Walk of Faith

David Brandt Berg

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People are such extremists. They think it’s all this way or that way. In the repair of electronic equipment we have knowledge up to a point, but because of a lack of skilled technicians who’ve had more training, when we have an abnormal case that is beyond our experience, we don’t hesitate to take it to the expert. Something beyond our experience, we have to take it to the expert.

I usually have more faith for those who are beyond the power and ability of man. The Lord Himself worked along this line when He was on earth. He made men do what they could do, made the people roll the stone away, made the man go wash in the Pool of Siloam. He did what they couldn’t do.

It’s all in how much faith you have. How much do you claim the promises? How many promises are you quoting? It’s just like you’d take a treatment or pills and have faith in the doctor for your physical healing. If you’ve got faith in God, you’re going to take the scriptural pills and follow the treatment He prescribes. You can’t say, “I’m trusting the doctor, but I won’t take his pills.” You have to follow through and obey whatever you’re putting your faith in. If it is the Lord, you quote and claim scriptures just like Jesus did. You stand on the Word!

Faith is something you have or you don’t have. It’s like being a little bit pregnant. There is no such thing! You either are or you aren’t. You have faith or you haven’t. That’s why Jesus said, “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you can move a whole mountain” (Matthew 17:20). Faith is something that is built by faithful study of God’s Word. Faith comes—it grows by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). It’s not a sudden boom. You can get sudden faith for certain things with sudden scriptures from the Lord. But you have that kind of faith because of a substantial background of faith and trusting God’s Word.

People who know the Lord’s healing have to get faith and healing for themselves directly from the Lord. Calling for the elders’ laying on of hands is a symbol of your faith and a witness to others (James 5:14–16). You can have faith for healing because you are obeying the calling for elders, etc., not that your faith is resting in the elders’ laying on of hands.

With God’s children who know Him personally and know His will and His Word, God expects them to touch Him personally, directly, not through somebody else’s faith or prayers or somebody else’s decision. That’s why God requires them to make the decision of faith themselves. Just like with salvation, nobody else can make the decision for you. You have to make the decision of faith yourself—take the step of faith yourself. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15), and you personally have to take the responsibility, not try to push it on others. If you have to shove responsibility on somebody else and you claim to have faith when you haven’t, that’s just plain damn pride.

One of the worst kinds of pride in the world is pretending to have faith when you haven’t got it—spiritual pride.

Most Christians can have faith under normal conditions for usual situations—what they expect God to do. But when everything goes wrong and seems contrary to the Word and the usual, only those with great faith can say with Job, “Even though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). What Job was saying was, “Even though it seems like God is breaking His own word with me, even though it seems like God has failed me, even though God kills me contrary to all His promises, I’ll still trust Him.”

You put God on the spot. He likes you to challenge Him to keep His Word. “Now, here, God, I’ve obeyed You. I’ve put myself on a limb and sawed it off. Now it’s up to You to take care of me.” But if you haven’t got that kind of faith, you’d better operate according to your faith.

Faith is knowing. You’re positive. You’re certain. You expect it beyond a shadow of a doubt. If you haven’t got that kind of faith and you’re not willing to literally die for it and take the responsibility of the decision yourself that “I’d rather die trusting,” then you’d better operate according to your faith.

In all cases, you have to be willing to die for your faith as a part of your witness—your final witness—whether you die for your faith as a martyr in preaching the Gospel, or whether you die for your faith in starving to death because you’ve forsaken all to follow Him, or whether you die daily in many tests and trials; that’s when you find out whether you have the faith or not!

Job didn’t know for sure he wasn’t going to die. By all indications, it looked like he was. And his friends as good as told him he was and that he didn’t have any faith. They as good as said he was dying because of his lack of faith. The fact was that God almost let him die to show what great faith he had.

It’s impossible to have faith unless you have the Word.—Faith that is contrary to all normal conditions, all natural expectations, above and beyond the call of duty, above and beyond the usual.

God doesn’t like forced faith—when you have no alternative, no choice, when you have to trust Him because there’s nothing else you can do. Most Christians can then trust God, because He’s all that is left. God likes the kind of faith that when there is a choice, when there is a decision, when there is an alternative, the great faith still chooses God in spite of the other possibilities.

It is impossible to have faith unless you have the Word.

Some people are looking for an excuse to do what they really want to do—quit. They are looking for somebody else to blame, somebody else to make the decision, somebody else to take the responsibility, instead of laying hold on the angel as Jacob did and refusing to let go until God blessed him, even though it crippled him and made a new man out of him, no longer a deceiver, liar, cheat and pretender—but a prince of God and a man who refused to let go until he got the blessing (Genesis 32:24–30).

That was Esau’s sin—he gave up too easily. He found out he didn’t have much faith. He despised his birthright and settled for something he could see and easily believe for, rather than something he couldn’t see and had to have great faith for (Genesis 25:29–34). Some people quit too soon. It is so easy to make excuses—legitimate, logical, reasonable, acceptable excuses why you couldn’t make it, why you shouldn’t be expected to make it—and in most cases most people will accept your excuses, because most people don’t have faith either, and in excusing you, they’re excusing themselves. But is God going to excuse you?

When you take a stand of faith, you usually have to take it alone with God. Most of the great decisions that I have made in my life as a leader have been lonely decisions where only I and God stood together, and the whole world seemed to stand against us. Sometimes including my family, even those I loved the most. They have been mountain peaks of decision, with nothing but thin air between me and the next peak, and I had to take that step alone, and trust God for the consequences, with no guarantee but God, no warranty but His Word—all other conditions being against it, all natural circumstances being opposed to it, the waves and the winds fighting against it—and all I had was the hand of God!

But He never let me down, even if He had to pick me up by that hand and lift me across to that next mountain peak, without any visible, natural, normal, logical, reasonable means of help. God says, “Serve Me, and I’ll keep you.” Man says, “It’s impossible! Tie up in port. Don’t attempt the impossible; you’ll sink.” God says, “Launch out into the deep. Cast thy nets and I’ll give you such a draft there’ll not be room enough to hold it. I’ll give you the biggest load you’ve ever had, when you were ready to sink without any load.” Man says, “Look at the waves! Look at the condition of your vessel. You can’t do it.” God says, “Look at Me! With man it is impossible; with God, nothing shall be impossible, and all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 10:27, 9:23).

But if someone does not take action and make a decision, willing to even stand alone in a stand of faith—if we are not willing to act by faith on what God has shown us, it might never happen. Somebody has to be willing to be the pioneer. Somebody has to be willing to take that first step of faith in that direction, to take the initiative because of the vision, and to take it alone, if need be, regardless of the cost.

“Prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord, and see if I will not pour out such a blessing that there will not be room enough to hold it” (Malachi 3:10). You don’t see the blessing yet. How do you know He’s going to pour it out? You’ve only got His Word for it—you’ve got to prove Him. You have to test it, to challenge God. You have to take a step in the direction He said to go, to find out what He’s going to do. Because if you don’t go, He can’t show. If you don’t obey, He can’t make a way. If by faith you don’t “be,” you’ll never “see”. For believing is seeing, in this business—in God’s business.

But some people weaken just before that final hour. The greatest darkness is just before dawn. The greatest desperation is just before salvation. The greatest hopelessness attacks just before rescue. Some people almost make it. Almost, but lost. If you could have held on one more breath, one more step, one more hour, one more day, you could have had glorious victory and a wonderful testimony. But you suffered all these things in vain, and you didn’t quite make it, and a “miss is as good as a mile.” May God forbid this ever has to be said to you! May God give us the faith and the willingness to make the choice alone, if need be, to make the decision on our own and to bear the full consequences ourselves, whatever they may be.

Faith is not something you can try to have. You either have it or you don’t. You have it because you’re full of the Word and the faith of God and you just know it and expect it. You cannot try to have faith. Faith isn’t something you work up or muster up by your own efforts and strength. Trying to have faith is a work of the flesh. Accepting faith through His Word is a work of God’s grace, like salvation. It’s free, it can only be received, but your works will show it.

If you have it, you won’t quit. You’ll be tempted to doubt, but you won’t doubt. The Devil will try to scare you, but you won’t fear. He’ll try to frighten you, but you won’t quail. He’ll try to bluff you, but you won’t retreat. He’ll try to bully you, but you won’t surrender.—Because you are willing to die trusting, you’re so sure of God. That’s the kind of faith that gets healing and works miracles.

“Every man must give an account of himself to God.” “What is it to thee? Follow thou Me” (Romans 14:12; John 21:22). We cannot hide behind others when it comes to our majesty of choice. We cannot push the responsibility upon others, when God is dealing with us personally.

God wants you to make your own choice according to your faith—not mine, not ours, not somebody else’s, but yours. God wants you to learn to trust Him personally, not lean on others. This is the time for your faith to come to the fore and for you to make your own decision, to see how much you trust God.

Faith is a dangerous game of life and death, not to be played with lightly. You either have it or you haven’t. Don’t try to fool anybody, or it may kill you—or you may change your mind at the last minute, showing that’s where your faith was all the time—that you were only trying to have faith you didn’t have.

“For without faith it is impossible to please God, for he that cometh to Him must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). In other words, you’ve really already got it by faith, and you don’t doubt it and you don’t change and you don’t run out on God at the last minute.

When it comes to the showdown, except for a few rare exceptions, such as children and spiritual babies, you must have faith for yourself. “Have faith in God” (Mark 11:22). If you are old enough to make the serious spiritual decisions of marriage and having babies, you are old enough to make the serious, sobering, life-and-death decisions of faith.

But if you cannot trust God for yourself, how are you going to inspire faith in others for themselves? Faith knows God will do it—and He does! The thought might cross your mind in temptation to doubt, but those of faith resist the Enemy and he flees from them; they give no place to the Evil One! (James 4:7; Ephesians 4:27). And they continue to trust without fail, that God will not fail.

Others figure they’ll jump off the uncertainty of God at the last minute and land on what they consider the certainty of the flesh, in case God fails them. They don’t burn their bridges behind them. They don’t sacrifice the plow and the oxen (1 Kings 19:21). They hold a little reservation in the back of their mind, of what they plan to do in case God doesn’t work. This is not faith.

Those whose faith is only a proud pretense will chicken out when the going gets rough and it looks like all is lost. They leap off the boat when they think it’s about to sink.

But the captives of faith would rather go down with the ship, if such be the will of God, knowing that God is able to raise it again, if need be.

Fair weather faith is no faith at all! Real faith endures the storm, even when it looks like you’re sinking. Real faith stands his ground when all else fails and all others desert, even if he has to do it alone. Real faith never quits, never gives up, never stops, and therefore can’t be stopped—for God is with such faith. Real faith will pay any price, suffer any sacrifice, die any death.

You cannot stop the man of faith. You cannot dissuade him. You cannot divert him. You cannot stop him. He’ll go on with or without you, or right over you, if necessary. “For this is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith” (1 John 5:4). If it comes to that, all he needs is God. With that kind of faith in God, you can go anywhere and do anything, for “all things are possible to him that believeth, but without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Mark 9:23; Hebrews 11:1).

 
 

Copyright © The Family International

Seek Ye First

David Brandt Berg

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The story of the crowning temptation that the Devil offered Jesus is found in Matthew 4: “Again, the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.” That’s the most riches anybody had ever been offered—the whole world. “And saith unto Him, All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me.” What did Jesus answer? “Get thee hence, Satan: For it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:8–10). Satan says, “Fall down and worship me!” Jesus said, “Get behind Me. God says you should only worship God.”

The worship of the riches of this life is idolatry. The Lord warned us in Matthew 6:19–20 to “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal.” Those are exactly the things which most threaten riches: moth, rust, and thieves. If your riches happen to be wooden, the termites will eat them. If they happen to be metal, they will rust. And even if the termites and the bugs won’t eat it, and the rust won’t eat it, the thieves will.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). Jesus says, “Don’t bury your heart in those treasures, because those treasures will vanish away or get stolen, rust, or rot—along with your heart. They’ll corrupt your heart!”

The 24th verse says, “No man can serve two masters: For either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” It’s impossible to serve two people equally. If you’ve got more than one boss, you’re bound to like one of them better than the other. In fact, you may get to the point where you love one and hate the other.

“Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.” Mammon is money, pure and simple. Mammon was literally the god of wealth, the god of money. Mammon was a false god of the heathen, one of their false idols.

A lot of people think they need things that they just want. If you keep getting things and wanting things that you don’t really need, then you love those things. And look out, you may be loving them more than God! You can’t serve and labor and work for both. You’ll love one and hate the other. If you hate your job in a way, at least you don’t love it as much as you love the Lord, then you’re on the right track.

Jesus says: “I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on” (Matthew 6:25). Don’t worry about whether you’re going to have anything to eat or enough to wear. Now there are two things that God knows you can’t possibly do without for very long—food and clothing. Jesus said don’t even worry about the things that you really have to have, much less the things that you don’t have to have, that you just want.

He says don’t even worry about the necessities of life. “Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” He says, “Listen, don’t you know that I know that your life is more valuable than your food? And your body is much more valuable than the clothes that you put on it! I know it! I made your body, I gave you life. Don’t you think I’m going to take care of it? If I went to all the trouble to make something as valuable as your body and as priceless as your life, don’t you think I’m going to give you enough of your necessary food to eat, so it will keep you alive, and some raiment, some clothes to wear to protect the body?” If God made you and your life, He’ll certainly provide food and clothing for you. He’ll certainly take care of that body and that life He gave you.

“Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them” (Matthew 6:26). They don’t have to reap and store up for the future. “Are you not much better than they?” He said, “Listen, if I can feed the birds, don’t you think I’m going to feed you?” Don’t you think that you’re important enough that God will give you what you need?

“And which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? Why take ye thought for raiment?” Don’t worry about your clothes! Keep them clean, but don’t worry about whether you’re going to have any. He says, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matthew 6:27–29). He says, “Look at these pretty flowers: God makes them, God clothes them, and they didn’t even work for it.” So certainly God’s going to take care of you. If you serve Him, He’ll take care of you.

“Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30). If He’s so careful to take care of the grass, which only lasts a little while and somebody mows it down, casts it in the oven and burns it, don’t you think He’s more concerned about you? He takes care of the grass, so He’ll surely take care of you, won’t He?

“Therefore take no thought”—that means fretting, anxious thought. It doesn’t mean never to prepare. We don’t sit down at the table and say, “Okay, God, feed us.” Somebody has to take a little thought, as far as preparation is concerned. That’s not the kind of thought it’s talking about. It’s talking about worrying, being afraid that you’re not going to get what you need. Don’t worry about: “What shall we eat, or how shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles”—the unbelievers—“seek” (Matthew 6:31–32).

Many worldly people, that’s all they live for, all they work for. That’s their life—to have something to eat, drink, wear, and live in. They’re slaves of things.

I remember a friend of mine, when I was in college. One day while he was out, somebody came in and stole his camera, typewriter, and everything else. He had a better attitude about that loss than many Christians do. He acted relieved, believe it or not. He said, “I’m almost glad. I was getting to where I belonged to those things. I was a slave of those things, instead of them belonging to me and serving me.”

I wonder how many people own a car, or how many cars own people? How many people own houses, and how many houses own people? You can be a slave to your home, a slave to your car, a slave to things! They can own you instead of you owning them. You can be working for them, instead of them working for you.

“For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” God knows your needs. Don’t be a slave of those things! Let them be your slave. Let them work for you; don’t work for them.

There’s nothing wrong with having money, riches, or wealth. It all depends on whether you own money or the money owns you. It’s your attitude toward it. It all depends on how the money is used, whether the money or the wealth is using you or you’re using it.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you!” (Matthew 6:33). Put God’s kingdom first.

What is God’s kingdom? Jesus said it’s within you. What’s it composed of? What does He reign or rule over? He rules and reigns over the church. And what is the church? It is souls, people, His people! The kingdom of God is not a building or a denomination or an organization. It’s not the United States of America. It’s not Russia. It’s not this earthly ball. It’s the people who live on it who love Him. People are God’s kingdom!

Now if people are God’s kingdom, and if you’re going to seek first God’s kingdom, what are you going to seek? You’re going to seek souls for God’s kingdom. You’re going to witness—seek souls for the kingdom of God. You’re going to do that which helps the kingdom of God: Be a witness and soul winner yourself, or help others to witness and soul-win. You’re going to help the kingdom of God in some way. To help His kingdom is to help people. In helping people, you’re helping God—because He wants to help people. He helps people through you and me.

So how are you going to seek first His kingdom? Getting God’s kingdom in you to begin with, and then getting other people into His kingdom. That’s seeking first the kingdom of God: loving God first of all, and then loving your neighbor as yourself.

It says, “Seek first the kingdom of God.” There’s a greater and more important meaning of the word “first,” meaning foremost and above all, before everything else, above everything else, beyond everything else and more than anything else. That means you’re seeking God’s kingdom more than anything else on this earth. First and above all!

It means working for God and others more than for yourself, more than for money, more than for riches, more than for pleasure, more than for health, more than for government, more than for anything else. That’s seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

If you put Him and others first, He says, “All these things shall be added unto you.” If you put God first, won’t He give you all these other things—if you need them? He might not give you everything you want. He might not give you everything you’d like to have, or sometimes not even the things you think you need to have, but He will give you what He knows you actually have to have for the sake of His kingdom.

Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Bible economics is utterly contrary to the economics of man. Man’s economics says: Self-preservation is the first law of nature. I’m going to preserve myself and my own first. I’m going to live for myself. First, I’m going to take care of myself. First, I’m going to get mine. Self-preservation.

What is God’s law of economics? “He that would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For he that loseth his life for My sake and the gospel’s, shall save it; but he that saveth his life”—self-preservation—“the same shall lose it” (Mark 8:34–35).

God’s economy is the diametrical opposite of man’s economy! God says, “God first, and I’ll take care of you afterward.” Man says, “Me first, and if there’s anything left over, I’ll give it to God. My time first, and if I’ve got a little left over, I’ll give it to God.” God’s economy says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”

If you spend your life trying to save your life, Jesus says you’re going to lose your life. Spend your life losing your life for His kingdom and others—that’s the secret of saving it!

“Take therefore no thought”—no worrying thought—“for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” Don’t worry about tomorrow! Tomorrow isn’t here yet! Why worry about it? You’ve got enough to worry about today! “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34).

 
 

Copyright © The Family International

More on Faith

David Brandt Berg

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“According to your faith be it done unto you” (Matthew 9:29). If you’ve got the faith for it, God will do it. And faith is not just hoping, believing, or somewhat expecting, but knowing—absolutely knowing!

Faith has lost its meaning to us today. Today the word faith means kind of a hazy, vague belief of some kind in something or other; the word faith doesn’t really mean much. It meant more than that in God’s Word. But it doesn’t mean much today to most Christians. It is the substance, it is the hupostasis, it is the title deed (Hebrews 11:1).

About that word translated “substance” in the 11th chapter of Hebrews: When they translated the New Testament from the Greek nearly 400 years ago, they were still puzzled by the word hupostasis. Now they knew from the way this word hupostasis was used in some Greek literature that it was apparently something fairly substantial, very sure evidence of some kind, so they translated it “substance.” With Greek classical literature not ordinarily using business terminology, it was very difficult to find this word or what it meant.

But a few years ago archaeologists uncovered the burned ruins of an old inn in northern Israel. There they found a small iron chest containing what were apparently the valuable papers of some Roman noblewoman who had been traveling in Israel at that time. In this little chest they found most of the papers labeled with a big title HUPOSTASIS at the top of almost every paper. The business of the day was done in Greek because this was the worldwide language of business and culture, even though the Romans were ruling the world.

All of these papers which had the title Hupostasis in big letters across the top were title deeds to her properties. But this was long after the King James Version was translated, so they didn’t have the advantage of that discovery.

If you turn to Hebrews, the 11th chapter, the word “substance” there is just as good and conveys the message and I am quite sure it’s sufficient, but if you want to make it even clearer and more explicit, you can write above that word “substance,” in parentheses, “title deed.” Now faith is what?—The title deed.

In fact, you could put it this way: “Now faith is the title deed to things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Perhaps this Roman woman had never seen the properties she’d bought in Israel, but she knew she had them and she could prove her ownership even though she had never seen them.

If you’ve got real faith, even though you haven’t seen the answer yet, you’ve got the title deed to it. It’s yours; your name’s written on it and you will see it eventually—that’s faith. You know you’ve got the title in your hands. Praise God. It’s done. Real faith knows, and it happens. It never fails.

I want to warn you right now that you’d better have the faith yourself. Don’t do it because somebody tells you to and you’re acting according to their faith. You’ve got to have the faith for it yourself, unless you’re such a new convert that you just don’t know anything and can’t do anything and it’s an emergency situation. Sometimes God will give people vicarious faith, and in that case, strangely enough, it would be like they just have faith in you.

Salvation is a gift, the Holy Spirit’s a gift, but healing, though it’s a gift, you have to earn it through obedience. You can’t exactly earn it, but you’ve got to be worthy of it. If you want to keep it you’d better obey. When you’re healed, you’d better stay close to the Lord and do the things that He healed you for.

You’d better use that strength that God gives you in healing for His glory, or He can take it away from you. This is not so with salvation or the Holy Spirit—those are pure gifts. I don’t know whether I should put it that way, because I’ve had a lot of healings I didn’t deserve. But it’s almost as though you have to be worthy or earn it or obey to get it. Healing is a little extra bonus from the Lord; it’s a little extra blessing, kind of like finances. If you think you can just live as you please and get God to support you, you’re mistaken!

You’d better obey the Lord and stay in the center of His will and do what God wants you to do, if you expect to live by faith and expect God to take care of you.

God can do miracles! He expects you to do what you can do, but God helps those who cannot help themselves. He’s not going to feed you or wash your face for you, shove food in your mouth and brush your teeth, or roll away the stone, but He’ll heal you and He’ll supply the food—although He’ll usually let you cook it. Of course, there was one prophet He had the birds deliver it every morning and evening, both bread and flesh (1 Kings 17:4–6).

God can do anything if you trust Him, if you’re obedient. Now here’s the connection between obedience and faith: It’s pretty hard to have faith if you’re disobedient. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to believe God for anything if you’re disobedient. But if you know you’re doing your best to please Him and obey Him, you can expect almost anything. God will do almost anything for you, some of the most amazing things you could possibly imagine. I could tell you some things you probably wouldn’t even believe that God has done for me—just because I love Him and am trying my best to please Him, obey Him, and do the job.

My dad used to say to my mother, “You’re the Lord’s spoiled child; He pampers you.” She really loved the Lord and she made all kinds of sacrifices, was in touch with the Lord, and really served the Lord and really obeyed Him. So He gave her anything she wanted, anything she asked the Lord for, her heart’s desire. I told you about the time she stuck a quarter in the slot machine and got the jackpot. In my case, maybe I wanted to see this or that, or go some place or have something that maybe you might have thought was a luxury or a little unnecessary.

But maybe after you’ve served the Lord as many years as I have, He might even supply a few things exceedingly abundant above all you could ask or think, pressed down, shaken together and running over—more than you need, little luxuries, comforts (Ephesians 3:20; Luke 6:38).

Come on, let’s face it. You’ve got stuff right now you don’t really need. The Lord was good to you and gave it to you because you pleased Him. He only guaranteed food and clothing, “all your needs according to His riches in glory” (1 Timothy 6:8; Philippians 4:19). You’re only guaranteed your needs, but if you please Him, He usually throws in a few little odds and ends with it just to keep you happy.

A father is obligated to support his family and supply their needs and give them food, clothing, and shelter; the law will even come after him if he doesn’t. But if he really loves his children and they really please him and obey him, he will often come home and bring them the little extras—little extra gifts, toys, and presents.

The stage you go through first is probably the rock-bottom stage, because first God sees what you’re going to do with a nickel before He starts giving you quarters or half-dollars or dollars, or maybe a hundred or even a thousand. He wants to see if He can trust you with nothing before He gives you something. If you’re faithful in a few things, He’ll make you ruler over many (Matthew 25:23). The Lord’s going to wait to see if He can trust you with the necessities before He trusts you with any luxuries.

Some people have grandiose ideas of how God’s supposed to supply their needs. They think they ought to be rolling around in the very best vehicles and have the finest and the best-looking and the most expensive and so on. “Nothing is too good for God’s servant.” I agree that nothing is too good for you, but it might not be good for you. It might minister to your pride instead of your humility.

God has ways of doing things that aren’t always our way (Isaiah 55:8–9). There are certain people hung up on certain doctrines of affluence—that no Christian should be poor, that no Christian should be afflicted, no Christian should be sick, should ever be unpopular, that you should have perfect wealth, perfect health and perfect popularity if you’re a Christian.

For some reason or other, I don’t seem to find that in the Bible about the apostle Paul. Somehow or another Jesus didn’t seem to quite fit that pattern, or His long-robed, long-haired, long-bearded disciples.

God will give you what you ask for; He’s very definite. Be definite with the Lord. He says, “Command thou Me” (Isaiah 45:11). He’ll give you what you ask for, and certainly what you have the faith for. That’s the way the Lord blesses if you trust Him, if you please Him, if you follow Him, if you obey Him, if you’re doing what He wants you to do and getting the work accomplished that He wants you to accomplish.

But watch out! Sometimes material blessings can be a snare and a little trap of the Devil, and the Devil can heap them on you if you just kind of compromise a little here or there. Naaman, healed of leprosy by the true God Jehovah, said, “Lord, forgive me now—I’ve got to go back to my job. You know I’ve got to go back and worship in the temple of Rimmon or I’ll lose my job, because the king worships Rimmon; he doesn’t worship Jehovah. Lord, please pardon Thy servant as I go into the temple of Rimmon, the king leaning on my arm” (2 Kings 5:18).

And you never hear anything more about Naaman after that. Well, he’s mentioned once in the New Testament—that’s about all (Luke 4:27). A couple of guys in Damascus might have been sitting out on the curbstone discussing Naaman’s healing, and one of them could have said to the other one, “I understand that Naaman went down to Israel and he got healed by that God Jehovah.” And the other guy could have said, “Oh, no! I’m sure it must have been the god Rimmon, because see, there he’s going into the temple of Rimmon right now.” Who got the glory?

Watch out about compromise. Watch out about any compromise or pulling your punches for advantage, for finances, for protection, for safety, for anything. Be faithful to the message; be faithful to the method; be faithful to the Word; be faithful to the voice of God; be faithful to the particular ministry He’s called you to.

Just remember, “Faith is the title deed to things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). And “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). So don’t think you can get away with not having it. Jesus said, “O ye of little faith! Wherefore dost thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).

So how do you get such faith? “Faith cometh by hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Hear and read the Word. The future is as bright as the promises of God!

 
 

Copyright © The Family International

The Benefits of Backsliding

–God’s Way Up Is Down!

by David Brandt Berg

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Someone asked me, “If you backslide”—meaning you revert to your old wrongful ways and attitudes after you’ve received Jesus as your Savior—”can you ever get back to the Lord as close as you were before?”

“Yes,” I answered, “and many times even closer!” Another question followed.

“After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and knew evil for the first time, they were afraid of God and hid when they heard His voice in the Garden of Eden. Hadn’t they lost the simple, trusting relationship with Him that they once had?”

I replied, “Perhaps, but they were wiser, humbler, and more believing. They had more faith, because now they knew that God was right!”

Defeat teaches us a lot. We lose the innocence we had before the “apple,” but we often gain lessons that are actually much more valuable.

It was a long road back for King David after he was exposed for plotting the death of Uriah, but it taught him a lot: compassion, humility, and gentleness (2 Samuel 12:1-24; Psalm 51).

Backsliding is a hard school. Consider the patriarch Jacob, in the “school” of his uncle, Laban: Jacob was really crooked until he had to work under someone even more crooked than he was! That experience helped break and transform him. Before, he was Jacob the Deceiver (Genesis 27:19,35); afterwards, he was Israel, a Prince of God and Man (Genesis 32:28).

Jacob’s brother, Esau, is another example. Like the Prodigal Son Son (Luke 15:11-32), Esau lost his birthright, but gained many other valuable lessons as a result.

God gets some of His greatest victories out of seeming defeat. When a sinful woman came to Jesus, weeping and anointing His feet with fragrant oil, He forgave her for her sins and told the onlookers, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much” (Luke 7:47). King David sinned a lot, but God still called him a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). David was far more righteous after he became a great sinner than he was when he was so high and mighty and self-righteous.

You can never be too bad for Jesus, only too good! “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). The Prodigal was closer to the father when he was wallowing in the mire than he was before he left home, because it was in the mire that he began to appreciate home for the first time.

Some of the greatest heroes in the Bible were people that made terrible mistakes and realized that they were sinners who needed God. Some Bible teachers have said that Joseph was one of the very few key figures in the Bible about whom there are no recorded mistakes, but when I was little boy, I can remember thinking what a stupid, proud, spoiled brat Joseph was to tell his brothers about his dreams. If he hadn’t bragged about his visions and told his brothers that he was so superior to them, they wouldn’t have beaten him and sold him into slavery—but that’s what the Lord used to humble him. Joseph had to become a slave and a prisoner before the Lord could exalt him and make him the savior of his people.

It’s a funny thing how, when people lose their innocence, they don’t feel that they are as close to the Lord as before. That’s because they don’t understand what God’s righteousness is. Their idea of righteousness is so different from God’s. When people feel so righteous and good, it’s often because they’re self-righteous. They’re not closer to God, but closer to themselves! It’s a mistaken concept that some Christians have, that we can attain some kind of sinless self-perfection.

The world equates goodness with godliness—by which they mean self-righteous perfection. Sinfulness they equate with devilishness. But the Lord said the sinner was closer to God than the supposedly sinless, self-righteous perfectionist (Matthew 21:31). The drunks, harlots, and drug addicts who know they need help are often closer to God, for God’s way up is down. God’s idea of righteousness is the pitiful, hopeless, lost, humble, loving, sinful sinners who know they need God. It is those He came to save! He came not to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners (Matthew 9:10-13).

The Devil’s idea of righteousness is totally the opposite of God’s. The Devil’s idea of righteousness is the self-righteous, holier-than-thou hypocrite—the supposedly sinless perfectionist.

It’s just not true that people are closer to God before they make mistakes or sin. It’s a lie that Adam and Eve were closer to God when they were living in the Garden. They weren’t driven from the presence of the Lord; they were driven into the presence of God, to know Him in a way they’d never known Him before! They were driven out of the Garden into a position where they had to get closer to the Lord in order to survive and be saved.

God’s idea of goodness is godliness—a sinner who knows he needs God and depends on Him for salvation. Just the opposite of the Devil’s, self-righteous, hypocritical crowd like the Pharisees, who thought they could save themselves by their own goodness (Matthew 23:23). So sometimes backsliding can actually be good for us, to wake us up to what hopeless, helpless sinners we are without the Lord, because then there’s hope we’ll turn to God for help—whereas the self-righteous think they don’t need His help, and don’t turn to the Lord.

Remember, it’s good to be honest with yourself and others and the Lord. When you tell people about your mistakes, blunders, and sins, it reminds you and them that you’re no picture of purity and innocence. It really helps keep you humble. You no longer feel quite as angelic, but you’re a lot more saintly according to God’s idea of saintliness.

While there is life, there is hope. Isaiah says, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). Your extremity is God’s opportunity!

God gets some of His greatest victories out of seeming defeats! God’s way up is down—down to the defeat of self and self-righteousness, and up to the victory of the cross and death to self in service to others! (More Than Conquerors, A Mountain Streams Book)

 
 

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The Secret of Spiritual Strength

–How Not to Backslide!

by David Brandt Berg

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The Bible instructs us to “no longer walk as [unbelievers] walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:17-18). How can we become alienated from the life of God?

We become separated from the Lord when we become separated from the Word, because Jesus is the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1,14).

So it is the Word—whether or not we live in the Word—that determines whether we’re close to the Lord or alienated from the Lord. When we neglect the Word, we neglect the Lord.

This is what’s wrong with many Christians. They rarely read their Bibles or delve into the Word. They might have a little daily devotions or something, but most of them hardly even have that. They depend on Sunday church services to give them all the Word they need for the week. Well, it’s Word for the weak, all right, and usually pretty weak Word! It certainly isn’t enough to last them all week. That’s like expecting one meal to last them all week. They don’t treat their bodies like that; they feed them well, three times a day. Food for the soul is important. You’ve got to feed yourself spiritually or your soul is going to suffer!

You have “been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the Word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23). “Desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). Without the Word, we will not only stop growing spiritually, but eventually we will wither away spiritually.

What is the life-giving flow that gives life from God?—It’s the Word! Just like we have to eat food in order to have physical strength, we have to eat of the Word to have spiritual strength. That’s what gives us spiritual life and nourishment and strength and health. When someone gets cut off from the Word, it’s like cutting off their food and stopping the flow of nourishment.

A lot of Christians never mature. They stay spiritual babes and never get very deep spiritually, and many of them go back on the Lord, or “backslide.” They stop trying to please or follow the Lord, and sometimes stop believing in Him altogether. Backsliders “follow afar off,” like Peter did, to the point where they could even deny Him, like Peter did (John 18:25; Matthew 26:58).

I had been asking the Lord, “What’s the process that backsliders follow that in the end completely estranges them from You?” And parts of that verse came to me right away: “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God.” Now that doesn’t mean they lose their salvation—that’s impossible—but they become separated from fellow­ship with the Lord. How? They neglect the Word.

It’s when people get separated from the Word that they go back on the Lord. When they lose faith in the Word or are separated from it, that’s when they become “alienated from the life of God.”

What is the life of God? Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Think of that! They are spirit and they are life. His words are real things! These are things that can’t be seen or touched, but without them everything would be totally dead spiritually—and without the Word, people become completely dead spiritually.

Science still doesn’t understand the essence of life. Minutes or hours after a person is dead, they’re still all there physically, materially, but something’s gone that science can’t isolate or measure. They’ve weighed bodies right after they died and there was no difference in weight, but something was missing—some spark, some energy. The spirit was gone, which gave that body life. The life of God is in His Word.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and, “I have come that they might have life” (John 10:10). The Word came that we might have life. How do we get the life? Through the Word—Jesus! His words, both the recorded Word and the words He speaks directly to us, are life!

People backslide because they get away from the Word. If they were living in the Word, they wouldn’t fall away. They couldn‘t fall away, because they’d be full of the life of God, the Word.

That’s why we should memorize and study and get so full of the Word that we can’t get away from it. Jesus is the Word, He is spirit and life, and we have to have a good dose of Him every day.

What starts people on the road back? What is it that causes their love for the Lord to cool off? Well, what feeds a fire? It’s the fuel. And what’s the fuel? It’s the Word, right? It’s the Word that feeds our flame. And when people run out of fuel, like the five foolish virgins ran out of oil (Matthew 25:1-13), the fire goes out, the light goes out, and they wind up in darkness, alienated from the life of God. Their fire dies because they haven’t fed it with the fuel, the Word, which is Jesus.

It’s dangerous to neglect the Word! The minute people start crowding the Word out of their lives, they’re getting too busy! Or the minute they lose confidence in the Word because it offends them or they don’t like it, they’re in danger. Without the Word you’ll be totally defeated at the first attack of your spiritual enemy, the Devil.

You wonder how backsliders could possibly go back on the Lord. It’s because they weren’t really followers of the Word. They didn’t build their spiritual house on the Word; they had the wrong foundation. In fact, they didn’t even have a foundation—just sand! And when the storm came, their house fell because it wasn’t built on the Rock (Matthew 7:24-27). And who’s the Rock?—Jesus, the solid Rock foundation of the Word! He’s the Word, and if they don’t build their lives on the Word, they’ve got no foundation. Their lives are not built on the Rock, so they fall.

I’ll bet you would find by their own confession that those who have turned away from the Lord were weak in the Word, didn’t really live in the Word, and were not real students of the Word, and so they lost any interest they may have had in doing what the Word says (James 1:22-25). And I’ll bet you’ll find the strongest Christians today are those who really know the Word. They’re strong because they really have faith in the Word and they live in the Word.

So that’s the secret—the Word! The secret of power and victory and overcoming and fruitfulness and fire and life and warmth and light and Christian leadership—everything—is the Word! And the lack of it is the secret of backsliding and failure and coldness and darkness and weakness and dying spiritually without the Word.

There’s nothing wrong with worshipping the Word. The Word is Jesus! He says He has exalted His Word even above His name (Psalm 138:2).

So there it is! That’s why people backslide. It’s all because they neglect the Word. Neglecting the Word is almost as bad as rejecting the Word, because if anyone doesn’t love it, they don’t believe it. You believe in the Word as much as you read it and live in it and practice it and obey it.

Backsliders don’t, so they get weak spiritually and lose the life of God, the life-giving flow. They don’t drink it, eat it, live in it, or get strengthened by it, so they become dark in their understanding—and then they often become filled with the lies of the Devil. Because they have rejected the Word, the Lord allows the Devil to send them lies in its place, and they believe the lies instead of the Word (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11). They’re going to believe one or the other. They’re either going to be filled with the Word and God’s truth, or they’re going to be filled with the lies of the Devil and darkness!

Backsliders, by their poor examples, are often a witness against the Lord, even if they claim to still believe in Him. They’re often not following and obeying His Word, no matter how much they claim to remember it. The Word tells us, “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). We’ve got to not only read it and hear it and agree with it in theory, but we’ve got to obey it. We’ve got to do it to prove our allegiance and our loyalty and our faith in it.

Some people probably think, “Well, it’s hard to believe that just a little thing like neglecting the Word could cause me to backslide.” But that’s the problem: They count that as a little thing instead of one of the most important areas of their Christian life.

So that’s the secret! It’s the secret of victory or defeat! It’s the secret of success or failure! It all depends on how you treat the Word and how you live in it, or try to live without it.

Backsliders “forsake all” too: They forsake the Word, the Lord, the life, the light, and the Father’s house.—They forsake it all! They forsake all in the wrong direction. They forsake all that the Lord had for them, and they go back to the beggarly, filthy elements of this world (Luke 9:62; 2 Peter 2:21-22; Galatians 4:9).

This is what’s wrong with many Christians—they’ve neglected the Word. They’re starved for the Word. They get a few little crumbs on Sunday and starve themselves the rest of the week. They’ve gotten weaker and weaker until they’re defeated by the world. They’ve put their money into bags that have holes in them, labored for that which is not meat, and stored their crops in barns that others will inherit (Haggai 1:6; John 6:27; Luke 12:15-12).

(Prayer:) Jesus, please help us stay close to You and Your Word, or get back to the Word if we’ve strayed. Sometimes You let us go down a hard road until we realize that we’ve gotten out of Your will and away from You, out of fellowship, alienated from Your life, darkened in our minds, and hardened in our hearts. If we’ve gone down that road, help us to turn and repent, to have a change of heart and mind, and to really come back to You and Your Word. Amen.

God bless and keep you in His Word! (More Than Conquerors, A Mountain Streams Book)

 
 

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But If Not

–What to Do When God Doesn’t Seem to Answer Your Prayers

by David Brandt Berg

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A girl wrote me:

I started serving the Lord a couple of years ago for eight months, but then I stopped because my face became very spotty. It sounds so silly, but it was my biggest trial! I prayed that God would heal me, but for some reason He didn’t. Then I started working for the Lord again about two months ago, and my face has become all spotty again. I have worked myself into such a state over it that it keeps me from hearing or obeying God like I know I should. Sometimes my face breaks out in big boils. I may have prayed myself out of faith, as I’ve cried out to God so many times!

I’ve gotten so low and depressed that I sometimes even felt like killing myself. But I know if you pray for me, God will heal me. I want to serve Him, I want to be free of this problem so I can get my eyes off myself and reach the world for Jesus, but I don’t know how long I can go on like this. Please try to understand. Don’t just say it’s my pride, but have compassion on me. This is my last hope! I’ll be waiting to hear from you and will know you have prayed when my face clears up.

Much love,
Susan

 
 
You poor girl! Won’t you know I’ve prayed for you until your face clears up?—Just like you can’t seem to believe God loves you unless He heals you. It is the Devil’s business to give you such tests to try to convince you God doesn’t love you and He doesn’t answer prayer, but He does!

The very fact that this always happens when you start serving God proves that it’s a test of the Enemy, that he’s trying to discourage you from going on. The Lord is letting the Enemy do it in order to test your faith, and to see how much you really love the Lord and what price you’re willing to pay to serve Him. Of course, it could also be partly your diet. When my wife was younger she had the same problem until she stopped eating sweets. Now her complexion is beautiful.

But this case sounds to me like a definite demonic reaction by the Devil against your trying to serve the Lord. In other words, the Devil doesn’t like it when you’re working for the Lord.

The Lord probably is dealing with you about your pride—the very thing you’re afraid of having exposed and don’t want to confess. At the root of all sin there is always pride, and the fact that you let this problem stand in the way of your serving God sounds like you’re putting self before the Lord’s service.

It’s a test and very humiliating, but if you really want to serve the Lord, you’ve got to do that regardless. When you prove you love the Lord and His service more than your face, the Lord will probably heal you. You’re making your service for God and your faith contingent on God doing that first, when actually it works the other way around.

Faith and obedience come first, then God answers prayer. So many people have told me, “If God will heal me, then I’ll serve Him, then I’ll believe.” Anyone with that kind of attitude is simply putting self first, trying to make a deal with God. “If God will serve me first, then I’ll serve Him. You work for me first, God, then I’ll work for You.” Well, He just doesn’t work that way!

He still has the same old formula: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and [then] all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). The blessings don’t precede obedience. This is such a common mistake that people make. You don’t say, “Lord, You bless me, then I’ll obey.” God tests you first to see if you’ll obey, and then He can bless you.

It’s a real test too, but it often ends in murmuring. People hold it against God because He won’t heal them. “If He’d do it, then I’d serve Him, but He doesn’t love me. He doesn’t care, because He won’t heal me!” A lot of times I also feel like quitting because things aren’t going right, but I don’t quit. I just keep on plugging along, and eventually the Lord works things out.

It’s kind of a “me first” attitude: “You heal me first, then I’ll believe You, then I’ll obey.” It’s just like the religious leaders, the scribes and Pharisees, told Jesus: “Perform a miracle for us, then we’ll believe!”—But He’d already done all kinds of mir­acles, and they still didn’t believe! So He said, “Even if I would raise somebody from the dead, you still wouldn’t believe, because you don’t believe what all the other prophets and I have already said!” (Luke 16:27-31). But then Jesus did raise somebody from the dead—Lazarus—and that’s what made the religious leaders decide they had to kill Him! (John 11:37-53).

This business of hinging your faith on the answer instead of on the Word is like a works religion. It’s like saying, “Show me! I’ll believe it when I see it. Seeing is believing.” But that’s not the way faith works. With faith, believing is seeing! Faith works on blind obedience, no matter whether you ever get the answer or not. You can’t make your service for God conditional to the answer. Even if your face was one big boil, you ought to serve Him regardless! Who knows? It might encourage some poor people who have worse problems than you to go ahead and serve the Lord. If they see that you’re willing to serve the Lord and not be ashamed, regardless of your handicaps, it might encourage them to do the same.

Look at the Old Testament character Job: He lost everything—his family, his fortune, and finally his health. He was covered with boils from head to toe, but he still said it didn’t matter. Even if God killed him, he’d still keep on trusting Him (Job 13:15).

You just cannot make your obedience contingent on your terms and the way you think God ought to answer, and providing everything goes all right. You can’t only be God’s fair-weather friend. You have to keep on serving the Lord even when everything goes all wrong. If you’re only going to be willing to believe and obey the Lord as long as everything goes all right, you won’t be believing or obeying very much, because a lot of things go wrong when you’re serving the Lord. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Psalm 34:19).

If every time you have an affliction you quit serving God, you’ll be a perpetual quitter! Of course, sometimes others may make you feel bad if you’re not healed. They blame it on you, just like Job’s three counselors did. All of them said, “There must be something wrong with you, Job!” Well, in Job’s case it did turn out that something was wrong with him: He had a lot of self-righteous pride. He was proud of his faith, proud he was so good, and proud he had served God all his life. So God had to let the Devil knock him flat to prove he was nothing without the Lord.

Sometimes you’re ashamed because others are ashamed of you, and they don’t even want to have you around because they think you’ll reflect badly on them. But Jesus had all kinds of handicapped people following Him, and He healed all that He could. There are plenty of examples in the Bible of people who kept following Him no matter what, and eventually they got healed—even when it seemed like He was ignoring them, like the blind beggar (Mark 10:46-52) and the woman with the sick daughter (Matthew 15:21-28). But who knows if everyone who came to Jesus got healed? The ones who quit before they got healed, of course never got healed!

God wants to test your faith and willingness to obey before He’s going to heal you. He wants to see if you’ll believe and obey Him even if you think you may never get healed. What’s your healing got to do with faith and obedience? Nothing! But your faith and obedience have a lot to do with your healing! Whether you get healed or not should have nothing to do with whether you believe and serve the Lord or not.

You’ve got to believe and obey the Lord even if He never heals you. The apostle Paul had “a thorn in [his] flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7) until the day of his death, to keep him humble. He couldn’t even be trusted with full health because that probably would have made him too full of pride, because the Lord had honored him in so many other ways. But Paul’s thorn in the flesh didn’t keep him from serving God. And as long as it is possible for you to keep on serving God, you’ve got to keep on serving Him regardless of whether He ever sees fit to heal you or not. You may be a whole lot more useful to the Lord with a face full of boils, or a whole lot more humble and believing with a whole body covered with boils like Job was, than if the Lord would heal you.

A lot of people just want to use God. I’ve known people whom God healed too easily, and then they just took off and went their own way. They were really lying to God: They’d sworn up and down that if He’d just heal them, then they’d serve Him. Then the minute He did, they just took off and forgot all about it! In the Old Testament, Israel used to do that all the time. They’d promise, “O God, if You’ll just save us, we’ll serve You forever!”—And as soon as He did save them, they forgot their oaths and were more unbelieving, murmuring, and disobedient than ever.

I’ve never gotten healed that way. Some of the times when I was nearest to death, I told the Lord, “Well, Lord, I’d like to be healed so I could serve You better, but I’m not going to stop serving You if You don’t heal me.” And just like Job, there have been times when I told the Lord, “Well, if You heal me, fine, but even if I end up dying, I’ll still believe and love You anyway. It’s my duty to believe and love and serve You no matter what, and I’m not going to quit just because things get tough and it looks like You have deserted me.”

Like God tested the Hebrews in the wilderness with Moses, God may be testing your faith to see if you’re going to believe and obey Him no matter what. The minute they had a little test, the older generation quit believing and quit obeying, and so they died and never made it to the Promised Land. They remind me of a lot of weak Christians today—self-righteous people who try to tell God what to do and are always saying, “Well, if God is so good, then why does He let us suffer like this? If God would be better to us, then we’d serve Him.” The fact of the matter is, the minute He is a little better to them, then they go their own ways and forget all about Him. They can’t be trusted with whatever it is they’re asking from Him.

I had a student at my Bible school once with a similar skin affliction, and she had two children and no husband on top of that. She was always asking, “Why? Why? Why has God done this to me? Why does God let me suffer like this? I thought maybe when I came to your school for missionaries, God would heal me, but I’m still suffering! Why?”

When people start asking God why in that spirit, it is pure self-righteousness. The answer the Lord gave me for her was the same one He gave Job: “Are you going to discredit My justice and condemn Me so that you can say you are right?” (Job 40:8 TLB).

People with that self-righteous attitude are saying, “Well, God, if I were You, I’d do things better than You’re doing them. I’d be more righteous. I’d heal me!” Just like a song that was popular many years ago: “If I Were King!” It goes on to say that if I were king, I wouldn’t allow all these bad things that go on in the world to continue. In other words, “I’m more righteous than God! God isn’t good, or He wouldn’t let all these bad things happen!”

But that’s because they don’t understand what God’s doing or why He’s doing it, and they’ll never understand until they have faith to trust Him that He knows best, just as children must trust their parents. Even though children may not understand why they must do this or that, they just have to “do it because Daddy says so.” They have to believe and obey whether they like it or not, because Daddy knows best. In the long run, they’ll probably find out Daddy was right, and if they didn’t obey, they’ll probably find out the hard way. It’s just that simple!

God tests our faith to see if it’s real gold faith—to see if we’ll still believe and obey Him no matter what happens. He says that the trying of your faith—the testing of it—is “more precious than gold” (1 Peter 1:7). Gold will go through the fire and come out even purer gold, if it is real gold!

But just as real faith is compared to gold in the Bible, so fair-weather faith can be compared to paper money, which has no value of its own. Try putting that “paper money” faith through the fire and see what happens! That so-called faith is not worth a thing the minute it’s tested.

That’s a good illustration of why the world’s paper financial system is collapsing. It is based on paper money instead of God’s good gold. Put paper and gold through the fire, and see which one comes out the best! You’ll find that real gold will come out even finer gold, because the fire burns all the dross and impurities away. But that paper money that claims to be valuable isn’t worth the paper it is printed on when the real test comes. The minute it feels the slightest flame, it goes up in smoke and you’ve got nothing left but a few ashes!

That’s the exact difference between real faith and supposed faith: Real faith can stand the test and go through the fire and still come out better than ever before, like gold. But something that looks like faith, like the paper money, the minute it goes through the fire, it’s gone!

People who live within God’s Gates of Faith can survive anything, even death! They can say, like Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). They’ll enjoy God’s Golden City forever after, while those who merely pretend to have faith in God are going to see their “accomplishments” go up in smoke, because their lives and service for the Lord are like wood, hay, and stubble that can’t stand the test of the fires of God’s afflictions and trials of faith (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).

If you’ve got real faith, you’ll keep on going for God even if it kills you—and it will kill you, in a sense. Serving God means death to self and pride and all that self-righteousness as you “die daily” to reach others with His love (1 Corinthians 15:31).

I’ve often felt like quitting because I’m so stupid and make so many blunders and have so many besetting sins. Sometimes I don’t see how God can possibly love me or put up with me—but He does, so I keep on going! I refuse to quit because I believe God. Therefore I know I have to obey Him, and I don’t dare quit!

What if God quit every time we Christians gave Him a lot of trouble? Then we’d all be in a big mess! The Bible says that we Christians are the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). What if God quit every time we, His face, break out in a bunch of ugly spots and pimples and boils and acne and whatnot? We’re the only face He’s got, and He’s got to keep going no matter how ugly we are or how badly His Body behaves sometimes, in spite of what He tells it to do!

He’s got to keep on going even if we get ourselves all tangled up and in a big mess. He’s got to keep on trying to pull us through and teach every part of His Body to function properly and operate gracefully with good coordination, instead of all jerky and twisted and grotesque like the spiritually handicapped people we so often are.

He’s got to keep on trying to teach us how to talk, even if we seem to be tongue-tied. He’s got to keep on yelling loud enough so we’ll listen, even when we’ve got our fingers in our ears trying not to! He’s got to keep on trying to make us see and follow the truth, even when we’re so spiritually sleepy we’d rather shut our eyes and drift off into the Devil’s dreamland. And He’s got to try to make us bear spiritual fruit, little spiritual babes, new Christians—even a few sick and misshapen ones, rather than none at all. That’s the kind of Body God has to put up with. So why should you be griping about a few little afflictions? Look at the mess God’s Body is in! Only the love, grace, and mercy of God can ever pull us through.

“But if not,” we believers have still got to keep going and believing and obeying. Like the three captive Hebrew children who Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonian empire, had thrown into the fiery furnace: They said, “Our God is able to deliver us, but even if He doesn’t, we’re still not going to bow down to your heathen idol!” And it looked like their end, because into the furnace they went. The furnace was so hot that even their executioners died! But because of their faith and obedience, God was with them there, too, and they came out without even the smell of smoke on them (Daniel 3:17-27).

Or like Job, whom the Lord let the Devil nearly destroy by killing his family and his finances, and almost even killing him. But he still didn’t say uncle to the Devil—not even when his wife told him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:8-10). Job just kept on believing and obeying, with boils from head to toe, sitting on a heap of ashes and wearily scraping away the pus and the scabs and the sores with a piece of broken pottery, saying, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him!” Can you say that? I hope you don’t have to get in such a mess as Job, but if you do, don’t quit, whatever you do!

Keep going for God! Keep believing and obeying no matter what happens! Maybe you’ll come out without even the smell of smoke on you, like those three Hebrew children—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Maybe you’ll end up with an even bigger family and be richer and healthier and happier and wiser than ever, like Job, if you will just hang on a little longer like he did and not give up!

John Paul Jones, a sea captain in the fledgling Continental Navy during the American Revolution, was another person who refused to give up. In one engagement with an enemy ship, his own ship was severely damaged by enemy fire and was sinking. Half of his men had been killed. Many others had been wounded, including Jones. When the enemy captain called for Jones to surrender, Jones screamed back, “Surrender? Hell no! I have not yet begun to fight!” He refused to surrender and kept on fighting—and he eventually won the battle.

Maybe you haven’t even begun to fight the ol’ Devil yet. Maybe you haven’t yet “resisted unto blood” like Jesus did (Hebrews 12:4 KJV). But even though it killed Him, only three days later He rose in triumph from the tomb! Even death itself couldn’t hold Him down!

In medical science they refer to what is called the “threshold of pain.” How much pain can people stand? Some people’s threshold is pretty low. How much of a test can you stand before you quit?

If you will proclaim Him and His love to others—even if it kills you, like it did the martyrs—He says He’ll honor you before God and all the holy angels (Luke 12:8). Which will you be?—A doubter, disobeyer, and denier?—Or a believer, obeyer, and broadcaster of the truth?

If you go back from your service to God, you’ll make God sick. But it you go on even if you’re sick, you’ll make God happy in the end! Some Christians are always talking about “sudden death, sudden glory!” That’s the way they want to go—no pain, no suffering, no dying daily. But even if your service for the Lord means dying to yourself to help others, it’ll bring you eternal glory!

So which will it be for you? Are you a fighter or a deserter? Are you going to quit just because of a few little trials and problems and afflictions, or are you going to keep on going with God, no matter what? What greater witness can you give than to both live and die to yourself for Jesus?

God loves you! Remember that no matter what happens! He wants to heal and help you if He can trust you to obey Him. “But if not”—if He doesn’t heal or help you yet—keep on going for God. Will you? Please try! (More Than Conquerors, A Mountain Streams Book)

 
 

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Your Best Protection

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Dear One,

Greetings in Jesus’ name. Thank you for writing and telling me so much about yourself.

I’m sorry to hear about all the troubles you’ve experienced, but I’m also very thankful that you love the Lord and are trying your best to serve Him. I’m sure that you are being a great help to others in your current ministry.

I pray that you will find a place of service where you can be content and feel fulfilled and satisfied with your tasks, however humble they may sometimes be. As the Psalmist declared, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Psalm 84:10).

Thank you for explaining your recent struggles with negative thoughts, discouragement, and depression, as well as about the difficulties that sometimes arise in your interactions with others. Such problems can seem impossible to overcome—especially when you’re in the midst of them—but nothing is too hard for the Lord.

The Lord has shown you much love and mercy and patience, but you need to realize that He’s not the only one trying to get your attention or direct your thoughts. Not every thought that enters your mind is from the Lord, so you must learn to watch your thoughts and make sure you’re on the Lord’s channel. “Test the spirits” to make sure that what you’re hearing in your mind or spirit is from the Lord (1 John 4:1).

If your thoughts are not according to God’s Word or cause you to be discontent, bitter, dissatisfied, unhappy, or critical of others, they are not from the Lord but from the enemy of your soul, the Devil. You must call on Jesus for help and resist the Devil when he tempts you with these negative thoughts.

One of your best protections is to keep busy for God. Another is to fill your mind and heart with positive, encouraging, strengthening, and faith-building thoughts from His Word. Memorize
Scriptures and quote them to yourself and even to the Enemy when he attacks you. Claim the promises of God constantly, and cling to His Word.

Some verses that have been a great blessing to me in times of distress, mental anguish, doubt, fear, and spiritual battle with the Enemy have been:

“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).

“When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19).

“Resist the Devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

“Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

Psalm 23 has also always been a great comfort to me in time of need—to know that the Lord would never leave nor forsake me nor leave me comfortless.

Also remember that there is great power in united prayer. Whenever you feel oppressed, distressed, or attacked by the Enemy, it helps greatly to have someone else pray with you. One can chase a thousand, but two can put ten thousand to flight (Deuteronomy 32:30).Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20), and, “If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in Heaven” (Matthew 18:19).So never be ashamed to ask for help or prayer when you need it. “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

I am always convicted by that part in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12), and what He said about forgiveness a few verses later: If we don’t forgive others who wrong us, God can’t forgive us (Matthew 6:15).

So we must ask Him in all humility to help us have mercy on others, knowing that we also must be forgiven for many sins. Remembering continually what sinners we are and how many mistakes we’ve made helps greatly to keep us humble, and that helps us to avoid a spirit of self-righteous pride that causes us to criticize and condemn others.

It helps to always remember we’re all sinners and that we all make mistakes, and that we must forgive one another, even as God for Jesus’ sake has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32). It is no longer you that live, but Christ that lives in you (Galatians 2:20), “for you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

When you feel so terribly discouraged or depressed, don’t even think about taking your own life! God has already taken it! When you yielded your heart to Him and asked Him to take your life for His service, He did, and He’s been trying to use it for His glory ever since—as much as you will let Him. So keep it that way: Your life is in His hands. You are His, and He loves you and is doing His best for you in trying to make you useful and happy in His service for others by bringing them the life and happiness you have found in Jesus.

Keep loving others, and they will love you. Keep serving Jesus and He’ll serve you—well! Stay close to Him and He’ll never fail you. He’ll never forsake you. He’ll never let you down. Even though He may not always answer your prayers just the way you’d like, keep trusting Him and He’ll never fail.

Meanwhile, despise not “the day of small things” (Zechariah 4:10), or whatever humble tasks the Lord may call upon you to perform. The less responsibility you have, the less you will be held responsible for. And if you are faithful in the small things, the Lord will commit greater things to your care when you have proven that you can be trusted with them (Matthew 25:14-29, the parable of the talents).

“In everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Be thankful for your many blessings. In whatever state you find yourself, whether abounding or abasing, be content (Philippians 4:11-12). “Be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Continue to be faithful—full of faith and love in Jesus!

God bless and keep you and make you a blessing.

Your servant in the Lord,
David

 
 
(More Than Conquerors, A Mountain Streams Book)

 
 

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