I love the words of an old hymn we used to sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer” (Joseph M. Scriven). “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
God extended the fullness of his love to us through the gift of his Son: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). And because of his great love for us, we are enabled to reach out to others in loving ways.
We all want someone in our life who shares our values and standards, a friend who will be loyal and love us in spite of our weaknesses. We read of such a friendship in 1 Samuel 18:1, 3-4: “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul … Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.”
These verses represent the love that Jesus has for us — an unmerited, supernatural love, a love that sees beyond our weaknesses and is always supportive and encouraging. It is called the agape love of God and is above human understanding. The type of loving friendship that Jonathan and David shared — I call it gospel relationship — can come only through the power of Jesus Christ.
As you freely receive this gift of love from Jesus, ask him to enable you to be a godly friend who encourages spiritual growth in someone else — truly “a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
God’s Word gives us many examples of the incredible things that happen when God’s people pray. For instance, in the book of Second Kings, the king of Syria surrounded the city where the people of God were. There was such a vast army that Elisha’s servant looked over the wall of the city and asked, “What are we going to do? They are more and mightier than we are!” (see 2 Kings 6:15).
“Elisha prayed, and said, ‘Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see” (2 Kings 6:17). In other words, “Oh, God, would You give vision back to Your people to understand once again that it is not by might nor by power but by Your Spirit?”
“Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. So when the Syrians came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, and said, “Strike this people, I pray, with blindness” (2 Kings 6:17-18). In other words, “Confuse the enemy! Take away their vision, their unity, their strength. Do not let them accomplish their purpose.”
We, too, can pray that in our generation. “Lord, do not let the enemies of righteousness advance any further. Let their agenda drift away from them!”
“And He struck them with [spiritual] blindness according to the word of Elisha. Now Elisha said to them, ‘This is not the way, nor is this the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.’ But he led them to Samaria. So it was, when they had come to Samaria, that Elisha said, ‘Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.’ And the Lord opened their eyes, and they saw; and there they were, inside Samaria” (2 Kings 6:18-20).
Not only were God’s people affected by prayer, the enemy was brought to an awareness of God’s power — a moment of conscience. This is what we need to pray for in our generation — a spiritual awakening — a sudden awareness of sin that can come into the heart of any society, any place, any person.
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.
The apostle John was given a revelation of the glory of the exalted Christ: “A door [was] standing open in heaven. And the first voice … [said], ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.’ Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne” (Revelation 4:1-2).
A door to heaven has been opened to us today, as well. Like John, we have been called to “come up here.” Scripture says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). This call to come to the throne room has been most ignored by pastors and laypersons alike. Few believers truly know God’s voice and few ministers speak as his oracles.
John’s time of isolation on the island of Patmos (see Revelation 1:9) was imposed on him by godless men. I believe people in the church need to have a “Patmos” experience — a self-imposed setting aside of one’s self for the purpose of seeking the face of God. Christians today make time to watch television, shop or surf the Internet, communicate with others on social media, but few ever “come up” to God’s throne. Yet the Lord promises, “If you come up here, I’ll reveal to you my mercy and grace and show you things you have never seen before.”
This does not mean we give up our job, our family, our witness. In fact, it is entirely possible to be a busy person and still have a Patmos experience. What matters is that we shut out every voice, activity and thing that hinders us from hearing the voice of the Lord. We are to concern ourselves with one focus: Am I listening to men or to the Holy Spirit?
The Lord is pleased whenever you willingly submit yourself to a time alone with him. Once Christ becomes your sole focus, you will be able to receive discernment and guidance directly from above.
Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Paul is telling us, in essence, “All who follow Jesus are blessed with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, where Christ is.” What an incredible blessing.
Paul wrote this epistle to “the faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1) — believers who were sure of their salvation. The Ephesians had been well trained in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life. They knew who they were in Christ and were assured of their heavenly position in him. They fully understood that God had raised Jesus from the dead and set him at the Father’s right hand (1:20); they knew they had been chosen by God from before the foundation of the world (1:4); and they grasped that they had been adopted by Jesus Christ to himself (1:5).
When the Ephesians heard the word of truth, they believed and trusted it. Indeed, they were grounded in the truth that they were made to “sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (2:6). In other words, they had been well trained in sound doctrine and they knew how to enter into the joy of the promises of God. I trust that you are like those Ephesians: faithful, well-taught believers, accepting the victory that comes by faith alone and not by works.
You may not feel like you are in a “heavenly place,” but the moment you placed your trust in Jesus, he came and made his abode in your heart. Paul tells us that God has made us to sit together with Christ so that “He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us” (2:7). He is emphasizing that the effect we will see in our daily lives is God’s loving, warmhearted kindness. Therefore we can wake up shouting, “Hallelujah! God, Christ and the Holy Spirit want to be near me.” That is certainly a cause for rejoicing!
Noah lived in a generation that had spun out of control. Violence and murder were rampant and unspeakable wickedness had spread wantonly.
“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth … And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth … So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them’” (Genesis 6:5-7).
God told Noah, “I’m going to destroy all flesh but I will preserve you and your family. I want you to build an ark, Noah, and gather into it all the animal species, in twos. While you are building, I will show mercy to the inhabitants of the earth for a season and then I will send a rain that will not stop for forty days and nights. A great flood will wipe out every living thing.” Then God gave Noah the dimensions of the ark — its length, wide and depth — in great detail (see Genesis 6:11-22).
Noah was given the task of building an enormous ark while living in a violent, dangerous world. He had to accept it all by faith, with no further direction for many years. I’m certain he was mocked and threatened as he tediously worked, yet he kept building and believing while the world around him danced, partied and wallowed in sensuality.
God told this man, “I’m asking you to obey me, and if you ever start to doubt, you must trust what I’ve told you.” This was so illogical and unreasonable that Noah must have become discouraged at times and wondered if he had really heard from God.
Have you ever felt God was speaking to you and then there was silence? No further direction, no sign from heaven? Be encouraged! Noah remained faithful and because of his obedience, he is listed as a victor in the “Hall of Faith,” becoming an “heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7). In your time of trouble, take hope that just like the great heroes listed, the victory is yours in Christ.