You may be enjoying a season of good times right now — no great stress, discouraging tests or deep pain. I am grateful to the Lord for providing such seasons in the lives of his children. But we know from Scripture that storms and great trials eventually come to all who have truly given everything to Christ. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).
Many who endure long trials question within, “Lord, have I grieved you in some way? Is there something in my life that hinders you from hearing my cry? I’ve been faithful to your Word, so why am I having this never-ending trial? The Bible says you won’t allow me to suffer more than I’m able to bear, but I feel like I’m at the breaking point.”
For centuries great Christians have tried to probe the reasons for the suffering of the godly, but answers seem elusive. Books are filled with opinions and advice, but the most effective approach to endurance is to cry out, “Lord, I must draw from your Word for my present need.”
A believer comes to the place where he makes a choice either to remain lukewarm in his faith or cross the line to follow Jesus with all his heart. Although it is not possible to fully understand why Christians suffer, one thing is certain: Once you set your heart to seek the Lord, determining to lay hold of his promises, you become a target of Satan.
The devil recognizes something in every devoted Christian — something that is absolutely destructive to his kingdom. It happens when a child of God resolves to trust the Lord through everything, drawing near to him in spite of pain and difficulty. You become a target of the devil because he knows the foundations of hell are being shaken. His entire strategy is to get you to take your eyes off the victory of the cross.
Do not concentrate on your weaknesses, your sins, your shortcomings but, instead, focus on Jesus and the victory he promises.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him” (Ephesians 3:12).
When God tells us to come boldly to his throne, it is not a suggestion, it is his preference — and it is to be heeded. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16, KJV). The word “effectual” comes from a Greek word that means “a fixed position.” It suggests an immovable, unshakeable mindset. Likewise, “fervency” speaks of boldness built on solid evidence, absolute proof that supports your petition. Together, these two words — effectual fervency — mean coming into God’s court fully convinced that you have a well-prepared case — beyond emotions, loudness, and pumped-up enthusiasm.
Such prayer can only come from a servant who searches God’s Word and is fully persuaded that the Lord is bound to honor it. Indeed, it is important that not one of us goes into God’s presence without bringing his Word with us. The Lord wants us to bring his promises, remind him of them, bind him to them — and stand on them.
Some Christians say, “I don’t really ask God for much. I pray only for his will in my life, for his plan to be brought about on the earth. I seek him only for himself, not for his gifts.” I have even said this at times because I thought such an attitude was holy, but in truth it is not. The all-knowing, all-powerful God of creation has given us his personal invitation to come boldly to his throne and then to make requests of him.
Quiet times of worship with the Lord are truly wonderful. Yet there come times when the conditions of our lives become so critical that another kind of praying is necessary. At such times, the door is open and we are to come before the Lord with confidence that he will keep his Word.
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6). God is saying that the fast he chooses starts in our own hearts. We are to position ourselves to receive something supernatural from God — freedom from oppression and bondage of every kind.
When believers enter into a time of fasting, they should properly prepare their hearts to receive God’s supernatural intervention. One of the most important spiritual characteristics is humility: “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).
“A contrite and lowly spirit” — this is the heart of one who seeks after God, who holds lightly the things of the world, and presses on to know the heavenly Father in a deep way. Our hearts are revived when we stay humble before the Lord. He breathes into us power and life, spiritual vitality, refreshing, renewing, strength in spirit. “They who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
Do you need strength? Do you need to have God move in power in your life as he has never moved before? If you come to God with an angry spirit, demanding things of him, he does not hear your voice. “Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?” (Isaiah 58:3). But if you come to him with a broken heart and a spirit of true humility, he says to you, “I see that you are contrite in spirit and I am here to revive your heart.”
“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, and as many as the Lord our God will call’” (Acts 2:38-39).
This was the Day of Pentecost — a day shortly after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Triune God, came down and indwelt people. I am sure some people heard the words and considered them almost too good to be true. “Well, maybe from time to time God found a special vessel such as Elijah or King David to fill with His Spirit, but it’s not for me. That is for just the important, select few.”
Yet on the Day of Pentecost, it is as if the Lord said, “That may have been what it was like for a season, but now it is for every person, everywhere!” The promise of God’s Holy Spirit and power is also to “all who are far off,” meaning not just within the physical proximity but those who would be found in later places and later dates. That means the promise is for you and your children!
The Lord clearly spoke through the prophet Joel: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28). Does that leave anyone out? Is there anyone who is not a son, a daughter, young, or old? The Lord just leveled the playing field, essentially saying, “Whoever calls on Me, I will fill with My Holy Spirit!”
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me” (Acts 1:8). What an incredible promise! We are going to be a demonstration of His power and a witness to who God is.
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 Lord rules over all of creation with majesty and power. His laws govern the whole universe — all of nature, every nation, and all the affairs of men. He rules over the seas, the planets, the heavenly bodies and all their movements.
“He rules by His power forever; His eyes observe the nations” (Psalm 66:7). “The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed, He has girded Himself with strength … Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting … Your testimonies are very sure” (Psalm 93:1-2, 5).
These psalms were written by David, who is testifies, in essence, “Lord, your testimonies — your laws, decrees and words — are irrevocable. They are utterly reliable.” The author of Hebrews echoes this, declaring that God’s Living Word is eternal and unchangeable (see Hebrews 13:8).
Think about it. There are laws operating in the universe that govern how things work, without exception. Consider the laws that rule the movements of the sun, moon, stars and earth. These heavenly bodies were all put into place when God spoke a word, and since that time they have been ruled by laws that God also spoke into being.
The New Testament tells us that this great God is our Father and he takes pity on his children. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, KJV). God hears our every cry: “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17).
We are also told that God is the righteous King who judges by his law. His Word is his constitution, containing all of his legal decrees, by which he rules justly. Everything in existence is judged by his immutable Word — including his children!
Simply put, we can hold the Bible in our hands and know, “This book tells me who God is. It describes his attributes, nature, promises and judgments. It is his rule of law, from his own mouth, by which he rules and reigns.” What a mighty God we serve!