One of the great tragedies of this generation—and one of God’s greatest griefs—is that so many Christians are not truly happy! The lack of victory in Christ is appalling! So many are hot, then suddenly cold. One week they are high, the next week low. 'They can’t cope with fear. Depression runs over them like a steamroller.
Some marriages run hot and cold. One day all is well with husband and wife and then the next day they are miserable. Some days they can’t even talk to one another. They think, “Well, that’s the way marriage is supposed to be. You can’t expect to be happy and loving all the time!”
Paul warns of Christians who need to “recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Timothy 2:26). This describes many Christians perfectly. Satan moves in and out of their lives at his own will! They have no power or authority to stop him at their heart’s door.
Some of you reading this may be caught in a devilish snare. Paul said it is because you are opposing yourself (see 2 Timothy 2:25). To “oppose yourself” means that you have set yourself up to be trapped. You refuse God’s way of deliverance and victory. You have opposed His way—and set up your own way. That’s why you’re ensnared!
So many have not known victory in Christ. Yet is this what Christ died for? To raise up children who are under the power of the devil’s will? “Give your heart to Jesus, but your will to the devil.” Is this the Christian testimony to the world? Never!
You can blame your unhappiness on poor health, being misunderstood, or having an uncaring mate, boss or friend. In fact, you can blame it on anything you choose. But the truth is that there is no excuse for a Christian to live as a slave to the devil. If the devil plays on your emotions and you are getting worse, not better; if your problems are getting bigger; if fear is rising and joy is dissipating; sadness is setting in—it means you are a captive to the enemy of your soul and are being manipulated by him!
You must recognize the trap you’re in and seek to be released. If you have been serving the Lord for more than a few months, you should be growing daily in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. Your spiritual victories should be sweet. You should be assured of His constant presence.
“Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there” (Genesis 11:31, ESV).
I don’t know what kind of man Terah was since very little has been written about him. We do know that Ur of Chaldeans was kind of an up-and-coming land. It was a place where prosperity had just begun to sweep through the land.
Abram was born in this land that was becoming wealthy. It was a land with a great future and great promise that it would be a good place to live. But for some reason Abram’s father decided he needed to leave. We don’t know if it was because of an ambition to go somewhere new or to build something new.
Genesis 11:31 says, “Terah took” and “took” in the Hebrew means “to grasp.” It was kind of a gritting of the teeth and a clenching of the fist and saying, “I will take hold of my future. I will make my future what I want it to be.” And there is something very dangerous in that. There was no indication that God had given him a promise about the land of Canaan but instead he had this self-ambition.
The outcome of this grasping kind of lifestyle is always the second word we will look at in this passage “they settled there.” For some reason when Terah got to Haran he just paused—he settled.
Have you ever done that? “The journey is too much for me. The pressure, the intensity, always having to try to push this stone up a hill.”
Whenever you start something in the flesh, you end up doing what Terah did. He settled in Haran. There is no worse way to spend your life than settling for mediocrity. Nothing is further from God’s agenda for your life than for you to start on a journey and all of a sudden just give up.
Whenever we start grasping for ourselves, taking for ourselves, trying to become rich, trying to become famous, trying to become successful in our own energy—we will always end up “settling.” Why? Because you’re only halfway to where you set out to go.
“But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
It takes more than academic rigor to win the world for Christ. Correct doctrine alone isn’t enough. Proclamation and teaching aren’t enough. God must be invited to “confirm the word with signs following” (see Hebrews 2:4). In other words, the gospel must be preached with the involvement of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven.
The apostles prayed for God to do supernatural things. They wanted people to know their belief was more than positional or theoretical. There was power in this faith. “O God, stretch out your hand—work with us in this.” They wanted a faith that was obviously alive, a faith based not just on the cross but also on the empty tomb. The cross, as poignant as it is, is understandable from a human perspective: an innocent man was murdered by crooked politicians and religious leaders. But the empty tomb—what can you say? Only a supernatural God could accomplish that.
In too many churches today, people don’t see manifestations of God’s power in answer to fervent praying. Instead, they hear arguments about theological issues that few people care about. On Christian radio and television we are often merely talking to ourselves.
What we are dealing with today is an Old Testament “vow religion” comprised of endless repetitions and commands to do the right things. Modern preachers, like Moses, come down from the mount calling for commitment. Everyone says yes but then promptly breaks the vow within two days. There is little dependence on God’s power to make an ongoing difference. There is little calling upon God to revolutionize us in a supernatural way.
Jesus is saying today, as He said to the church at Sardis, “You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. . . . But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief. . . . He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:1-3, 6).
I am not advocating melodrama or theatrics that work up emotion. But I am in favor, as were the apostles, of asking God to stretch out His hand and manifest Himself.
Jim Cymbala began Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn and longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson, Cymbala is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world.
“Before his translation [Enoch] had this testimony, that he pleased God!” What was it about Enoch that pleased God so much? It was that his walk with God produced in him the kind of faith God loves. These two verses cannot be separated: “Before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:5-6).
Throughout the Bible and all of history, those who walked with God became men and women of faith. If the Church is walking with God daily, continually communing with our Lord, the result will be a people full of faith—true faith that pleases God.
Some conduct faith seminars, distribute faith tapes, quote faith Scriptures—all trying to produce faith. And it is true, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Roman l0:17). But Jesus is the Word. “The letter killeth,” Scripture says (2 Corinthians 3:6), and without intimacy with Jesus, the letter produces a dead, selfish, demanding emotion that is not faith at all—and God hates it. Faith comes by hearing His Word and walking close to Him. We should always be “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). This intimate walk with God is missing from the Church today. Faith is really knowing who God is. It is becoming familiar with His glory and majesty. Those who know Him best, trust Him most.
Show me a people walking closely with Him, hating sin, becoming detached from this world and getting to know His voice, and we will see a people who won’t need much preaching and teaching about faith. You won’t need “ten steps” on what faith is and how to get it. True faith comes out of the very heart of Jesus. And it will be His very own faith—not ours—that grows within and emerges from our hearts!
Enoch’s walk with God would not have been worthwhile if it had not produced a corresponding faith that was constantly growing. “By faith Enoch was translated.” What an incredible truth! All his faith was focused on one great desire of his heart: to be with the Lord!
Elijah and Enoch, the only two prophets to be translated, had something in common. They both hated sin and cried out against it. They walked so closely with God that they could not help sharing His hatred for ungodliness.
The undeniable effect on all who walk with God is a growing hatred for sin—and not only hatred, but separation from it. If you still love this world and are at home with the ungodly, a friend to those who curse Him, then you are not walking with God. You are sitting on the fence, putting Him to open shame.
“Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). We know from Hebrews that this speaks of Enoch’s translation, the fact that he did not taste death. But it also means something deeper than that. “He was not” as defined in Genesis 5 also means “he was not of this world.”
In his spirit, in his senses, Enoch was not a part of this wicked world. He was taken up in his spirit to a heavenly realm. Each day as he walked with the Lord, he became less attached to the things below! Day by day, year by year, he was going up, heading home, getting closer to glory. Like Paul, he died daily to this world. Yet Enoch undertook all his responsibilities. He cared for his family, worked and ministered—but he was not earthbound! None of the demands of this life could keep him from his walk with God. Every waking moment his mind went back to Him. His heart was attached to God with what seemed like a huge rubber band. The more you stretch a rubber band, the quicker it springs back when you let it go. Enoch’s heart always “sprang back” to the Lord.
As mankind grew more ungodly all around him, as men changed into wild beasts full of lust, hardness and sensuality, Enoch became more and more like the One with whom he walked.