For years the Israelites had longed to be ruled by a human king and finally God allowed it. He told the prophet Samuel to anoint Saul to rule over Israel: “Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said: ‘Is it not because the Lord has anointed you commander over His inheritance?’” (1 Samuel 10:1).
Samuel was saying, in essence, “The Lord is with you, Saul. You’re a chosen vessel, hand-picked by God.” Moreover, God immediately blessed Saul with a heart to fulfill his calling: “God gave [Saul] another heart … then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them” (10:9-10).
Who wouldn’t want such a man to be their king? Saul was humble, valiant, handsome, favored by God. In other words, the model of a godly leader. Yet, incredibly, this anointed man would die in utter rebellion. So, what happened to Saul that sent him spiraling downward?
Saul’s critical moment came when Israel faced the Philistines, a daunting enemy, and Saul went ahead of God’s direction for battle. He acted in fear, not in faith, and committed such a grievous sin against the Lord that it resulted in his appointment as king being revoked. Why? Because God knew that from that day forward, Saul would offer him a dead faith, scheming and manipulating any situation that arose. (Read this full story in 1 Samuel 13.)
God knows every person’s heart and he is never late to step in to help us in our battle. Unbelief is deadly, its consequences tragic — this is clear from Saul’s life. From the moment he made his pivotal decision to take matters into his own hands, his life went downhill.
Beloved, be encouraged! There is good news for every believer in this New Covenant age. God assures us that all who hold to faith and believe in him will be honored, no matter how hopeless the situation seems. “That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it be tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Isaiah is speaking here of a wonderful prince of peace coming to rule over a kingdom made up of a people wholly submitted to the prince’s supreme authority. And the prince himself would provide loving counsel to those he ruled over, guiding and directing their lives. Of course, the prince Isaiah speaks of is Christ. His kingdom has indeed come, existing in the hearts of his people. And the government of all creation rests on the shoulders of our wonderful Savior.
Isaiah adds, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (9:7). From now to the end of time, Jesus is going to rule over his kingdom with divine order. Now, if Christ reigns as the supreme authority over his kingdom and we are his subjects, then our lives must be governed by him. What, exactly, does it mean for us to be governed by Jesus? To govern means “to guide, to direct, to control all actions and behavior of those under authority.” In short, Jesus must be allowed to control everything we do. He must guide and direct our lives daily, including our every thought, word and deed.
Jesus rules supreme in his own kingdom, the one he has established in the hearts of his people. He said, “Indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). And it is within this kingdom — this realm of our hearts — that Christ rules supreme over his people, guiding us, healing us, governing our actions and behavior.
Can you honestly say that day after day, Jesus’ government over you is increasing? Are you bringing your behavior more and more under his authority? Allow your king, Jesus, to govern your life through his Word, and then you will be blessed. Indeed, your life will be filled with joy!
At one point in his walk of faith, the apostle Paul said, “The Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me that bonds and afflictions await me” (see Acts 20:23). Indeed, throughout Paul’s entire life, his afflictions never let up. You may wonder, “How can this be? The God we serve is almighty and victorious. He only has to speak a word and make it possible for us to go through life in triumph, with no troubles at all. So, why would our loving Father permit his people to suffer?”
Paul responds to such a question, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Paul is saying, in essence, “The suffering we go through on this earth is only momentary compared to eternity.” And right now, as we endure our suffering, God is producing in us a revelation of his glory that will last forever.
Paul had a great revelation of Christ, an incredibly strong faith, and abundant spiritual knowledge. And it all came to him through manifold suffering. Time after time he was beaten, robbed, cast into prison, shipwrecked and even buffeted and frustrated by the devil himself. He wrote, “Therefore we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us” (1 Thessalonians 2:18).
Paul understood that in everything he endured, the Holy Spirit was teaching him things he couldn’t learn any other way. “I, Paul … now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ … to fulfill the word of God” (Colossians 1:23-25). The apostle is saying here, “God is giving me something for you through this trial. He’s revealing to me a truth that’s been hidden throughout the ages, and that truth is Christ in you, the hope of glory. His power is working mightily in you” (see verse 29).
This man had his own full, glorious revelation of Christ; one of the great secrets of Paul’s spirituality was his readiness to accept whatever condition he was in without complaining. Your current situation may become hell on earth, draining you of every tear. But if you're faithful to remain in it—if you honor God's word, believing him for endurance—he'll change you dramatically into a truly spiritual person.
The prophet Ezekiel moved mightily in the Spirit and the Lord gave him a vision that holds a timely message of spiritual awakening for the church today. As was true of most Old Testament prophets, Ezekiel served Israel’s king, which meant traveling with the king’s army and witnessing the horrors of war. But Ezekiel received a vision so terrible that it surpassed anything he had ever witnessed in real life.
God told Ezekiel, “Sit down, I have something to show you” (see Ezekiel 37:1). The Hebrew word for “sit down” as used here is the same word found in Luke 24:49 when Jesus instructed his disciples, “Stay [sit down] in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” The meaning in both instances is, “Lay down your plans and strategies and then wait on me to fill you with my power.”
In Ezekiel’s vision, he was led into a valley filled with dry bones: “[He] set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many … and behold, they were very dry” (37:1-2). What a terrible scene — a vast stretch of land filled with skeletons as far as Ezekiel could see. As Ezekiel surveyed the scene in front of him, God asked, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (37:3). And Ezekiel responded, “O Lord God, You know” (same verse). Ezekiel’s answer was one of complete trust — just the answer God was waiting to hear.
You may be experiencing many difficult things in your life and, if so, Christ asks the same question of you today: “Can the dry bones of your situation come to life? Do you believe it can happen?”
God told Ezekiel to prophesy over the bones that they might live and he asks the same of us. Once our faith is engaged, he calls us to action, to speak life into our families and our various challenges. “Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live” (37:6).
Out of chaos, Jesus produces life; out of ashes, he produces beauty. And into a horrific situation that the enemy means only for destruction, Jesus breathes new life!
The Bible warned that there will be unspeakable darkness and a great falling away in the last days before Christ returns, but most of us probably never thought we would live to see a day of moral decay quite like this.
Before David became king, he lived in a season when his own nation was in fearful spiritual decline. Self-will and false spiritualism, under King Saul, were on full display, leading the nation toward what inevitably would become certain defeat without divine intervention. David soon found himself being pursued by an army that hoped to cast off all that represented God. Of course, we know that David ultimately ended up being someone who made a difference.
What are we supposed to do in these days? We must pray for deliverance from the spirit of the age. “Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their hearts” (Psalm 140:1-2). In this psalm, David was referring to those who were looking for a solution in human terms. David was the Christ-type of his generation, and he felt called to something higher than the petty violence and grievance of his generation.
We, too, must pray for deliverance from the spirit of this age, saying, “Lord, I do not want to be part of the problem but part of the solution. Help me to get my mind back on spiritual things. Get me away from the media and anything that might poison my spirit and cause my speech to lose its effectiveness as it becomes exactly the way of the world. Give me your Holy Spirit! Give me your thoughts, your mind, your compassion for the multitudes. Help me to love even my enemies.”
In the natural, we are on the weaker side; but in the spiritual, we are already more than conquerors. We are seated at the right hand of Almighty God, the one who already destroyed the power of darkness and sits in all power and authority. We have direct access to the throne of God with power to push back the darkness and believe that there will be victory and rejoicing in the days ahead!
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.