By the time the godly prophet Daniel reached eighty years of age, he had outlived two Babylonian kings, Nebuchadnezzar and his son Belshazzar, and then served under King Darius. Daniel had always been a praying man and he had no thoughts of slowing down in his old age.
King Darius had promoted Daniel to the highest office in the land, putting him in charge of forming government policy and teaching all the court appointees and intellectuals: “Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm” (Daniel 6:3).
Obviously, Daniel was one busy prophet. But nothing could take this man of God away from his times of prayer. Three times a day, he stole away from all his obligations, burdens and demands as a leader to spend time with the Lord.
Daniel is an example to us of how important it is to have praying leaders. Remember, he had been appointed over every other leader in the land. Consider the immense effort it took for Daniel to devote himself to prayer. After all, he lived in the New York City of his time — great, majestic, wealthy Babylon. And he lived in a time of spiritual apathy — of drunkenness, pleasure-seeking and greed among God’s people.
Prayer does not come naturally to anyone, including Daniel. A disciplined prayer time is easy to start yet hard to maintain — both our flesh and the devil conspire against it. Prayer that is effectual comes from the faithful, diligent servant who sees his nation and the church falling deeper into sin and falls on his knees and cries out to God on their behalf. God strongly desires to bless his people but if our minds are polluted with the spirit of this world, we are in no position to receive his blessings.
Will you be a part of God’s praying people today? If so, cry out to him, “Oh, Lord, whatever it takes, keep me on my knees. I long to see your Spirit moving in the hearts of men and women!”
When Jesus was a young boy, a few people saw him in the temple; others met him in the carpentry shop where he toiled. But who could believe Jesus was God in flesh as he repaired their broken chairs? He was merely Joseph’s son, a fine young man who knew a lot about God.
When Jesus began his ministry, he directed his words to a small population in a very small country — that is, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And because he could be in only one place at a time, access to him was restricted. If you wanted to get to Jesus, you had to go to Judah, and if you lived outside of Israel, you had to travel for days or weeks by boat or camel or on foot. Then, you had to trace his presence to a village, find a crowd there and ask them to locate him. You might have to walk all day and night to get to where he was teaching the masses.
Once you found Jesus, you had to be physically close to him to hear his voice, receive his touch, or be blessed by his holy presence. To get to the Lord, you had to be in the right place at the right time. Consider the blind man who heard Jesus passing by and cried out, “Jesus, heal me, that I may receive my sight!” Or, consider the woman with the issue of blood. She had to push through a crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, while all around others were also struggling to touch him.
But all that changed in one sudden, glorious moment. “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:50-51). This tearing of the physical veil represents what took place in the spirit world — when we were granted unrestricted and instant access to the Father on a blood-stained cross. This is a wonderful gift that has been granted to us, so be careful that you do not take it for granted or treat it casually. Our Savior urges us to draw near to him and we should do so with utmost reverence and devotion.
Grace has often been defined as, simply, the unmerited favor and blessing of God. Yet, I believe grace is much more than this. It is everything that Christ is to us in our times of suffering — power, might, kindness, mercy and love — to see us through our afflictions and trials.
Jesus says the rain falls on both the just and the unjust (see Matthew 5:45) — referring to given problems of life such as marriage problems, worries over children, financial pressures, sickness. And the righteous may battle against pride, depression and fear, feelings of inadequacy, oppression of the enemy.
You may question why nations suffer — why there is such awful famine, pestilence, flooding, hunger, disease and destruction. Scripture sheds light on the world’s sufferings through its portrayal of God’s people, ancient Israel. That nation suffered similar calamities: holocausts, captivity, economic collapse, strange diseases. At times Israel’s sufferings were so horrible that even their enemies pitied them.
Why did Israel suffer such terrible things? Scripture makes it clear in each instance that it was because they forsook God and turned to idolatry (see Deuteronomy 4:25-28). It is important to note, however, that along with every righteous judgment upon Israel came manifestations of divine grace in preserving a godly remnant, and fulfilling his divine purpose in and through them in spite of their failures (see 4:29-30).
Even though the reason for our trials may remain a mystery, we should be prepared to accept them until Jesus comes for us. There will be no end to them, so the wise believer will determine in his heart to get to know Jesus more intimately and seek him as never before.
Someday in glory, our heavenly Father will reveal to us the beautiful plan he had for us while we were going through hard times. He will show us how we attained patience through all our trials; how we learned compassion for others; how his strength was made perfect in our weakness; how we learned his utter faithfulness toward us; how we became more like him, our precious Lord and Savior. And until the day we meet him face to face, our loving heavenly Father says, “I have all the grace you need to overcome!”
“According to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him” (Ephesians 3:11-12). God’s children have the right and freedom to break in on our Lord at any time — one of the greatest privileges ever bestowed on humankind.
Our heavenly Father sits on his throne in eternity and at his right hand sits his Son, our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus. Outside this throne room are gates, which open to all who are in Christ. At any time — day or night — we can bypass guardian angels, seraphim and all the heavenly hosts to boldly enter these gates and approach our Father’s throne. Christ has provided us direct access to the Father, to receive all the mercy and grace we need, no matter what our circumstance.
This wasn’t always the case. In the Old Testament, with few exceptions, no person had access to the Father. Abraham was called a friend of God and enjoyed a measure of access to the Lord, but even he remained “outside the veil.”
Moses, the leader of Israel, had unusual access to God, who said, “I, the Lord … speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings” (Numbers 12:6-8). But the rest of Israel knew nothing of this kind of access.
Christ’s life in human flesh provided greater access to the Father, but even that was limited. At the moment of his death, however, the veil of the temple in Jerusalem was literally ripped apart and our destiny was sealed. When Jesus gave up the ghost, we were given total, unrestricted access to the holy of holies: “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh” (Hebrews 10:19-20).
Scripture admonishes us, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith … Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (10:22-23). God is urging us, “Come into my presence often, daily. You can’t maintain your faith if you’re not drawing near to me. If you don’t boldly enter my presence, your faith is going to waver.”
Determine in your heart to take full advantage of God’s great gift of access. Your eternal future depends on it!
Scripture attests to the fact that a hunger for the uncompromised grace of Christ exists throughout the world. Luke writes that when Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, thousands “had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases” (Luke 6:17, NLT). These masses came because they had heard about a man of grace who would heal them.
“There were people from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from as far north as the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon” (6:17). The hurting crowds didn’t travel those distances because they wanted to hear a preacher urge them to try harder. They were already worn down by discouragement, disease and despair over their efforts to remain godly. Many were probably on the fringes of life, people who were shoved aside by their broken condition. Whatever the case, observing the law had not brought them life.
To these hungry sojourners, Jesus’ reputation for grace turned out to be true. He not only preached grace but demonstrated it by healing them all: “Healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone” (6:19). Imagine! Of all those thousands, not one went home unhealed. Not one broken life was left untouched — and not a single soul present was unaffected by the powerful grace of Jesus Christ.
According to Luke’s account, Jesus proceeded straight from those healings to present the Beatitudes: “Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said, ‘God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh” (6:20-21). Other gospel accounts include additional blessings: the humble will inherit the earth; the pure of heart will see God; the merciful will be shown mercy.
Jesus looked on the crowd and saw that they were already poor in spirit so what did he do? He spoke blessings! Just as the Father spoke creation into a void of utter darkness, Jesus spoke divine blessings onto ravaged sinners, people beaten down by life.
Many Christians believe God’s grace is too good to be true so they hold on to their sense of works. But the new life we have been given — the life of Christ himself — resurrects us to serve him in freedom, peace and joy.