Snapshots: Day 26

Snapshots: Day 26

The Snapshot: “Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife”. Another childless couple? History repeating itself? But thank goodness for a godly husband who prayed for his wife. But he prayed for twenty years!!!! Why did he have to wait for so long? Mysteries that will remain mysteries until we get to heaven and get answers. Until then I must learn to trust, trust that God never ever makes mistakes. Until then I must learn my part as I weave my way through the mysteries of life – with Him. Can I learn to persevere in prayer, keeping hope alive? Can I learn to trust while waiting, come to a place of complete peace in the knowledge of His wisdom and love? Is this my part as I confront some of the pains of living in this Fallen World? Lord, I receive your grace for this moment today.

Further Consideration: Prayer is one of the strangest features in the life of a Christian. I don’t mean the ‘prayers’ found in the ‘Book of Common Prayer’ but those that don’t seek to cover all the theological bases well, as do the prayers in that book that help remind us of the truths of the Faith. No, the prayers I have in mind are those that pour out of the heart that might so often summed up as, “God, please help!”

The difficulties are that such prayers may come out of total selfishness that add the word ‘me’ to that summary prayer.   Such prayer often forgets that Jesus said, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Mt 21:22) and “I will do whatever you ask in my name.” (Jn 14:13) So belief that we are asking in line with Jesus will, what he wants to happen, is key to seeing answers.

So I wonder what Isaac prayed, because we’re not told in detail, simply that he was forty when he married Rebekah and sixty when she had her children (Gen 25:20,26). Twenty years of married life and no child, so we can assume that perhaps he was wondering if he was having to walk the same path as his father, and perhaps he was growing desperate – so he prayed and prayed. Was he praying in line with God’s will? Most definitely. Why? Because he would have known of the number of times God had said to his father that He would make a great nation out of him, and that was not out of anyone other than through Isaac (see Gen 17:15,16).

Have you and I entered into everything the Lord has for us, have we got all the Lord wants for us? Perhaps He is waiting for us to come to that understanding so that we pray for what we have come to realize is God’s greater will for us. Tomorrow I’ll give an instance of this but for now, check it out, has God got more for you that you only half apprehend? When you pray it becomes clearer – then it comes!

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5. Fanciful Forgiveness

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 5. Fanciful Forgiveness

Mt 6:14,15   For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

A Difficult Relational Aspect: In the previous study we started to consider how we have in the past viewed people and struggled with them, and how it is so easily transferred into the Christian life, and so it is another of those things  where ‘death to self’ has to apply if we are to grow. But we concluded that there is another really big area to do with personal relationships that can be a hindrance to growth that we need to consider and it is that oft-raised subject of forgiveness. Now don’t shy away because I may have something different to say than you’ve heard before.

Abuse = Hurt = Injustice: The subject arises when someone offends you or abuses you or worse, and when some well-meaning preacher, with little thought, preaches, “You must forgive them!” everything in you screams out, “But it isn’t fair! It is unjust! They hurt me, they harmed me and that is wrong!” and I have to completely agree with you. So how do we handle it?

Traditional but Inaccurate Approach: The traditional and, I suggest, somewhat thoughtless and cheap approach, is to simply say, “Yes, they hurt you but the Bible teaches that you are to forgive them.” I immediately think of two examples, one of a Christian girl who was raped in her home by an intruder, and the other a family who lost loved ones in a terrorist attack.  Both ‘hurt’ parties declared their simple forgiveness for the offenders. This then becomes a guilt laden area for the rest of us who struggle. (I also suggest their actions are unbiblical and diminish sin)

A Different Approach: The only trouble is that that is not what the Bible teaches. May I present an alternative to traditional thinking and simply ask that you check it out and see if it is reasonable. Put aside all emotions and consider what the Bible teaches. For instance at one point the apostle Paul wrote, Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col 3:13) then there is apparently contradictory teaching: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mk 2:7) and, “he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (Jn 20:22,23). I have done a major study on this in the past, so may I present it as brief conclusions:

  • The harm done to you was sin, and God is not casual about it. It need punishing.
  • So important in God’s eyes is sin, that Jesus had to die on the Cross to take the punishment.
  • God only forgives when we have repented.
  • The forgiveness is available the moment we repent because Jesus died for those sins.
  • Where the sinner never repents and never comes to Christ, the forgiveness may have been there waiting for them when they repented, but in the absence of that repentance, they still go to hell.
  • Only God can in fact forgive, and it is a legal transaction based on the Cross, and so when we forgive it is simply ratifying what has already happened in heaven.
  • (It is the same as blessing and loosing or releasing or binding in prayer; it is only real and effective when we are led by the Spirit to declare the will of heaven).
  • True forgiveness can only be given when there has been repentance BUT while we are waiting for it – and it may take a long time to come or never come – we are to have a good attitude towards that person or persons, that desires the best for them
  • This means we pray for them and do all we can to help them to come to a place of repentance, because at the moment they are living with an issue with God which will hinder blessing in their life (unconfessed and unacknowledged sin) and only their repentance can change that.

An Offender? Now it may be that you suddenly realise that you are in reality an ‘offender’ and you have unconfessed sin which will stop you growing, a sin against another, and you need to ask their forgiveness. Well, the way is open, unless you have completely lost contact with them, and you simply need to seek God’s grace to be able to say sorry to them.

Offended: But I am more aware, at the moment, of those of us who struggle with the remaining pain and the scream against ‘forgiving’. This is going to sound hard, I’m sorry, but put all that aside for the moment. The bigger question is can you get God’s grace to desire God’s best for that person? Yes, it will be them coming to repentance but why is that so important? It is because without it they are in a place where  they are not receiving God’s best, they are not in a place of receiving His blessing and changing and feeling really good about life – because they still have an issue before Him that needs dealing with. Do you see this? In some ways this is harder that almost casually saying, ‘I forgive them,’ because we are dealing with spiritual realities here and the future of another person’s life.

Love for Enemies? Do you remember yesterday we considered Jesus’ teaching: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt 5:44)  It is probable that you still consider your ‘offender’ an enemy. Now on the Cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk 23:34) Now so often I have heard that applied as ‘forgive everyone’ but the truth is that so often, if not mostly, your offender knew exactly what they were doing to you. In the Old Testament sacrificial law, in respect of sin or guilt offerings you read, “When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands….” (Lev 4:1 – also 4:13,22,27, 5:15,18 etc.) Intentional sin was much worse.  So yes, Jesus’ words fitted the occasion but most occasions don’t match! But it still brings us back to praying for our offender, wanting the best of them, because God wants the best for them and will do all He can to bring them back to a right place – which includes their repentance. Can we have the same attitude?

A Seeker of Forgiveness: But then there is the equally big issue of forgiving another when they come saying sorry. For some of us this will be just as big a struggle. “It’s all very well for you to say sorry, but do you know the effect what you did (said) had on me that I’ve had to live with all this time?” Yes, it is natural to feel like that but we aren’t called to be natural but supernatural, for we have the enabling of the Holy Spirit. Having been through this from all angles in the past, I have concluded that if I had been the offender and I had come to repentance, how would I desire others to respond to me?

Do unto others…. Many years ago it happened to me and I repented of an outburst (provoked, but that is not the issue) and two close ‘colleagues’ said, “We can’t work with you,” and utterly rejected me. What I wished they had done – and it would have saved so much anguish all round later – would have been to say, “Old friend, we’re so sorry, what has happened to you to get you to come out with that? How can we help you? How can we help you get back into a good and right place?” but they didn’t, they knifed me. A learning exercise, which is why, whatever your sin, whatever your failure, I want to put my arms around your sobbing shoulders and say, “How can I help, how can I stand with you. I am here for you.” Jesus collected the sinners around him because he had care and compassion and forgiveness. Dare we be anything less?

3. It’s what should be!

Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 3. It’s what should be!

Gen 25:21   Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren.

Abraham’s Unfulfilled Vision: The writer to the Hebrews spoke of Abraham, he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Heb 11:10) which suggests a hope or expectation that Abraham had, that out of his family would come such a community of people that, instead of living the nomadic life he had known, they would settle down with God in what would surely be a city. Yet in his lifetime that never came to be. He would have rejoiced over a future Jerusalem if he had been able to see it at its peak in say Solomon’s day. But that was yet the future.

Isaac’s Waiting: Then came Isaac, the child of promise, born miraculously when both his parents were well beyond child-bearing age. No doubt as he grew they would have shared with him their story. He now is part of the fulfillment of the start of a people who would eventually become like the sand on the seashore, so numerous you cannot count them (Gen 22:17). Isaac grows up and Abraham gets him a wife: “Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah” (Gen 25:20) Eventually, and it was very much a case of ‘eventually’ Rebekah has two twin boys, Esau and Jacob: “Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.” (Gen 25:26) If that was all you knew of the story it would be unremarkable but actually there is a verse in between which speaks volumes: “Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.” (Gen 25:21)

Isaac’s Frustrated Expectations: A quick calculation shows that Isaac had been married twenty years before he became a father, twenty years of waiting to see how he was going to be part of the fulfillment of God’s word to his father, which he later reiterated to Isaac (26:3-5). So we have a picture of another from this family tree of Abraham, Isaac, who had this sense of expectation formed by the Lord, and expectation of something that was in addition to his natural inclination and expectation as a husband. Although in our somewhat distorted world today in the West it is not always the case that husbands, let alone their wives, want children, in most societies throughout history having children is the natural expectation of being a husband or wife. In fact, apart from the natural expectation of a child to grow up and enter into a (sexual) relationship with a partner (husband or wife), this is probably the most basic expectation in the human race. So, when that expectation is frustrated, as was both the case with Sarai and Rebekah, it is especially hard, as those today know who try for children to no avail. It is often heartbreaking.

Prayer: It is in this context that we find only the third reference in the Bible to someone praying. The first instance had been Abraham who prayed on God’s instructions for Abimelech (Gen 20:17), then there had been Abraham’s servant, sent with the task of finding a wife for Isaac (Gen 24:12), and now we have just read that, “Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife.” Prayer is the natural response to desperation. We don’t know how many years Isaac waited and waited before he started praying and we don’t know how long he prayed, but it was twenty long years before Rebekah conceived and tomorrow we’ll see what followed.

Delayed Visions: But here is the thing about expectations that come, either from natural inclination or following a word from the Lord – they can be frustrated and delayed in their fulfillment. I spoke yesterday morning about a long-term vision the Lord has given me, something I have in which to play a part, and it was only later in the day I found myself gazing on the situation in question thinking, “This is never going to happen,” and I had to take hold of myself and remind myself this is God’s vision, not mine.

Delays Weary: A while later I was talking with a lovely Christian lady who had been married for 38 years to a non-Christian husband and she has anguished for him and prayed for him for that whole period, apparently to no avail. Last year they went through a particularly tough time in respect of his poor health and I found myself saying, “Would it help if I told you that I believe this last year has been a preparation for what is coming in this next year?” She answered in the affirmative, because she is a “good evangelical Christian”, a ‘strong’ believer, but I sensed in reality it went straight over her head (despite the fact that someone else apparently has recently said the identical thing), because year after year of frustrated praying can wear down the soul.

Our Delays: Many of us harbor these hopes, these expectations; it may be about wanting a child, it maybe about wanting a partner, it maybe about wanting your partner to come to the Lord, it maybe about wanting your children to come to the Lord, it may be about a desire for healing. In all of these instances, it seems, there can be frustration. Solomon apparently knew this when he wrote, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Prov 13:12) That is the natural response to this hope being dashed again and again, but to stop it killing us (spiritually at least) we need to somehow grab His grace to help keep us faithful. The enemy would seek to make us jaded and cynical, but the Lord works to deepen our faith and our confidence in him

Being Examples: I wrote fairly recently in a Christmas meditation about how Abraham was an example to us, of faith, and then how important example is. Sometimes our example can impact others, whether it be others seeing your fortitude in the face of anguish or simply they see the sort of life you live as you wait in expectation. Mostly the Bible doesn’t have a great deal to say about such situations. Peter did say, “Wives …. be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,” (1 Pet 3:1) and we could substitute for that word ‘behaviour’ the word ‘example’, and there are of course general guidelines as to how we are to live as husbands, wives, parents, children, workers, members of society etc. but that’s about it.

And So: Being an example will not get you pregnant, just help others. That’s why some of these things feel so hard. We feel helpless to bring change, and yet we have this as yet unfulfilled hope. It is one of the hardest areas of being a Christian because you know God could step in and yet, for whatever reason, He has decided not to. So all you are left with is prayer and more prayer and a seeking for grace to maintain a right attitude. After that we have to leave it up to Him. We never said this series on expectations and hope would always be easy, and so it is important, early on, that we see just how difficult it is sometimes. The Lord knows, He still loves us, He is no doubt still working within us to bring changes in us, but He does know what we feel, and He feels it with us (see Ex 3:7). When the Lord says He is concerned by what He sees, He means it! At Lazarus’s tomb that concern was shown by tears. I believe the Lord anguishes with us, but sometimes He sees that the best, as hard as that is to receive, is to wait, and in what follows we’ll see some reasons why. Try and hang on in there while you wait.

6. The Glory of God

Meditations in 1 Samuel   6. The Glory of God

1 Sam 2:1   Then Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.

It is interesting that we often speak of the glory of God which refers to His manifest greatness and wonder and the Bible does clearly speak of Him as one who is infinitely great and absolutely wonderful, and sometimes that revelation comes out in scenes of revelation – such as Ezekiel’s or Isaiah’s or John’s revelation of things in heaven and especially God – but often these things come through songs of revelation, when a person is being inspired to sing about God and as they do so revelation comes. Truth and revelation often come through a heart of praise.

So as we come into chapter 2, we find Hannah praying what is tantamount to a song of praise. She rejoices in the Lord because the Lord has exalted her for He has delivered her from childlessness (v.1). When she says she boasts she may be meaning that she now calls out the truth that has exalted her over her adversary who has chided her for so many years, because now she can say (which her adversary cannot) God has specifically blessed her with her child. That surely is all that is there behind verse 1.

But she quickly moves away from herself to the Lord: There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” (v.2) He is unique, there is no other who is like Him in being (holy) or who comforts and supports us like He does (our Rock). But then she turns back to her adversary who has been chiding her for years, perhaps taunting her that God is against her: “Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance.” (v.3a) You don’t know what you are talking about, for you are talking about God: “for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed.” (v.3b) He see and hears what you say and He judges all things.

Then she compares the two of them to two opposing warriors (for it had seemed like an ongoing battle): “The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength.” (v.4) Her adversary had appeared strong for so long, firing barbed arrows of malice at her, but now her bow is broken, so to speak, for she no longer has anything to say, and although Hannah had stumbled all those years, now the Lord has blessed her and she is strong.

In a parallelism she speaks of “Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry hunger no more.” (v.5a) Her adversary had, for years, appeared full of herself in her position as a mother but now Hannah appears as the one blessed of God and no doubt giving joy to her husband, so now it is her adversary who feels second class suddenly, and Hannah who had hungered for a child, hungers no more for, she declares, “She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away.” (v.5b) Now whether this was written down after she had had other children or is just poetic exaggeration, we don’t know but their roles have been reversed, now that Hannah is the one bringing joy to their husband.

Then comes the revelation about God: “The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.” (v.6) He is a life-bringer, He is the one with power over life and death.  “The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.” (v.7) The Lord oversees the affairs of mankind and can bring affluence when He wants. He can exalt or humble people, He is God!  It seems He cares especially for the poor, needy and downtrodden: “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.” (v.8) You may be one of the downtrodden but the Lord can lift you up. Hannah knows for He has done it for her!

Suddenly her vision enlarges and she sees the Lord for who He truly is: “For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s; upon them he has set the world.” (v.8) This one she had been singing about in her spirit is the Creator and Sustainer of this world – God Almighty, all-powerful. But He’s not the one the deist thinks about, a God who made it all but now sits at a distance, indifferent to all that happens on this planet: “He will guard the feet of his saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness.” (v.9a) No, He is a God of justice who intervenes in the affairs of this world to preserve His children and deal with the wicked. No, she says, when you look at unjust and unfair situations and long to bring change, “It is not by strength that one prevails;” (9b) for “those who oppose the LORD will be shattered.” (v.10a) No, we may not be able to deliver ourselves from such situations and so we must leave it to Him knowing that He will deal with those who oppose Him and who oppose us.

Yes the Lord will come bringing justice, “He will thunder against them from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.” (v.10b) Negatively He will thunder against the unjust from heaven and, positively, “He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” (v.10c) Yes, His anointed one will come in due season to deal with these things.

What a transformation! For years she had been the downtrodden one at the mercy of the barbed tongue of ‘the other woman’, but now the Lord has come and changed her, enabled her to conceive and have a son, and now her spirit soars in a peal of praise and she sees the Lord as the one who does not stand afar off, a distant Creator of the World, but as the one who draws near and delivers those who cry out to Him. Hallelujah!

55. Example of Elijah

Meditations in James: 55: The Example of Elijah

Jas 5:17,18 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

Most of us can look back and see people who, if they weren’t quite role models for us, were certainly people who impacted our lives (for good or bad) in some way. Perhaps we took them for granted, but nevertheless they still made an impression upon us. They might have been a family member or they might have been a friend or a teacher or a leader of some kind. It is natural to look at other people and be touched by their good example, especially. Many Christians come across a character in the Bible who seems to stand out to them and impress them in some particular way. We learn, not only by direct teaching, but also by example.

James uses just such an example to help us focus even more on what he has been saying. Do you remember back in chapter four he called us to side with God against the world?  He called us to live lives submitted to God, lives lived out in the light of our relationship with God. Yes, it was our relationship with the Lord that he went on to talk more about, until in recent verses he comes to talk about prayer as a natural expression of that relationship. In trouble? Pray! Happy? Pray! Sick? Pray! Guilty? Pray! Oh yes, as we’ve said previously, prayer is the classic expression of faith, of this relationship with the Lord being lived out.

But now he wants us to also realise the impact of prayer, the power of prayer, the importance and significance of prayer, and to do that he uses Elijah as an example. Now he’s aware that because Elijah was a great prophet who was remembered for doing great things, we might consider Elijah was right out of our league and therefore not identify with him. Hence he starts off, Elijah was a man just like us.” Yes, he did do some great things, but in many ways he was a very ordinary sort of person. Read Elijah’s story some time (1 Kings 17 on) and you’ll see that he really did have feet of clay sometimes, a very ordinary man. But He prayed. Elijah had a relationship with the Lord and it was that which made him stand out for some of the things the Lord enabled him to do.

But more than that, He prayed earnestly. As he came to God, he obviously caught something of God’s heart, and prayed it some more. As he prayed he found he was getting an assurance from the Lord about what he was praying so, He prayed earnestly that it would not rain. Now when we look up his story we don’t find that part recorded. All we find is, Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” (1 Kings 17:1). Because he was so sure that he had heard God, he conveyed it to Ahab the king. Now if you’re like me, I guess that at that point, he is really praying! Once you step out in faith on what God has said, you really want to be justified and see it happen!

Well, he prayed and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Was it Elijah making it not rain for that time? No, it was the Lord, but Elijah shared in it in as much as he shared in the Lord’s heart and was the messenger to convey it to those on the earth who would be affected by it.  Then James tells us,Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain. Again we are not told in the Kings accounts exactly what he said. What we find is, And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.” (1 Kings 18:41,42). Still in the Spirit, following his episode with the prophets of Baal, Elijah turns to Ahab and finds himself basically saying, “OK, now it will rain, now the land has been cleansed of this apostasy.” What is this climbing to the top of Carmel and bending face down and puting his face between his knees? He is praying, and he carried on praying earnestly, for the same reason as before, until the signs of rain came, followed very rapidly by the rain itself.

Now did you see something in that? If we are right in our assessment of how things happened with Elijah, he had a relationship with the Lord in which, as he prayed, the Lord conveyed His heart to Elijah. All that it needed was for Elijah to respond, which he did, which then provided an even greater motivation to pray. In all this it was God taking the opportunity of the relationship He had with Elijah, to make His will known on earth before He acted. Both times He wanted to do something, and used Elijah to convey it. Both times, as James says, it was as Elijah prayed that he caught the sense of God’s will and was able to declare it. Prayer is the doorway to heaven whereby we catch the will of God and are able to express it on the earth. As we express what God has conveyed to us, He then does it and people realise that it is indeed an act of God and He is glorified.

This is why James wants us to maintain this relationship with the Lord, rejecting the world’s advances, so that we can become instruments to bring glory to God. Isn’t that wonderful! Let’s be that!

5. Wisdom

Meditations in James: 5 :  Asking for Wisdom

Jas 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

Wisdom isn’t something that is much talked about today.  ‘Wise’ men are either relegated to the Christmas story or to fairy tales. Yet wisdom is something that is spoken about a number of times in the Bible, in fact over two hundred times! For instance the psalmist said, Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psa 90:12) and The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” (Psa 111:10).  But wisdom isn’t some mystical thing; it is very simply “the knowledge of how to…” so when the psalmist spoke about the fear or awesome respect for the Lord, he meant that this was the start for how to live a right life.

Bearing in mind that James was speaking to the scattered church, the church that lived out in the world away from the strength and security of Jerusalem, knowing how to cope with life would have been a very real concern for them – and us. Of course there has to first of all be an awareness that we are called to be different before we have a need or concern for how to be different.  The Christian who is like a chameleon, blending in with the word and doing nothing in service of their King will have no need of wisdom. It is only when you realize your calling to be different and your calling to serve, that you become aware of a need to know how to live, how to serve. For myself, I don’t think there is anything I ask for as much as wisdom: “Lord how I am supposed to do this? How am I to go about doing that?”  Not only is it the thing I ask for most, it is the thing for which I find I get the most answers to prayer.

Why is that? It is because, as James says, God gives generously to all without finding fault. Notice some of the words in that verse. Generously: a generous person isn’t stingy or half-hearted in the way they give. To the contrary, they give freely and without restrictions, they give lavishly. The apostle Paul spoke of the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us (Eph 1:7,8). When God gives, He gives in abundance. If we have had a poor upbringing we may still have a feeling of poverty where we are always thinking in limited terms, but this doesn’t apply to God. He delights in giving in abundance. The apostle John said the same thing: How great is the love the Father has lavished on us (I Jn 3:1). God pours out liberally in His giving to us, and that is true of the wisdom He gives to us.

Probably the best example of this is Daniel in the Old Testament:I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom (Dan 2:23) God had given him the knowledge of how to respond to the king’s dream. Listen how Daniel came to be referred to: There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods.” (Dan 5:11). How did Daniel come to have such a reputation? Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery(Dan 2:17,18). He knew God had the answer and he asked God for it!  You find the same sort of thing with Nehemiah:Then I prayed to the God of heaven(Neh 2:4). How simple those words are, but how little they occur in so many of our lives. When we know that our Lord is generous in His giving, then we will ask of Him.

But there’s another significant word: all. Simple, but significant, because there are some of us who feel we are so insignificant that God wouldn’t turn up for us. If we say that we deny His word and we deny His love. No, He wants to give generously to ALL and that includes every one of us. The only criteria is that we ask and believe.

The final words to note are the final phrase: without finding fault. Because some of us grew up with parents who were constantly critical of us, we think God is the same. No He’s not! When Paul said, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1), he meant it. God isn’t constantly looking to criticize us, put us down and make us feel bad. To the contrary, He is for us (Rom 8:31) which means everything He does seeks to bless and build us and help us succeed in our lives.

If we need wisdom, it means that we are in circumstances that are beyond us, but God realizes that and doesn’t chide us, because they are not beyond Him and He delights in showing us how to walk through the particular difficulty. Whatever it is – knowing how to cope with a difficult relationship, knowing how to cope with the children, knowing how to do school or college work, knowing how to cope with your job – God has the answer and all we need do is ASK Him for it. Check out the day. What are the things that concern you in it? Ask Him about them. Ask Him for wisdom to know how to deal with them – and then watch for the thoughts you start finding you are having!  Be a receiver of God’s wisdom. Enjoy living!

Walk of Despair

WALKING WITH GOD. No.40

1 Kings 19:3,4 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD ,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

We have previously commented along these lines, but it bears repeating, that the idea that the Christian life is always smooth and easy is unreal. Christians have to live in this Fallen World and so things go wrong and people are nasty. To see the reason why Elijah was running for his life, we have to see the previous two verses: “Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” This was a very real threat from a very nasty person! There was a contract out on Elijah’s head! But, you might say, wasn’t Elijah this great prophet of the Lord so he could simply stand up to the Queen? Well actually, no, because that is the problem.

The problem is not only the Queen, it is that Elijah has just been through an amazing spiritual battle and would be feeling exhausted mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Please realize that this was all in the service of his Lord. Even Jesus took time out to rest after his busy schedule. The reality is that when you are giving out spiritually, it can leave you drained. Yes, the Lord will be your strength and yes, He will restore you, but for that moment you are empty, needing to be refilled, and it is often that at that moment the enemy attacks, when he sees you are vulnerable. The response? You feel weak and fearful and want to run, escape to a quiet place and fall asleep (v.5). Did the Lord chide him for this? No! Instead He sent an angel who provided supernatural provision for Elijah to enable him to get to the place of meeting with God again. This is a very real experience and we need to really take on board the elements of it.

First note that we live in a state of war with Satan and sometimes he seems to come like a roaring lion (1 Pet 5:8) and when he comes like that he seeks to create fear in us.

Second, note that he comes to attack like this when we are vulnerable and probably when we have just been giving out a great deal, and even when we have just had a great victory.

Third, the crucial thing here is to be aware of what is going on. When Peter in the verse just referred to warns about Satan coming as a roaring lion, he starts, “ Be alert…..” Very often Christians become casualties simply because they did not realize what was going on and did not take steps to counter it. Emotional responses when you are at this place of attack are fear, doubt, feeling down, worrying and so on. They are all things the enemy seeks to impose upon you. Realise what is happening.

The fourth thing is to get out of the firing line. It was sensible, in the absence of a word from the Lord, to get out of range of the Queen. When you are feeling weak and vulnerable step back from the front line until you can be restored. While you stay there you are simply a target for more blasting from the enemy, and that isn’t necessarily the big obvious things, it can be the subtle temptation that brings your downfall into sin.

The fifth thing is to get with God. Elijah made for Horeb, or Sinai, the known place of encounter with the Lord. Even to get there he needed supernatural help. It may be that you need help from the Lord and that ‘angelic’ help can actually be through others. If you have those who are close to you, ask them to pray and carry on praying for you. (If you don’t find them!) I have a small group of people I confide in who pray for me all the time, but they find it particularly helpful if I share with them what is happening to me. Perhaps we need a retreat – it can be a day or a week. We would like to say that the ‘walk of despair’ should only be temporary, but unless you do some of these things, it can extend. Prov 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” It is the same principle that applies here. If you stand alone you are vulnerable. If you have those who can be made aware of the battle and the subsequent weakness, you are on the way to recovery.

The ‘walk of despair’ is all about resources, or to be more precise, shortage of them. In your daily walk with God, when you are in the midst of the battle, those resources can run low. Listen to the apostle Paul: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.” (2 Cor 1:8,9). Did you see that? “pressure, far beyond our ability to endure” Why does the Lord allow that? Listen to Paul again, “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.” (v.10,11). There it is, exactly as we were saying. This happens, share it, get prayer support to get to the Lord and “he will deliver.” Hallelujah!