We find an outright challenge to our smallness in one single verse when Jesus calls us to forsake our narrow little circle and be transformed into the glorious kingdom of liberty and usefulness. “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). Over and again Jesus calls to us, “Your world is too small; ask for a greater, more meaningful life.”
What a paradox! Hate your life to find it; despise it to discover it. That just does not sound reasonable and, yet, the key to abundant life is right there in the words of Jesus. This is his challenge to our small world!
Jesus also said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). Certainly Christ cannot mean hate in terms of the classic dictionary interpretation: to loathe or detest.
It is not life or people that we hate, for that is unscriptural. No, we must learn to hate the way we are living life, our preoccupation with the wrong things. Life is certainly more than houses, drapes, bills, kids’ schooling, parents’ welfare, family relationships.
Think of the most spiritual person you know, that spiritual giant who never panics, who always seems so kind and secure, so committed to God, so pure and holy. He will tell you of a time he encountered a crisis and came to hate his world with its pettiness, its jealousy, its bondage. He learned to hate what he had become so much that he determined to change. He got desperately hungry for the life of God.
You cannot grow until you hate your present immaturity. I encourage you to cry out to God, “Lord, translate me into your glorious kingdom of power and victory. Give me the life of usefulness and joy that so many others are enjoying!”
“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13).
The apostle Paul speaks of a great apostasy to come upon the earth in the last days. What is apostasy? It is “a rejection of truth once believed and proclaimed.” Simply put, it is a falling away from God’s truth. Paul writes of the apostasy to come: “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word … as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).
Our spiritual fathers in the New Testament church were servants who gave their lives to defend the gospel. From the beginning, the disciples and apostles preached the whole counsel of God, proclaiming Christ as Messiah to their dying days. The Lord showered his gifts and blessings on them and the church grew and prospered in spirit and in truth.
Out of the roots of that early church sprang a tree with many branches which we call movements, denominations, organizations, fellowships — such as Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Episcopalians and others. Most of these branches were sparked into flame by saintly servants of Christ, some of whom were martyred for their devotion to the pure Word of God.
God hates the lukewarm gospel of half-truths that is now spreading over the globe. Jesus came to a world that was in total apostasy and his coming was a pure act of mercy, undeserved by anyone. A great harvest of souls is still to come in this modern age and hungry believers from every nation will recognize the voice of the Lord. Their awakened hearts will respond, “Lord, bring me back to my first love for you.”
If you have walked with the Master for a long time, you may need a reminder to draw close to him and receive a renewal of your first love, lest you “fall away” and become part of this great apostasy. Beloved, he is waiting to embrace you and bring you into a new place with him.
The book of Job records many questions that this suffering saint posed to his heavenly Father during his time of great tribulation. Why was he going through so much suffering? Why was his life so meaningless when it had been so fruitful and prosperous? What was the purpose in it all? God’s response to Job is creative and unique as he answers with this question: “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook?” (Job 41:1). In ancient times, a leviathan was a huge sea creature, or even a serpent-like aquatic monster, and here it signifies a struggle of mythic proportions.
God is calling people to fight against the chaos and disorder that has overtaken even entire cities. This battle is weighty, deep, and exists because a man or woman of God did not stand up and say, “This is meant to be contended with. This is meant to be fought. We can’t accept this as if the leviathan has free reign without a battle.”
The Bible is filled with warfare analogies. God promises us victory, which means there is something to be conquered — and triumph means there is a potential for defeat. But we must be prepared to wage serious battle, armed with the proper equipment. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able … to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).
You may have a leviathan in your life, whether in your own heart and mind, or in your family. You believe God for a miracle but you get weary of the fight and do not know how to prevail. When you are weary, don’t give up; when you get bloodied, don’t give up; when you get discouraged, don’t give up. And if you get knocked down, don’t stay down — but press on in the power of his might. “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).
The Lord is mighty in battle and no darkness of hell can stand against him. How blessed to know that the Holy Spirit dwells in you and you are not alone — so stand strong in the Lord!
In addition to describing God as Creator, Comforter, and King, the Bible also calls him “the Hearer of Prayer.” This is one of the sweetest yet least known descriptions of the Lord in Scripture: “O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come.” Or, more literally, “Hearer of Prayer, to you all men will come” (Psalm 65:2).
If God did not hear our cries and prayers, wouldn’t our world be incredibly lonely and depressing? Fortunately, the Lord is not some distant Creator who set the world in motion and then proceeded to ignore it. He is the “Hearer of Prayer” who made costly provision that his people might “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16).
God loves to answer our prayers, but the Bible speaks of definite principles that govern a successful approach to him. Just as God created an ordered universe with physical laws governing it, so it is with prayer. Prayer is not some haphazard, accidental undertaking.
The great reformer Martin Luther boldly declared that God does nothing but in answer to prayer. That is probably very close to the truth that Scripture affirms. Over and again, as God deals with his people, we see this cycle:
Purpose – Promise – Prayer
The Psalmist asserts that the Lord’s deliverance is at hand because “the appointed time has come” and then he quickly adds that God “will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea” (Psalm 102:13, 17).
We need to realize that the promises that overflow our Bibles will overflow into our own lives only as we appropriate them through prayer. God wants us to feel secure regarding our relationship with him. He wants us to know with certainty that we possess eternal life as part of his family. Because we are his children, then, we can bring our needs to him with certainty in prayer. We can have the same confidence in asking for things as we have about our salvation.
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 determined to accomplish his goals here on earth through mere men. One of the most encouraging scriptures in the Bible is 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” Then Paul goes on to describe those earthen vessels — dying men, troubled on every side, perplexed, persecuted, cast down.
God never uses the high and mighty but, instead, he uses the weak things of this world to confound the wise. “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty … that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
The weakness God speaks about is our human inability to obey his commandments in our own strength. The Word records a long list of men who loved God and were greatly used by him, but were almost driven to the ground by their weaknesses:
Have you failed? Let your heart accept all the promises of victory in Jesus. Then let your faith tell your heart, “I may not be what I want to be yet, but God is at work in me and I will come forth as pure gold. I commit everything to him who is able to keep me from falling and present me faultless before the throne of God — with exceeding great joy!”