.’ … He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:28, 30). His focus in life was clear; his holy calling was centered completely on Jesus.
Today, our success-driven culture causes us to seek things for ourselves. But our overriding passion must be for Christ and proclaiming the kingdom of God, just as John did. You can have God’s own Spirit without measure, to guide you in the purposes he has planned for you. Be sure that you keep your sights trained on Jesus and the fact that he is your primary reason for living!
“Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances” (Proverbs 11:14, The Message).
The Word of God is very clear about the importance of choosing wisely when it comes to your close associates. We all like to have friends with common interests and hobbies but we should choose to associate with people who possess high moral standards and lofty principles. Bad friends often will try to get something from you or use you for their own selfish gains. They will tell you what you want to hear, even though it’s not good for you; in fact, foolish counsel can have tragic consequences.
An example of the result of depending on the wrong people is recorded in the Word of God. King Rehoboam ascended to the throne after his father Solomon had died. Imagine following the wisest man who ever lived! In time, a civil war began brewing between King Rehoboam and King Jereboam, a situation that required great wisdom for resolution.
The wise elders who had advised King Solomon were ready to step in with good counsel for Rehoboam. The advice they had to offer was centuries old but very relevant. However, Rehoboam also was listening to the voices of his young, inexperienced, immature friends. He had the option of choosing truth but he chose to listen to his peers.
The elders spoke to Rehoboam with good advice, but he made a foolish decision: “He rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him” (1 Kings 12:8). This was a catastrophic mistake which resulted in exile, lost lives, destruction, and captivity. All because a young king listened to his buddies instead of his elders.
Who do you have in your life who will speak truth to you? Ask the Holy Spirit for discernment in choosing your close friends.
After pastoring an inner-city congregation in Detroit for thirty years, Pastor Tim served at Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC for five years and pastored in Lafayette, Louisiana, for five years. He became Senior Pastor of Times Square Church in May of 2020.
By the time the godly prophet Daniel reached eighty years of age, he had outlived two Babylonian kings, Nebuchadnezzar and his son Belshazzar, and then served under King Darius. Daniel had always been a praying man and he had no thoughts of slowing down in his old age.
King Darius had promoted Daniel to the highest office in the land, putting him in charge of forming government policy and teaching all the court appointees and intellectuals: “Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm” (Daniel 6:3).
Obviously, Daniel was one busy prophet. But nothing could take this man of God away from his times of prayer. Three times a day, he stole away from all his obligations, burdens and demands as a leader to spend time with the Lord.
Daniel is an example to us of how important it is to have praying leaders. Remember, he had been appointed over every other leader in the land. Consider the immense effort it took for Daniel to devote himself to prayer. After all, he lived in the New York City of his time — great, majestic, wealthy Babylon. And he lived in a time of spiritual apathy — of drunkenness, pleasure-seeking and greed among God’s people.
Prayer does not come naturally to anyone, including Daniel. A disciplined prayer time is easy to start yet hard to maintain — both our flesh and the devil conspire against it. Prayer that is effectual comes from the faithful, diligent servant who sees his nation and the church falling deeper into sin and falls on his knees and cries out to God on their behalf. God strongly desires to bless his people but if our minds are polluted with the spirit of this world, we are in no position to receive his blessings.
Will you be a part of God’s praying people today? If so, cry out to him, “Oh, Lord, whatever it takes, keep me on my knees. I long to see your Spirit moving in the hearts of men and women!”
When Jesus was a young boy, a few people saw him in the temple; others met him in the carpentry shop where he toiled. But who could believe Jesus was God in flesh as he repaired their broken chairs? He was merely Joseph’s son, a fine young man who knew a lot about God.
When Jesus began his ministry, he directed his words to a small population in a very small country — that is, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And because he could be in only one place at a time, access to him was restricted. If you wanted to get to Jesus, you had to go to Judah, and if you lived outside of Israel, you had to travel for days or weeks by boat or camel or on foot. Then, you had to trace his presence to a village, find a crowd there and ask them to locate him. You might have to walk all day and night to get to where he was teaching the masses.
Once you found Jesus, you had to be physically close to him to hear his voice, receive his touch, or be blessed by his holy presence. To get to the Lord, you had to be in the right place at the right time. Consider the blind man who heard Jesus passing by and cried out, “Jesus, heal me, that I may receive my sight!” Or, consider the woman with the issue of blood. She had to push through a crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, while all around others were also struggling to touch him.
But all that changed in one sudden, glorious moment. “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:50-51). This tearing of the physical veil represents what took place in the spirit world — when we were granted unrestricted and instant access to the Father on a blood-stained cross. This is a wonderful gift that has been granted to us, so be careful that you do not take it for granted or treat it casually. Our Savior urges us to draw near to him and we should do so with utmost reverence and devotion.
Grace has often been defined as, simply, the unmerited favor and blessing of God. Yet, I believe grace is much more than this. It is everything that Christ is to us in our times of suffering — power, might, kindness, mercy and love — to see us through our afflictions and trials.
Jesus says the rain falls on both the just and the unjust (see Matthew 5:45) — referring to given problems of life such as marriage problems, worries over children, financial pressures, sickness. And the righteous may battle against pride, depression and fear, feelings of inadequacy, oppression of the enemy.
You may question why nations suffer — why there is such awful famine, pestilence, flooding, hunger, disease and destruction. Scripture sheds light on the world’s sufferings through its portrayal of God’s people, ancient Israel. That nation suffered similar calamities: holocausts, captivity, economic collapse, strange diseases. At times Israel’s sufferings were so horrible that even their enemies pitied them.
Why did Israel suffer such terrible things? Scripture makes it clear in each instance that it was because they forsook God and turned to idolatry (see Deuteronomy 4:25-28). It is important to note, however, that along with every righteous judgment upon Israel came manifestations of divine grace in preserving a godly remnant, and fulfilling his divine purpose in and through them in spite of their failures (see 4:29-30).
Even though the reason for our trials may remain a mystery, we should be prepared to accept them until Jesus comes for us. There will be no end to them, so the wise believer will determine in his heart to get to know Jesus more intimately and seek him as never before.
Someday in glory, our heavenly Father will reveal to us the beautiful plan he had for us while we were going through hard times. He will show us how we attained patience through all our trials; how we learned compassion for others; how his strength was made perfect in our weakness; how we learned his utter faithfulness toward us; how we became more like him, our precious Lord and Savior. And until the day we meet him face to face, our loving heavenly Father says, “I have all the grace you need to overcome!”