Jesus had just been crucified and buried when Peter and the other disciples decided to meet together. They were assembled behind a locked door, fearing for their lives, when they heard these exciting words: “He’s alive!”
Suddenly, Jesus walked through the locked door in his resurrected body and said to them, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). He was saying, “Fear not! It is I, your Lord.” Now, tell me, if you had been in that room, wouldn’t you say this was the most incredible sight you could ever witness? Wouldn’t you be convinced that you could never doubt again?
Yet, what followed this greatest of all spiritual highs? “Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing’” (John 21:3). Six of the disciples followed Peter to the lake, in effect returning to their lives as fishermen. Why? What had happened to the great ministry God had called them to?
These men had fallen into deep sorrow because of something Jesus had warned them about: “In a little while, and you will not see Me … and you will be sorrowful” (John 16:19-20). Christ knew his devoted followers would experience a very low period after he returned to heaven; they were going to be overwhelmed by his physical absence in their lives. Even though he had promised he would be with them (see Matthew 28:20), it seemed he was leaving them to make it on their own.
Have you ever experienced a dry spell when you felt as if God had left you on your own? You may have been hearing God’s voice clearly and your fellowship with him was wonderful. Then one day you woke up and the heavens seemed as brass.
Beloved, when this happens, do not panic! Peter advises us, “Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you … but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:12-13). The truth is, even though it may not seem like it, if you are on dry ground, you are on your way to greater things in your spiritual walk.
Scripture is filled with cautions about bringing empty worship to God. If the church today is only about positive thinking, self-help and making people feel better, then contemporary gurus such as Tony Robbins or Oprah Winfrey could accomplish this for us. But church is not about what we can do; it is about what Christ can do.
The music and sermons in church are not for entertainment. Church is God’s house and when we gather in his name, he marks it with his presence. God’s presence should be so central to our worship, so palpable, that if a nonbeliever walks in, he will fall to his knees in wonder crying, “Surely God is in this place!”
For a long time debate waged over which honored God more, the old hymns or contemporary music; of course, the answer is neither. We have only one standard for worship: “But the hour is coming, and now is here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirt and truth” (John 4:23-24).
In our times of worship, the focus should always be on Jesus and what he has done. Look at the awe-filled theology Charles Wesley packs into a hymn:
And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
There are also beautifully deep songs written by contemporary composers that send us to our knees.
This is the worship due our amazing God: “Lord, you are bigger, grander, and more glorious than anything known to man. We bow in reverence before you!” With that in mind, lift your voice in songs of praise and worship to our King, today!
Jesus said, “He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:38). And also, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Paul also declared, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).
Many believers struggle long and hard to be obedient to the Lord, striving earnestly to live a holy life and to be pure. They may get to a place of nothingness — that place where no one on this earth can help — and they know that unless the Lord comes to change them, it cannot be done.
It is good to understand that Jesus himself was God in flesh, yet he needed the Father’s direction.
“Then Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all things that He Himself does … I can of myself do nothing’” (John 5:19-20, 30).
If Jesus needed help and direction with every step, how much more helpless are we without the same love and guidance from the Father? Jesus said our Father loved us and, therefore, he showed us “all things that he himself does.” If we are in Christ, and his Father is our Father, then we are also deeply loved. It is in these times of feeling abandoned that we become wholly dependent upon him.
Surrender your will and quit struggling and striving. Place the matter completely in God’s hands — he will take over. His Spirit will take you from death and raise you up into newness of life. This truth is the sole hope for those of you who have lost heart in your struggle to walk in obedience.
The book of Revelation tells us that in the last days, Satan will rise up in anger and make war “with the remnant.” This remnant, of course, is the Body of Christ, comprised of all “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17).
We in the church of Christ talk often about spiritual warfare; the war that is described in Revelation is a worldwide attack Satan has launched against the Body of Christ: “It was granted to him to make war with the saints” (13:7).
Every believer is enlisted in the great army of the Lord and Satan is waging his demonic war against this army. The apostle Paul states that on every battlefront, “We do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).
There are many “war zones” around the globe. In America, Satan’s war against the church is in the continual flood of sensuality and materialism. His weapons in this war are love of money and addiction to pleasure. But there is another battlefield in this war: the private war of individual children of God.
Every believer on earth faces his or her own private war. The Bible states, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven … A time of war, and a time of peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8). Right now you may be enjoying a time of peace. I thank God for such seasons in life, when joy springs up. When your time of war comes, it may involve struggles known only to you and God.
We are all familiar with the story of King David, a righteous man who served God faithfully, yet fell into the sin of adultery. David repented with bitter tears and cried out to God in anguish; you can read his confession in Psalm 38 and especially in Psalm 69. He found that God’s grace truly was sufficient.
In every private conflict you face, keep your eyes and your thoughts fixed on this: God’s mercy and lovingkindness are never failing.
Job asks, “What is man, that You should exalt him, that You should set Your heart on him, that You should visit him every morning, and test him every moment?” (Job 7:17-18, my italics).
Hebrews 12:1 tells us that the world is encircled by a cloud of witnesses who are with Christ in glory. What does this great cloud bear witness to — and who is their witness meant for? They speak to our generation, by their lives and their words as recorded in Scripture. I believe they say three things to us:
The apostle Peter is among this cloud of witnesses and he understands why God is so patient. He cursed Jesus, swearing he never knew him. Peter would say that God withholds his judgment on this generation, even though there are multitudes still who curse and deny him, just as he did.
The apostle Paul is also among this cloud of witnesses and he bears witness to God’s unlimited love. Paul cursed the name of Christ — he was a terrorist, hunting down God’s people and dragging them off to be jailed or killed. But he did it all in ignorance. Paul would say to us that God is being patient with this present generation because there are many who sin in ignorance, just as he did. They have not yet been exposed to the gospel message.
How reassuring to know that God’s eyes are ever on us and his heart is set on loving every child of his.