In the days when Eli was ministering to the Lord, scripture says, “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision” (1 Samuel 3:1, ESV). Often, when this happens in our lives, we surround that flickering flame with lots of smoke and mirrors to make it look better than it is. Our agendas become focused on all of these outside things because the fire at the center is so small and can hardly bring light or warmth anymore.
Eli was a spiritual leader of his nation at that time. Eli could have had an amazing move of God in his time. He had the Ark of the Covenant, which was the sign of God choosing to make a habitation among his people in the Old Testament. They had worship and sacrifices, and they had the Torah and the teaching of the Word.
They had everything they could possibly have to help them, but there were only occasional visitations from the Lord.
Eli was choosing to ignore or even indulge his sons’ sinful lifestyles. I picture him a little like King Saul who would come along a bit later. Saul would have these fits and experience these moves of God, but they would only last for a little while. The Holy Spirit would fall upon him, and he would prophesy, but the next day he would be back to his old ways!
Both men had divided desires. It was “I want God’s presence, but when I’m back to my normal life, I want to compromise a little bit and sin here or there.”
This way of living has serious consequences for us. “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:9-10).
When we ignore the sin in our own lives and it no longer grieves us, this starts to affect us in serious ways. Habitual patterns of sin in ourselves and our family that we choose to overlook are what most often hinders God’s presence.
I ministered in Detroit for 30 years. While preaching on the streets, I’ve been cursed at. I've been spit on. I've had bottles thrown at me. I've had bullets fly by. None of that ever bothered me, though. I wasn't offended. I didn't know the person; they didn’t know me.
My wife looks at me the wrong way, though, and Lord have mercy. That's worse than a bottle. That's worse than a gunshot.
Hurt is proportional to intimacy. The closer you are to someone, the deeper they can hurt you. Even David said this, “For it is not an enemy who taunts me — then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me — then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend” (Psalm 55:12, ESV).
Words really matter. They carry weight. In fact, Solomon says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21), and even James says, “It [the tongue] is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:8-10).
He speaks to all of us, and this is so important because any hurt that is not dealt with will turn into bitterness. When you're dealing with a bitter person, it's because they didn't take care of that hurtful situation. All of us have been hurt, will be hurt again and will hurt others; so what are we supposed to do?
Let me tell you, I’ve been on both ends. I've been the offender, and I have been offended. There have been moments that we took communion, and I sat in a chair waiting for my turn, and the Holy Spirit said, "Don’t touch that until you stand up and go ask forgiveness of that staff member." I would look at the band and say, "Keep playing until I get this right." Then I'd have to walk out and make things right. It's so difficult when the Holy Spirit says, "You have not only been offended, but you have been the offender.”
It starts with an apology, first to God and then to others. There's one relationship that you always have to deal with right away, and that’s your relationship with God; then you make it right with others. As John says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
After pastoring an inner-city congregation in Detroit for thirty years, Pastor Tim served at Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC for five years and pastored in Lafayette, Louisiana, for five years. He became Senior Pastor of Times Square Church in May of 2020.
“Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (Revelation 9:3-4, NKJV).
Why is “greenness” important to our faith? Remember, the locusts are commanded not to touch anything green. Simply put, they can’t hurt anybody who’s walking in faith.
Even at the height of these demonic forces’ attacks, those who place their trust in God will stand tall like solid, green trees. They won’t be harmed by locusts of any kind. The best defense against every kind of hellish attack, every scorpion-like sting, is spiritual health; and this kind of health comes only as we turn to the Lord and trust in his promises.
Do you fully trust in God’s forgiveness? Do you depend on his blood to cleanse you of every iniquity? If you feel condemned and constantly strive to please God, you are not green and healthy. God’s foremost desire is that you accept his gift of forgiveness and rest in it.
Once you’ve accepted God’s forgiveness, do you trust in his unconditional love for you? Our Lord doesn’t cut us off every time we fail. He doesn’t constantly look over our shoulder, demanding we get it right. He simply asks that we come to him, confessing, “I believe your Word, Lord. Forgive me, wash me and hold me in your arms.”
God’s desire for us is that we live all our days without fear, so we should not allow Satan to accuse us with a failure from the past. If we’ve repented of it, we’re covered by Christ’s precious, cleansing blood.
Here is God’s promise to all who place their trust in him: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They have bowed down and fallen; but we have risen and stand upright” (Psalm 20:7-8).
“Now Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, but had departed from Saul” (1 Samuel 18:12, NKJV).
Satan envies and fears most those who have been with God in prayer and are determined to stand up and fight in faith. Satan fears even a small army of those who are girded up in faith for a fight. He cowers before those who are up on their feet and ready to resist.
Because he fears you, his design is to neutralize your fighting spirit.
The devil does this by trying to flood your mind with defeating, distracting, hellish thoughts that breed mistrust and questions about God’s power. He’ll scream into your mind and spirit, “It’s no use fighting any more. You are too weak from your personal struggles. The powers of hell are just too big to overcome, so you might as well relax. You don’t need to be so intense about the battle anymore.”
This is all a distraction! Satan’s entire strategy is to get you to take your eyes off the victory of the cross. He wants to turn your focus onto your weaknesses, your sins, your shortcomings. He wants to make you believe you aren’t strong enough to go on. Your strength, however, is not the point; Jesus’ strength is!
The fact is we’re all going to be in a fight until we either die or Jesus comes back. We may be given seasons of calm and reprieve, but as long as we are on this earth, we are engaged in spiritual warfare. There is simply no end to these battles. That’s why Paul says Jesus has given us weapons that are for pulling down strongholds (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We have been equipped with weapons that Satan cannot withstand: prayer, fasting and faith.
The time has come for us to get our focus unstuck from our current afflictions. We must take our eyes off our trials and fix them on the captain of this war. Jesus holds the key to all victory, and he has promised us, “I have supplied you with every weapon needed for battle. I am ready and willing to give you strength in times of weakness.”
The Apostle Paul taught the Colossian church, “For this reason we…do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10, NKJV).
What is required for a pleasing walk? Paul tells us, “As the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:12-13).
In other words, we are to ask ourselves, “Am I becoming more like Christ? Am I growing more patient or more quick-tempered? Kinder and gentler, or meaner and more argumentative? More tender and forgiving, or more bitter, holding onto grudges? Do I ‘bear with others’? Do I put up with the weaknesses and faults of those near to me, or do I always have to be right?”
Paul is suggesting that, in light of a coming day of judgment, it doesn’t matter what works you accomplish or what charitable deeds you do. No matter how kind you are to strangers, no matter how many souls you bring to Christ, this question remains: Are you still becoming more loving, patient, forgiving and forbearing?
Examining your walk with Christ means looking not so much at what you are doing as at what you are becoming. Such a walk cannot be achieved by human effort alone. It won’t happen by self-determination and saying, “I am going to become that kind of believer.” Instead, it happens by the work of the Holy Spirit, through faith in his Word.
First, we read these words and believe them to be God’s call to us. Then we examine ourselves and ask the Spirit to show us who we truly are, measuring ourselves by his Word. Finally, we ask the Holy Spirit to help us change.