Spiritual maladies can have a negative influence on everyone around us and on our ability to witness for Christ. Many people plod through their days with a sour, irritable spirit that is corrosive to themselves and others.
“An anxious heart weighs a man down” (Proverbs 12:25). This is not pop psychology, but the truth of God’s Word. We can’t run the race of life while weighed down by a bitter spirit. Constant worry robs many people of the spiritual resources God gladly provides. Eventually, anxiety crushes us under its weight.
The word for “anxious” is translated in the King James Version as “heaviness,” vividly depicting the burdensome effect worry has on us. Anxiety has taken a terrible toll on many people in the Body of Christ. Instead of walking by faith, we are prone to walk by worry. Our spirits trudge wearily through life instead of soaring like an eagle, as God promised they would. We are spiritually grounded by anxiety, which only worsens our situation.
Also, there is the “crushed spirit” of deep sorrow. The apostle Paul cautioned the believers at Corinth to comfort an erring brother who had been reprimanded by the church. This brother had repented of his sin, and Paul was concerned that he might now be “overwhelmed by excessive sorrow” (2 Corinthians 2:7). Another time, Paul expressed gratitude that God had kept an ailing associate minister from dying, sparing the apostle “sorrow upon sorrow” (Philippians 2:27). Paul knew the numbing and disabling effect of a heart swamped by sorrow.
God offers a cure for these maladies and it is simply the joy of the Lord. Real joy is not mere happiness, a feeling that fluctuates with our circumstances. Rather, it is a deep, inner delight in God that only the Holy Spirit can produce. This divine joy is more than medicine, it is our strength! “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
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.
Asaph, a Levite, was a chief singer and leader of King David’s choral worshipers; in fact, he is credited with writing eleven of the Psalms. He was a very close friend to David and the two loved being in the house of God together. Yet, in spite of his tremendous calling and blessings, Asaph confessed, “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped” (Psalm 73:2).
Now, we know Asaph was a pure-hearted man who believed God was good. In fact, he began his discourse in this psalm by saying, “Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart” (73:1).
Yet, in the very next verse Asaph confesses that he almost slipped. Why did he declare this? He notes that he saw the wicked around him prospering while they neglected God’s commands and it would have been easy for Asaph to wonder why God didn’t “balance the books,” so to speak.
Have you ever wondered why blessings are being heaped on people who live duplicitous lives? Perhaps you’ve seen an ungodly coworker rewarded instead of you or an unconverted neighbor acquire material things while you struggled to make ends meet.
It can be very easy for suffering Christians to slide into a grievous sin — the sin of doubt. They may think, “I’ve been living right but all my strictness and diligence to study God’s Word, my praising and worshiping, have been in vain. In spite of all I do, I still suffer.”
Beloved, that is when you must be careful. When your trial comes upon you, when you’re grieving or discouraged, you need to guard your heart against slipping into doubt. Don’t let your faith or your confidence be shaken. God is still on the throne. Get your eyes off your trials and put your eyes on the Lord himself. God will help you to love him and never slip into unbelief.
Asaph saw that he had almost slipped but he held on to proclaim, “I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works” (73:28). And you can do the same!
We who live in the New Testament age have been given a great testimony. Not only do we have the works of Jesus to consider, but also the great works of the first-century church. Add to that the two thousand years of godly people “doing greater works than these,” and we get a glimpse of who our heavenly Father is.
You may say, “I know the Lord. I have an intimate relationship with him and I know who I am in Christ.” Yet Jesus may be saying to you, “It’s true, we have been together for so long and yet you still do not know God as your father.” The purpose of intimacy with Jesus is to have a revelation of who the Father is.
God wants us to have a revelation of him as a father — a heavenly Father! Jesus prayed, “That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one” (John 17:21-22). Jesus was saying here, “You say you want to know me, and that is good, but now I want you to know my Father as I know and enjoy him.”
God not only chose you, but he adopted you as his child. And his Spirit tells you to cry, “Abba” to him, saying, “You have made me a joint-heir, a brother, to Jesus. You are truly mine!”
How wonderful to know that he chose each of us to be his child solely on the basis of love and mercy. In his mercy he says to you, “I want you — I choose you — because I want to be a father to you.”
Lay down all your worldly loves and follow him today!
During his time on the earth, Jesus was the embodiment of God’s compassion. Scripture frequently says that Christ “was moved with compassion” by the suffering of people (see Matthew 14:14).
Most Christians would like to think that they are compassionate. But even the worst sinners are “moved” when they hear of the suffering of children. Compassion is not just pity or sympathy. True compassion compels us to act.
We read of Jesus: “When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). The phrase “moved with compassion” here means, “stirred to action.” So what did Jesus do about it? He didn’t just talk. No, his heart was stirred at what he saw and he had a consuming desire to change things.
“Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every diseased among the people” (9:35). This was not some vain theology. Jesus didn’t just get alone with the Father and say, “Father, send laborers into your harvest.” He went himself! He laid hands on lepers and got deeply, practically, intimately involved.
We read, “Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). As you look around and see human need, your compassionate heart should cry out, “God, what do you want me to do?” We should not have to travel any farther than our own neighborhood to find needs that we can help to meet.
God wants you to be a part of his compassionate heart to the world. If you are truly willing to do that, he will send needs right to your doorstep. So present yourself to the Lord to be used and watch him open many doors for you.
In this sophisticated age, we find it hard to understand the idolatry of the Old Testament. It is incredible to read of intelligent people being so blinded that they offered worship to hand-carved images of wood, stone and precious metals. Yet it was the sin of idolatry that brought down God’s awful wrath on his own people. “Therefore do not pray for this people … for I will not hear you” (Jeremiah 7:15).
This is God’s declaration against idolatry in the Old Testament. And yet he hates idolatry just as much today. A new idolatry is sweeping across America right now. There are reports of God moving in different parts of the country but you must be careful of where you go and what spirit you sit under. You must have discernment in order to avoid being swept up into an idolatry that will turn you away from the cross of Christ.
The cross — including its demands and hopes — is the very heart of the gospel and any message or worship must be centered on it. Without the cross, all that is left is chaff — a perverted gospel that is insulting to the Lord. There are ministers who are intense, articulate, pleasant and very resourceful, but they preach “a different gospel.”
Paul saw this beginning to happen even in his day: “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-8).
Praise God for true ministers of Christ who boldly proclaim the gospel of the cross. They are the bulwark against idolatry of in these last days!