When the prophet Elisha was on his deathbed, Joash, the king of Israel, wept aloud that Israel’s great prophetic light was about to go out. He recalled Elisha’s great works of faith and wept, “My father! My father! … The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” (2 Kings 13:14, NIV). Elisha rallied briefly, bringing hope to Joash’s heart. Then the prophet gave the king some instructions: “Go get a bow and some arrows” (13:15).
Elisha told the king to shoot arrows into the air, which Joash did, and then Elisha told him to take the arrows and strike the ground with them. Joash complied by striking the ground three times. Then, to the king’s utter surprise, Elisha became angry and burst out, “You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated [Syria] and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times” (13:19).
This may seem like a rather strange scene from Elisha’s life, but he was about building up the faith of others until the very end. He was telling King Joash, “How dare you expect so little from God! You would have defeated Syria five or six times but you’ll settle for only three.”
Elisha’s words apply to every Christian today. Our Lord wants us to go beyond limited victories. Through the God-stories in the Word, we are to build faith upon faith — victory upon victory — and be continually hungry for him to act. We must not be content to settle. Elisha essentially tells us, “God will give you as many victories as you’re willing to lay hold of. Keep striking the ground of faith!”
This may seem like a heartless demand but actually it is deeply compassionate. There is a God-story for every struggling marriage, every financial crisis, every stressful job situation, every alienated parent and child. Remember, God doesn’t give partial victories but total triumph!
God has surrounded you, and all the forces of heaven are at his disposal to protect and provide for you. May God stir your faith so that you will keep striking the ground with conviction and trust. And, remember, every trial you endure is an opportunity for the world to be transformed by your God-story.
We read in the Word of God that in the last days, sin shall abound and the love of many will grow cold. Who can deny that this is happening today? Society continues to spiral down into deeper darkness almost daily, and it can become easy to grow cold to every form of love. Eventually, many Christians will end up in discouragement; in fact, some already are disheartened.
The book of Luke tells us of a time when two disciples “were traveling … to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him” (Luke 24:13-16). These two were so engrossed in their own reasoning — their own assessment of what had just taken place with the crucifixion of Jesus — that they could not see when the Lord himself began to walk with them.
When Jesus asked the men why they were sad, they replied, “The chief priests and our rulers delivered [Jesus] to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping …” (24:20-21). Jesus had already been resurrected from the dead but what was actually a great victory was still nothing but defeat in their eyes.
This is the same dilemma we must guard against. We think we know what God is about to do, and we formulate in our minds the complete picture of how everything ought to unfold. Yet when it does not develop the way we think it should, we find ourselves batting discouragement.
The men on the road to Emmaus were ill informed but hopeful. That is when the Lord appeared to them and essentially said, “I’m not going to force myself on you, but if you desire I will open to you the Scriptures and show you things you may not have considered yet” (see 24:27).
Are you willing to let God unlock the Scriptures and show you his ways? Remember, God’s ways are higher than yours and what may look like defeat is actually victory! Like these disciples, ask Jesus to abide with you and show you how true strength is found.
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 words we speak reflect what is in our hearts. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). Your tongue speaks only what is in your heart.
Remember when you said something naughty as a child? Your mother was quick to correct you and perhaps discipline you in some way, right? But now that you are an adult, you must take seriously the admonition of the Scripture that we are to tame our tongue. “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).
As Christians, we must face the indisputable fact that the heart is unclean, defiled, and often we speak ungodly things. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:35-37).
Those are the words of Jesus and we need to take them to heart. Anyone who wants to live pleasing to the Lord must constantly go into his presence until he obtains a vision of God’s holiness. All healing, all true blessings, all victories begin at his throne, which is where we see God in his holiness.
The secret to victory over anything in your life is closeness to Jesus — intimacy with him — knowing him! Drawing near to his presence will reveal what is in your heart. If you gossip or allow unkind things come out of your mouth, go to the Lord and ask him to help you. And ask the Holy Spirit to put conviction on you each time you start to say something careless, unthinking or unkind.
May the prayer of your heart be, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
The Bible tells us that when Christ ascended to heaven, he took up the ministry of High Priest to all who come to him by faith. “But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood” (Hebrews 7:24). Jesus is unchangeable — the same yesterday, today and forever! As long as you live, he will be your High Priest in heaven, interceding on your behalf.
Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, in the seat of authority: “We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1). Our High Priest has all power and authority at his command.
Jesus is in the Father’s presence right now, confronting our accuser, the devil: “I rebuke you, Satan! This one is mine because he is sprinkled in my blood. He is secure, his debt is fully paid, and he is set free!”
In the Old Testament it was the duty and privilege of the high priest to come forth from the Holy of Holies and bless the people. The Lord instructed Moses to tell Aaron and his sons, “This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: ‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace’” (Numbers 6:23-26).
The final act in the sequence of the high priest’s ministry when he emerged from the Holy of Holies was to raise his hands and bless the people. And this is the unchanging ministry of our High Priest, by God’s prescription. Jesus says, “I will cover you with my blood. I will intercede for you and I will come forth and bless you.”
The blessings of the Old Testament high priest were temporal — God’s promises to bless crops, livestock, cities and all the people’s activities. But the blessings Jesus bestows upon us are spiritual in nature: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).
Rejoice, dear saint! If you are weak, broken, grief-stricken or mourning over your sin, you can rest assured—your High Priest is blessing you with all spiritual blessings. Come to Him in faith. He delights in blessing you!
There is a “Holy Ghost school of sympathy” that consists of tested saints who have suffered greatly, enduring temptation, trials and mistreatment. The Bible speaks of “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10) — a fellowship of shared suffering. Jesus founded this school and he proved that it is possible to endure every sort of hardship and graduate as an overcomer.
Jesus was rejected, distrusted, abused, mocked, falsely accused. He knew what it was like to be lonely, hungry, poor, unloved, shamed, slandered, taunted; he was called a liar, a fraud, a false prophet. His own family misunderstood him; his most trusted friends lost faith in him; his own disciples forsook him and fled; and, finally, he was spat upon, mocked, and murdered.
Jesus certainly sympathizes with all our hurt and suffering because he went through it all himself. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
You may love Jesus now more than ever before, but you also may be going through hurts and trials. You can be very sure that God has a divine purpose behind every one. The Jews believed that if God was pleased with you, you would always be blessed and never suffer. Because of this, Paul did not want converts to be confused by the troubles that swarmed around him. Reports of his sufferings spread through the churches so he wrote, “No one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation” (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4).
It is not suffering in itself that teaches us; rather, it is understanding and accepting that it is from his hand, for his purposes, for our good. Remember, God’s Word says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).
Do not be surprised when you suffer! But be assured that God proves himself faithful and he always produces life out of death. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).