“When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret, will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6).
When Jesus speaks of going into a secret place to seek the Father, he is talking about something much greater than a physical closet. He is referring to any place where you can be alone with him in intimate communion.
Do you have a place of prayer? Do you have a habit of shutting yourself in with God? It could be in your car while you commute to work or in your study at home. The Holy Spirit woos you and your spirit responds, “I must talk with my Father today!” Having a prayer habit, a daily practice of disciplining yourself to come before God, is vital to your spiritual growth.
Jesus warned against hypocrisy in prayer. He drew a dramatic distinction between those who seek God in the secret place and those who pray so that they can be seen by others as holy. Hypocrites are actors, people who act holy in order to receive the praise of others. Jesus said there are many such actors in his church: “When you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:5).
Far too many Christians do not practice a wonderful, daily communion with the Lord. The vast majority pray only in church and at meals, with perhaps a few quick words to God before going to bed. Beloved, there is absolutely no power in haphazard, on-again-off-again praying. God sees the very depths of your being and he desires for you to seek him with all your heart.
The habit of daily drawing near to God is meant for every one of us! “Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!” (Psalm 119:2).
“When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-14).
A unique characteristic of the Holy Spirit is that he does not like to talk about himself. He does not want us to know about him so much as to know about his mission, which is to bring us to Jesus and keep us in purity and holiness. He is always at work, making Christ known in our hearts, and he delights in our seeking knowledge about why he has come.
Jesus had gathered his disciples for one last moment of communion before he was to be translated. It was a sorrowful time for them because their sole source of comfort was being taken away. Jesus was their guide and teacher, their joy, peace, hope and love, but now he was physically leaving them. They did not truly understand the gift to come after his parting.
Can you imagine the questions they had? “Now who will guide us? Where will we go for words of eternal life? He told us to go into the whole world and preach the gospel in his name, but where will the power come from? He is all we have ever known and we have built our entire world around him!” Jesus read their minds. He knew what they were going to face: hardships, destitution, persecution, even torture, for his name. “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16). And he assured them, “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you” (see 14:18).
It seems easy to believe that the Holy Spirit has been sent to the world, but harder to believe he has been sent to us personally. If Jesus were to suddenly appear alongside you, would you talk with him? Of course you would! Likewise, the Holy Spirit is to be that personal to you — your comfort, your guide, your constant companion!
“[He] has saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:9).
Every believer has a high calling from the Lord, and God promises that if we act in faith, trusting him, he will bring that plan to fruition. But as anyone who has walked with Jesus for any length of time can attest, following our calling means we will meet obstacles along the way.
Joshua had provided strong leadership for the children of Israel after Moses died and the people trusted him. Yet when it came time to lead the people through the Jordan River into the Promised Land, God saw his need for reassurance and he spoke to him three times about being bold: “Be strong and courageous … Only be strong and very courageous … Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:6-7, 9).
As we faithfully seek to cross into our personal promised land, voices of skepticism often arise. “It’s not going to happen. It’s easier where you are. How can you be sure you heard from God?” The questions may come from a friend or acquaintance, challenging what you believe to be God’s direction. Or it may be a voice inside your head raising every kind of argument to keep you from obeying your Father’s direction.
You will be most vulnerable to attacks of the enemy when you are on the brink of possessing the land God has called you to inhabit. The enemy — and our flesh — will put up strong resistance in the form of fear, anxiety, doubt and uncertainty. But that is the precise time you must heed the instruction that God gave to Joshua.
Be of good courage! God’s immovable Word provides a prevailing peace that undergirds all you do so that you will not be shaken.
Peter is a classic example of a believer who failed and then got back up and enjoyed great success. Right before the crucifixion he denied Jesus three times (read the account in Mark 14:66-72). At a time when he had a great opportunity to honor Christ, he literally denied him. But after the resurrection, Peter had a one-on-one encounter with Jesus that breathed new life and energy into his ministry.
“After these things, Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself; Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael … and two others of His disciples were together” (John 21:1). Peter had experienced seeing the empty tomb of Jesus following the resurrection. And then he saw Jesus walk through walls, saw doubting Thomas become believing Thomas, and witnessed Jesus do many other signs (see John 20). Peter’s encounter with Jesus ended with Jesus saying to him, “Feed My sheep” (John 21:17). He was completely forgiven, restored, and driven to preach boldly.
Failure is a part of life. Everybody experiences it but not everyone gets up afterward. Always remember this, however; failure isn’t final until you quit. Retired American figure skater and Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton had a Christian upbringing but, by his own testimony, he let God go from his life. In answer to much prayer, he had a resurgence of faith and a renewed relationship with Christ. He speaks of failure in this way: “I calculated once how many times I fell during my skating career. It was 41,600 times. But I got up 41,600 times!” That is exactly what we all must do when we fall: get up!
David says, “The steps of good men are directed by the Lord. He delights in each step they take. If they fall, it isn’t fatal, for the Lord holds them with his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24, TLB). Solomon says, “Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again” (Proverbs 24:16, NIV).
As a believer, God consistently sees you as righteous — on your good days and on your falling days. The most important thing is that you are born again into his family and have a trust relationship with your Father, who lovingly holds you.
Pastor Tim pastored an inner-city congregation in Detroit for thirty years before serving at Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC for five years. He and his wife Cindy presently pastor in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Scripture says, “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Don’t be put off by all the terms in this verse. Simply put, the goal of the gospel is redemption and God’s grace includes everything he has done for us through Christ to redeem us from the power of the devil and bring us into the kingdom of his glorious light!
Righteousness (which is justification) is the cornerstone of grace. To be justified by God means to be forgiven of all sin and guilt and considered holy and righteous before him. How did you find forgiveness and acceptance before God? Was it because God saw something good in you, some inherent righteousness that attracted him to you? Did you earn his favor with obedience and kindness?
No — absolutely not! The Word says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
No one becomes holy or righteous by his own works, obedience or faithfulness. Rather, these things are all the result of faith in the power of Christ’s blood to make us acceptable in God’s sight.
“Even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Galatians 2:16). Being made righteous by faith is the hardest thing for the flesh to accept. We want to earn our salvation but we must submit to the righteousness of Christ and accept his salvation. That is the path to complete freedom.