The Bible tells the story of a man who went to his neighbor late at night and asked for bread because a visitor had just arrived and he had nothing to feed him.
“And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. And I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needs” (Luke 11:7-8).
Importunity means that he simply would not go away. Today it would be the one who prays, “I know this generation needs bread, but I don’t have a sufficient supply. My knowledge is not good enough; my strength will fail me. My compassion is too meager; my courage is conditional. I don’t have the measure of the Holy Ghost that I need in order to make a difference in this generation. But I know that You have it, and I am not leaving until I get it!” That is the kind of prayer God is looking for!
Jesus continues the telling of this story: “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Luke 11:9-10).
How many receive? Everyone! Not just a few superstars, not just the occasional Elijah or Elisha—everyone! And that means you!
Keep in mind that the Lord is not referring to a casual asking. When the 120 disciples went into the Upper Room, they were not casually asking God for His Spirit. They were well aware that stepping outside and facing the hostile crowd could result in death. Nevertheless, they also knew that Jesus had given them a promise that they would be His witnesses—and so they began to pray, refusing to be denied.
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. A strong, compassionate leader, he is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world.
My wife, Gwen, was thirty-four years old the first time cancer was found in her. We were devastated when we got the news. We had just moved our family to New York so that I could start a ministry to street gangs. Now, as I walked the streets preaching to gang members and addicts, I had to fight back tears of anguish and fear. But the Lord continually reassured me, "I am faithful, David. I won't abandon you or your loved ones." God walked with me through that frightening ordeal with cancer, and every one that has followed.
Yet, the Lord doesn't want our victory to be merely a one-time experience. His goal isn't for us to emerge from a crisis, saying, "Thank God, I kept my faith through that." Yes, you may have made it through that one. But, like victorious Israel at the Red Sea, another trial will eventually come and it may be a different kind of test altogether.
Living in God's rest is a way of life. He wants us to be maintained by His peace and confidence in all our trials, knowing our high priest is touched by the feelings of our infirmities.
Don't misunderstand: I'm not talking about achieving some state of nirvana. Many New Age teachers claim that the only way to endure future crises is to harden your heart now and kill off all your love. In short, if you simply stop caring for people, you won't be hurt. Therefore, you should steel yourself against life's calamities.
Yet God is never glorified when His servants numb themselves out. That's not what His rest is about at all. It's about learning to trust His promise to be faithful toward us in all things.
I am a father of four and a grandfather and I can honestly tell you, there's never been a moment when I could stand by and watch any of my offspring hurting without wanting to enter into the suffering with them. At such times, I have done everything in my power to heal and deliver them. I ask you: How much more does our heavenly Father love us, walk with us in our trials, and long to heal our hurts?
“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11).
There exists a place in Christ where there is no anxiety about the future. In this place, there is no fear of sudden calamity, of affliction, of unemployment. There's no fear of man, of falling, of losing one's soul. This place is one of total confidence in God's faithfulness. The writer of Hebrews calls it a place of perfect rest.
Such perfect rest was offered to Israel. But the people's doubt and unbelief kept them out of God's rest: "They to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief" (Hebrews 4:6). The Israelites lived in constant fear and dread, always waiting for the next crisis. As a result, they were desolated in their trials.
If Israel had entered into this rest, God's work in His people would have been complete. But because they didn't, the Lord continues to search in every generation for a people who will enter: "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God" (Hebrews 4:9).
God is telling us, "This offer of rest is for you—today. There still exists a place in Me where all doubt and fear no longer exist. It is a place where you will be prepared for whatever may come." Thus, His Word urges, "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it" (Hebrews 4:1).
Today, multitudes of God's people know nothing of this rest in Christ. As they read the awful reports in the daily news—reports of tragedies, calamities, deaths—they are filled with fear and dread. Their constant prayer is, "Oh, God, please don't take one of my loved ones. I could never handle the grief."
Yet, if you're at rest in the Lord, you won't succumb to such fear. You won't panic or fall apart when you're hit by some unexpected crisis. And you won't lose hope, accusing God of bringing on your troubles. Yes, you will endure the pain that is common to every human being but you will be at rest in your soul, because you will know that God is in control of everything concerning you.
The world longs to see a testimony of God's keeping power. And it will keep asking us until Jesus comes, "Oh, Christian, I see you serving God faithfully. You fast, pray and testify of His glory and power, yet now you're in the trial of your life. Tell me, has your God sustained you through this ordeal? What is your testimony now that you're in the lions' den?"
You can imagine Darius' joy when he heard Daniel's voice, crying, "O king, live forever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me" (Daniel 6:21-22). Daniel was alive and well. Yet, I don't believe this godly servant slept calmly through the night. He was no superhuman, any more than we are today. And our God doesn't expect us to act unnaturally when we face such crises. Our feelings of trepidation during such moments are normal.
In my opinion, Daniel watched and prayed all night. Every time a lion yawned and bared its teeth, Daniel must have silently cried out, "I'm still trusting, Lord. I believe you're going to shut that animal's mouth." He held fast to his faith and Scripture tells us, "No manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God" (Daniel 6:23).
One man trusted God before the eyes of men and an entire kingdom was impacted. The Bible states: "King Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth . . . I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and steadfast forever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions" (Daniel 6:25-27).
Do you see what Darius was saying here? He was extolling God, not just for His natural wonders, but because He had delivered Daniel from death. This pagan king had to see just one believer who truly believed what he preached and, in turn, he declared, "I saw a man who maintained a testimony of his God. He never doubted. And the Lord delivered him from the powers of hell."
What will it take to reach a lost and hurting world? A small army of soldiers that has been enrolled in the school of hardship and trials! God is seeking those who are willing to be tried by fire, whose faith He can refine and bring forth as pure gold.
Throughout my years in ministry, I have noticed a pattern in the lives of most Christians. Almost immediately after God saves us, He leads us into a wilderness of testing. Why? Because God is looking for a people who will trust Him in impossible situations before the whole world. This was true even in Jesus' life. As our Lord came up out of the baptismal waters, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where He was sorely tested (see Luke 4:1-2).
We see this kind of trust demonstrated by Daniel. Daniel's jealous co-governors devised a plot against him, convincing King Darius to ban prayer for thirty days. Just as his peers expected, Daniel disobeyed the ban and kept praying three times a day. Although King Darius respected Daniel, he was forced by his own decree to cast this devout man into the lions' den.
Daniel was fully aware that the penalty for disobeying the ban on prayer was death. Yet he never stopped praying, because he trusted God. He knew the Lord would see him through his trial.
Throughout this ordeal, King Darius observed Daniel anxiously. He had tried every means possible to save Daniel, but he simply couldn't. Finally, just before Daniel was cast to the lions, the king assured him, "Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee" (Daniel 6:16).
If you tell the world that Jesus is your lord, your savior and your healer, a God who can perform the impossible, they will watch to see how you react in impossible situations. Their eyes are glued to everyone who boasts of God's goodness, power and glory. And the devil looks on, too, hoping our faith will fail.
The Psalmist writes, "Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men" (Psalm 31:19). What is this "great goodness" that God lays up for those who trust in Him through trying times? It's an impenetrable, glorious testimony to the world that your faith can survive any situation.
How did God respond to Daniel's faith? He shut the mouths of those hungry lions (see Daniel 6:22).