I tell you, we are in the midst of war! You are facing evil powers, fighting for your faith against the father of all lies. He is the one who has planted all those little thoughts: “Where is your God? Things are going from bad to worse. Your pain, your suffering, your needs keep mounting. God has promised to make a way of escape for you. So, where is the way? Where is your God now, when you need Him most?”
You are now being shaken and sifted. And in the midst of it all, your faith seems to have failed. Beloved, I have good news for you: God is not mad at you.
You may ask: “Doesn’t Jesus suffer when we mistrust Him? Doesn’t the Lord grieve when we waver and question His Word and His faithfulness?” Yes, yes, He absolutely does. But those who have failed in faith can still keep their eyes on Jesus.
How patient is our Lord, how merciful. He hears all our murmuring and questioning, He sees so many doubtful thoughts in our minds, and yet He looks upon us with forgiveness and compassion.
After Peter denied the Lord he was restored and lived out a great life of faith. Remember, Jesus had given him this word of encouragement at Passover: “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). This is the Lord’s word for you and for me, as well. He tells us just as He told Peter, “Keep your eyes on Me. You are going to come through this. And you’re going to help your brothers and sisters in My house.”
Later, in the book of Acts (see Acts 12:1-10), we find Peter locked up in an inner prison. An angel comes to him, shakes off his chains, and tells him to get up and leave. At that point, Peter never looks at the impossibilities around him: the iron gates he had to go through, the many guards and soldiers he had to pass by at his own peril. Instead, Peter rises in faith at the angel’s instruction, and when he comes to the iron gates, they open of their own accord.
So it will be for you, dear saint, if you are willing to get up and move on in faith.
Abraham did not stagger in his faith. Rather, he was “fully persuaded that, what [God] had promised, He was able also to perform” (Romans 4:21). He recognized that God is able to work with nothing. Indeed, our Lord creates out of a void. Consider the Genesis account: Out of nothing, God created the world. With just a single word, He creates. And He can create miracles for us—out of nothing.
When all else fails—when your every plan and scheme has been exhausted—that is the time for you to cast everything onto God. It is time for you to give up all confidence in finding deliverance anywhere else. Then, once you are ready to believe, you are to see God not as a potter who needs clay, but as a Creator who works from nothing. And out of nothing that is of this world or its materials, God will work in ways you never could have conceived.
How serious is the Lord about our believing Him in the face of impossibilities?
We find the answer to this question in the story of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. Zacharias was visited by an angel who told him that his wife, Elisabeth, would give birth to a special child. But Zacharias—who was advanced in years, like Abraham—refused to believe it. God’s promise alone was not enough for him.
Zacharias answered the angel, “[How] shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years” (Luke 1:18). Simply put, Zacharias considered the impossibilities. He was saying, “This isn’t possible. You’ve got to prove to me how it will happen.” It didn’t sound reasonable.
Zacharias’ doubts displeased the Lord. The angel told him, “Behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season” (1:20).
The message is clear: God expects us to believe Him when He speaks. Likewise, Peter writes: “Let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19, my italics).
“Being not weak in faith, [Abraham] considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb” (Romans 4:19).
The essence of true faith is found in this single verse. God had just promised Abraham that he would have a son, one who would become the seed of many nations. Remarkably, Abraham didn’t flinch at this promise, even though he was well past the age of siring children. Instead, when Abraham received this word from the Lord, we’re told he “considered not his own body now dead [nor] . . . the deadness of Sarah’s womb.”
To the natural mind, it was impossible for this promise to be fulfilled. But Abraham didn’t dwell on any such impossibility. According to Paul, the patriarch gave no thought to how God would keep His promise. He didn’t reason with God, “But, Lord, I have no seed to plant. And Sarah has no life in her womb to conceive. My wife is past the ability to bear children. So, how will You do it, Lord?” Instead of entertaining such questions, Abraham simply “considered not.”
The fact is, when God is at work producing a faith that is tried and better than gold, He first puts a sentence of death on all human resources. He closes the door to all human reasoning, bypassing every means of a rational deliverance.
The faith that pleases God is born in a place of deadness. I’m speaking here of the deadness of all human possibilities. It is a place where man-made plans flourish at first but then die. It is a place where human hopes bring temporary relief but soon crash, adding to a sense of helplessness. Have you been at this place of deadness? Has it seemed that you have no options left? You can’t call someone to advise you. The heavens are like brass when you pray, your requests falling to the ground.
I declare to you, this is God at work. His Spirit is working to get you to stop considering the impossibilities—to stop looking to human ways and means—to stop trying to think your way out of your situation. The Holy Ghost is urging you, “Quit hunting for help from some man. And quit focusing on how hopeless you think your situation is. Those are hindrances to your faith.”
The way Paul writes to the Corinthian church, it’s easy to assume that it was rife with gross sins. The truth is, however, they were greatly gifted by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, it’s because of the Corinthians that we know about the gifts of the Spirit; Paul’s letter to them shows how powerfully those gifts were operating in them. But even though the Corinthians had a great knowledge of the things of God, they lacked the love that Jesus commands of us. Paul hit them hard on this point:
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Note Paul’s operative word here: nothing. That’s what the love of the Corinthian church was worth. He was telling them they could never accomplish God’s purposes. Christ’s love—the lay-down-your-life-on-a-cross kind of love—is a tall order, one that’s impossible except through the Spirit.
Now, this may sound to you like a surprising interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13. Most of us know this chapter as the Bible’s “love chapter.” Even non-Christians are familiar with it because it is read at so many weddings. In that context, 1 Corinthians 13 isn’t much more than a greeting card sentiment. In truth, this chapter is a counterpoint to all the carnal sins Paul listed in 2 Corinthians 12. That list includes quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. Note the contrast:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). When we compare this list with the other, we begin to see 1 Corinthians 13 as a spiritual solution to a problem of sin—indeed, the only solution.
Let’s remember how one becomes a Christian. Before a person can feel the need for Jesus Christ as a savior, that person must first be convicted of sin. “When [the Spirit] comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8, NIV). The Holy Spirit shows us our sin and our need for a savior. That is what every believer experiences in conversion to Christ.
Jesus also taught that entrance into the kingdom of God (being “born again”) can happen only by the Holy Spirit’s work: Jesus told Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5).
It is the Holy Spirit working inside of us that causes us to turn from our sin and fix our eyes on Jesus. While we may be tempted to think that we can create emotional environments for this to happen, the truth is that this kind of rebirth or transformation can happen only through the work of the Holy Spirit.
The apostle Paul taught that believers are “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19), and because the Spirit lives inside of us, that make us different from the rest of the world. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t live inside a person, no church membership or even a sincere effort to live a good life can make that person a Christian. Only true faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, confirmed by the Holy Spirit, makes us a new creation. The Spirit inhabiting every believer is just another way of saying, “Christ in us,” for the Holy Spirit’s presence represents Jesus.
When God looks down on earth, He doesn’t focus on ethnicity, and He never acknowledges religious denominations. He just sees two kinds of people: His children who have the Spirit living inside of them and unbelievers who don’t have the Spirit living inside of them. It’s as simple as that. Today we split hairs about doctrinal positions to validate our faith, but to the early church the definition was simpler. Either we are temples or we are not temples. “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9). It would have been impossible for the apostles to consider someone a true believer in Jesus without the accompanying witness and work of the Spirit. The Spirit of God was the bottom line.
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.