According to the book of Hebrews, each of us ought to “recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings” (Hebrews 10:32). Remind yourself how faithful God has been — how he brought you through all your former struggles and trials. When you first came to Christ, perhaps your entire family thought you were crazy; your former friends did not want to hang out with you anymore. People would accuse you in the workplace simply because you chose to do what was right. And now, once again, you are facing a brunt of accusation on all sides. This is why it is important to recall how God showed himself strong and brought you through in the past. He did not fail you, did he? Neither will he fail you in the days ahead.
The writer of Hebrews says, “For you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods” (Hebrews 10:34). Many of these believers had not yet personally suffered, but they were well aware that others who had gone before them had suffered. When it says that they “accepted the plundering of their goods,” it means they were laying down their own plans and dreams — all their ideas about how their lives should work out. Instead, they were willing to embrace the plan of God for their lives, knowing it would likely entail a measure of suffering.
The verse goes on to say, “Knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven” (10:34). This is essentially another way to be prepared for a time of suffering. No matter what we have to go through, it will be worth it in the end. Remember, we are fighting for something eternal — not just for ourselves, but for others. We are fighting so that we will have something to leave for the generation coming after us.
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.
Jesus came to earth as a man to redeem humankind from our sins and every kind of bondage. But he also came to earth for the purpose of revealing to us the heavenly Father.
He told his disciples, “The Father has sent Me” (John 5:36). He also said, “I can of Myself do nothing … I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30). And then he said, “I go to My Father” (John 14:12).
Jesus was saying three things: “I came from the Father. While I am here, I will do only his will. Soon I will go back to the Father.” Jesus’ entire life — his coming to earth, his purpose while here, and his return to heaven — was about revealing the heavenly Father.
Jesus told the Pharisees, “Watch my life, my ministry, all the miracles and good works I do, and you will see the heavenly Father. Everything I do is a reflection of who he is and it is all meant to reveal him to you.”
“All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27).
Jesus is saying that it is impossible for us to know who the Father is unless Jesus reveals him to us. Significantly, he adds in the very next verse: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (11:28).
Jesus is showing us that if we want rest for our soul, an end to inner striving, we must have a revelation of who the Father is. You must know that you have a Father in heaven who cares about you! No one receives this revelation apart from Christ and in everything he does and says, he is showing us the heart of the Father.
Jesus told a parable about a servant who was forgiven a great debt. This man found grace and mercy with his master, but he took it all for granted. Immediately after he was forgiven, he went out and began to choke a man who owed him a small, insignificant amount, demanding, “Pay me what you owe me — now!” When the debtor asked the man for mercy, he refused and had the debtor jailed.
Why was this man so judgmental? Why did he lack mercy? It was because he did not consider his own unworthiness. He did not understand how hopeless he was, how exceedingly sinful his own sin was. He did not appreciate the danger he had been in — how close to death he had been — before he had been shown mercy. When his master found out what the ungrateful man had done to the other debtor, he had him thrown into jail for life.
While I was studying this parable, the Lord stopped me and convicted me of my own lack of mercy. “Me, Lord? I’m one of the most merciful preachers in America.” But he began to remind me of insensitive remarks I had made, things I had blurted out in haste. I wept before the Lord and asked him how that could have happened.
“David, you have forgotten the incredible mercy I showed to you. How many times did I dig you out of something that could have destroyed you? You would not be here without my mercy!”
I wept before the Lord, and after asking his forgiveness I went back to the Word to seek his help in being more merciful. A wonderful verse I found is Psalm 119:76: “Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to Your word to Your servant.”
The meaning here is, “Lord, your Word tells me I am to be comforted by the knowledge that you are merciful and full of compassion to me. Let me extend this same mercy to those around me.”
When the three young men we know as “the three Hebrew children” were thrown into the fiery furnace, a fourth Man was there with them — Jesus! The men did not get burned; in fact, their clothes and hair did not even smell of smoke when they emerged from the furnace. Beloved, that is the very kind of deliverance God wants to bring to you!
What is God’s motivation for wanting to deliver you? Is it because you have done something to appease him? Have you increased your prayer time? Do you spend more time reading the scriptures? Have you promised never to fail him again? Isaiah had the true revelation: “Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored. And I have loved you” (Isaiah 43:4).
God was saying to Israel, “You are about to go through fires and floods but I am going to walk with you through them all. And in the end, I am going to deliver you simply because you are mine! I know you by name and you are the delight of my heart.”
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
You may say, “I can believe that God delights in righteous pastors. They pray and spend so much time in the Word. And elders and intercessors have endured testings and trials and come through in victory. But I find it hard to believe that a troubled, vacillating Christian could be precious to God.”
Even if you lived to be five hundred years old, you would not live long enough to please God by your own design. Perhaps the devil has convinced you that you have disappointed God and will never be able to please him. But that is a lie because you have been saved and forgiven.
Oh, thank God for Jesus! His grace enables you to stand in victory.
“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:35-37).
The book of Genesis tells the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (see Genesis 18 and 19). We see a stunning example of God’s great mercy as he warned Abraham’s nephew, Lot, of impending doom on the city and provided a path of escape for him and his family. Lot warned his sons-in-law but they thought he was joking, and his wife was filled with indecision and looked back during their escape. But Lot and his daughters ultimately were saved.
“And while he lingered, the [angels] took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city” (Genesis 19:16).
The Bible calls Lot a righteous man (see 2 Peter 2:8-9) and he stands as a type of remnant believer in these last days. As the sins of our society mount toward heaven — sensuality, immorality and ever-bolder evil — America is ripe for destruction. If God’s Church today is righteous, it is only because of the blood of Jesus Christ, and not because of any goodness or morality he has seen in us. His sheer mercy came to us and pulled us out of judgment.
Think about it. When you were saved, the Spirit of God took you by the hand and pulled you out of your sins just as he led Lot and his family out of Sodom and Gomorrah. He set you outside the reach of wickedness and rebellion and brought you out of judgment. All because of his great mercy!