How can we be a picture of Jesus to people who are hungry and thirsty? I believe one key way is by having a spirit of generosity, a spirit of giving all that we can to those in need.
“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2). Paul said, “I want you to know about this grace of God.” Paul is speaking to his church about generosity, a grace to give to others, during a time of severe testing. He started off by saying that the Macedonian churches were suffering but they were able to rise up and meet the needs of people even in their crisis situations because of God’s grace.
This seems to be a contradiction. In a time of great trial — in this case it was a famine — the people were able to have great joy in their hearts. And they also exhibited great generosity during their extreme poverty. They did not wait until they were walking in plenty before they started giving. No, they gave out of their need and had an “abundance of joy” in doing so.
Verse 3 says, “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord.” These people did not give out of a sense of duty or obligation. They did it because it was in their heart to do so.
When the Spirit of God gets hold of your heart, you are able to see the needs of others. He opens your eyes to the reality that you do not have to worry or stress over your own finances and can, in fact, share with others during your time of lack. In other words, you can exercise the grace of generosity by his power working in you.
May the Holy Spirit sensitize us to the needs of others regardless of our own situation, whether positive or negative.
Whenever God is about to do something profound, His people will inevitably face opposition. The apostle Peter said it this way: “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
Peter was saying to the people of that time, “Do not think it is strange when we have to fight opposition as we purpose to reclaim godliness in our nation.” In the same way, if you and I are praying for an awakening in our cities and in our country, we must be prepared for the fact that darkness simply will not retreat without a fight.
The Book of Exodus tells us of the time when the Israelites were close to being delivered from the hand of the Egyptians. A new king who did not know Joseph came into power and became very oppressive. He told the people, “We will tell you what you can build, and you must build it according to our specifications. You can go to your house of worship, but you must worship our way. You will bend your knee to our will, and if you refuse, it is going to cost you!” (See Exodus 1:8-11)
This is very similar to the opposition that you and I currently face and will see in greater measure in the coming days. The freedoms we have known are now in jeopardy; laws are soon going to change for the worse. The threats have the potential to prevent the Church of Jesus Christ from realizing the power that she actually has.
Let us believe God to fill us afresh with His Holy Spirit so that we will not bow to any threats of evil. As the Lord enables us to stand and speak His Word with boldness, we will find that our testimony will not be of ourselves but of God and His mighty power within 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.
“The Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). The Holy Spirit has come to lead us into a life of prayer.
We can get so confused about prayer, making it seem so complicated. There are multitudes of theories that bring confusion and raise all kinds of questions: “When does prayer become intercession? Is intercession measured by fervency, or loudness, or the amount of time spent on my knees? How will I know I am praying in God’s will? Do mental prayers count? What, exactly, do I pray for?”
Such confusion can be overwhelming and might actually keep people from praying. Yet there has never been a time when the prayers of God’s people were more needed. Even in his ancient time, Paul said of the earth, “The whole creation groans” (Romans 8:22). Reports of devastation and impending doom come at us from all sides and such reports are overwhelming people worldwide. Christians are not exempt from the stress of what is happening in our world.
As global events worsen, conspiring to rob people of peace, societies everywhere are looking for a source of comfort. But they are not finding it in psychotherapy, in dead religion, in causes, even in charity. Our only resource for such a time is the prayer of faith.
Here are just a few powerful ways the Holy Spirit plays a role in our prayers:
Pray this prayer: “Holy Spirit, keep me in close communion with Jesus. Do not let me neglect my time alone with the One my soul loves. Keep me on my knees, then I will know your comfort.”
Satan loves to lie to the children of God. He targets those who are determined to enter God’s promised rest. “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:9-11).
What does it mean to “rest in God”? It is to come to a place of total trust in the Lord’s promises — a place where there is no longer any struggle of doubt or fear, but rather a settled confidence. It is a continual belief that God is with us, that he cannot fail, and that he who has called us will see us through.
Just when you think you are entering this new life of trust — when your flesh is crucified and you are depending wholly on the Lord — the old serpent comes with a pack of newly concocted accusations. He knows of your consecration to the Lord, your desire to do all that God has called you to do. So Satan works to get your ear so that he can begin with his horrible lying. Some sample lies of the enemy are:
Satan whispers and tries to wear you down. But just as Jesus was faithful in his confidence in the Father, our faith is likewise measured. “Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:6). Every believer should do these three things daily:
Beloved, build yourself up “on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost” (Jude 20).
Jesus called the Holy Spirit “the Comforter.” “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26, KJV, my italics). It is one thing to know the Holy Spirit as our Comforter, but we must also know how he comforts us so that we can distinguish what comfort is of flesh and what is from the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit’s way of comforting is outlined clearly in Scripture. No matter what the problem, trial, or need, his ministry of comfort is accomplished by bringing truth: “He shall give you another Comforter … even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17).
The fact is, our comfort springs from what we know, not what we feel. Only truth overrules feelings, and the comforting ministry of the Holy Spirit begins with this foundational truth: God is not mad at you. He loves you! “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). The Greek meaning here is even stronger than the translation suggests. It says that the love of God is caused to “gush forth” in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
The enemy may come in like a flood, bringing fear, guilt or stress, but we can immediately invoke this prayer: “Holy Spirit, minister to me, teach me, and remind me of Jesus’ promises about my security as a child of God.”
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Paul says that you are fighting the same warfare being experienced by godly saints all over the world. Your trial is not something peculiar or specific to you. No matter what you are going through, the Holy Spirit comes with truth that brings comfort.