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Recognizing that god is sovereign prompts some questions about the nature of prayer. Specifically, many people have asked me, “If the Lord is in control, why does He expect us to pray?”
Prayer brings us into cooperation with what God has purposed to accomplish. He desires to involve believers in the work He is doing both in the world and in their lives. But the word “work” is a tricky one when it comes to our faith. Unlike the striving we see in the world, what God desires is for us to trust Him (John 6:29), surrender our burdens to Him, grow in relationship with Him, and allow Him to work through us. Prayer is a tool we can use to do all those things.
Jesus asked the Father to protect the disciples by the power of His name (John 17:11 NIV). Did He think they might lose their salvation or drift from their commitment? Absolutely not. Jesus was God in human flesh. He knew exactly what was going to happen—how these men would spread the gospel and remain faithful even unto death. Jesus was taking part in the Father’s plan for His followers by interceding for them.
God certainly can build His kingdom without believers’ input or help. But a relationship develops depth and intimacy when the Lover and His beloved share an interest. Praying and working alongside our Lord strengthens our faith in His power.
The Lord created you to love Him and be loved by Him. Prayer nurtures and develops our connection with Him. Our Father calls us to communicate with Him so He can draw us close and involve us in building His kingdom.
Godly wisdom can be defined as the capacity to see things the way the Lord sees them and to respond according to His principles. One of the great benefits of this mindset is peace. Generally, when life’s running smoothly and all is well with us and our loved ones, we have no trouble experiencing contentment. But often when situations become difficult, God’s perspective eludes us, and our peace is rapidly replaced with stress, anxiety, and fear.
To view a difficult circumstance from the Lord’s perspective, we need to see it encompassed by the boundaries of His character and attributes. Even when the particulars of life are beyond our control, the One who rules the universe remains sovereign over all things—down to the smallest details. He loves us unconditionally and always works for our best interest. Therefore, if He has allowed a situation, there is a divine plan and reason, and the outcome will be for our good and His glory.
That wise perspective will lead to a godly response—complete confidence and trust in the Lord despite any pain or hardship. Because of the indwelling Spirit, we have the assurance that He is more than adequate for whatever comes our way, which means we are sufficient in Him.
When difficulty hits, don’t let sound wisdom vanish from your sight. Keep your eyes on the Lord. By seeing every situation through His eyes, you can rest in His wisdom and good purposes. Then stress will lift, anxiety will be replaced with peace, and confidence in the Lord will silence your fears.
Peter was a man of great faith and bold action. But as readers of the New Testament know, his brash style sometimes led him to make humiliating mistakes. More than once, this disciple had to wear the label of “miserable failure” rather than that of “obedient servant.”
We can all relate when it comes to falling short of expectations. Obedience to God is a process—something we learn. And failure is a part of our development as humble servants. When we yield to temptation or rebel against God’s authority, we realize that sin has few rewards, and even those are fleeting.
Failure is an excellent learning tool, as Peter could certainly attest. Through trial and error, he discovered that one should never take his eyes off Jesus (Matthew 14:30); God’s plan must always have priority over man’s (Matthew 16:21-23; John 18:10-11); and humility is required of believers (Luke 13:5-14). He took each of those lessons to heart and thereby grew stronger in his faith. Isn’t that Romans 8:28 in action? God caused Peter’s failures to be put to good use as training material because the disciple was eager to mature and serve.
God doesn’t reward rebellion or wrongdoing. However, by His grace, He blesses those who choose repentance and embrace chastisement as a tool for growth.
We would all prefer to grow in our faith without ever making a mistake, but we cannot deny that missteps are instructive. Failure teaches us that it is much wiser to be obedient to the Lord. That’s a lesson we all should take to heart.
What does it mean when we say that Jesus is Lord? We hear the word used so frequently that we are in danger of losing the significance of its sheer power and magnitude.
Lord is far more than a mere title that Scripture bestows on Jesus. The second chapter of Philippians emphasizes this fact by repeatedly mentioning the word name. We see that God gave Jesus the “name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus,” all of heaven and earth will bow down and “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (vv. 9-11).
In that passage, the name given to Jesus is none other than “Lord.” You see, that word is not used to describe what Jesus does; it’s simply who Jesus is. He is, and will always be, the sovereign ruler of everything in heaven and on the earth.
Therefore, if we echo the confession, “Jesus is Lord,” then our lives must reflect that confidence. Is there anything in your life that you attempt to hide from Christ? Have you refused to do something that He has called you to do? These are acts of rebellion, and they simply demonstrate our lack of faith in Jesus as Lord of our lives.
One day everyone will recognize that Christ is Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15). We who are His children should show our faith by inviting Him into any dark areas of our life and allowing Him to conform us to His image. We can begin with the simple yet profound confession: “Jesus is Lord.” And when we confess those words, we should be mindful of their meaning.
King Hezekiah of Judah served the Lord faithfully. He was committed to righteous living and intentionally pursued that course for most of his life. He sought God devotedly, and the Lord prospered him.
God wants to be intimately connected with us, like a father and child who share deep, mutual love. Our seeking after Him should be characterized by:
Wholeheartedness. When we approach God’s Word with a distracted mind or pray with our focus drifting to other topics, we have a divided heart. The Lord desires our full attention; He wants us to keep Him in first place, giving Him priority above everything else important to us (Jeremiah 29:13; Matthew 6:33).
Diligence. We should have a sense of devotion to God and give careful attention to what He is saying. This requires an unwavering effort to understand how God operates and what He wants us to do.
Persistence. Seeking the Lord is to be a continual, sustained effort toward deeper intimacy and involvement in His work (Psalms 42:1).
Confidence. We need to believe that God wants us to know Him—and that He desires the best for us. Trust is an essential component of confidence (Proverbs 3:5).
Humility. We are totally dependent on God for everything in life, and He is pleased when we approach Him humbly (Isaiah 66:2).
When our hearts yearn for God, He delights in revealing Himself and pouring out blessings on us (Hebrews 11:6). Make an honest assessment of how earnestly you are seeking after Him.
Believing that the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead is essential for Christians. Merely recognizing that He died for our sins is not enough; we must accept His resurrection in order to receive eternal life. Christ paid our debt, but His sacrifice on the cross means nothing unless He possesses power over the grave. In vanquishing evil and death, the Lord made our salvation possible.
Jesus’ resurrection proved He was able to remove sin and its penalty. Assuming Christ remained dead would mean accepting the opposite—that believers are still in sin. And the inevitable end of a sinful life is death. Consequently, a person who denies Christ’s eternal nature looks toward a void future. Bertrand Russell, a famous atheist philosopher, offered this sad description of such hopelessness: “Brief and powerless is Man’s life; on him and all his race, the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark.”
Instead of enjoying Christian liberty and anticipating a home in heaven, those who reject resurrection are slaves to the present, with no real hope or meaning in life. Career, family, and good works can offer brief pleasure but not the kind of joy that comes from knowing we are right with the Lord and working in His will.
Resurrection is not a denominational issue or a point for theological debate. Either we believe Christ rose from the dead and ascended to heaven or we do not. If we reject His victory over the grave, we deny ourselves a place in eternity. But if we accept the truth, we will be saved.
Many people consider Moses a biblical “pillar” of Old Testament days—a man without equal in godliness. And certainly, he encountered the presence of the Almighty in a most unusual way and was called to do mighty things with the Lord’s help. But, like us, he was a normal, sinful human being. What the New Testament commends him for is something we all can have: belief.
Today’s verses come from the passage known as the Bible’s “Hall of Faith.” Those honored with inclusion in this chapter were chosen because they acted obediently, and God achieved great things through them.
We, too, can watch His hand in our lives as we act on faith. When we trust Him and obey, God demonstrates His power and shows that He truly is Lord. By operating out of His strength and through our weakness, He teaches us to rely upon Him.
That’s not to say the path is easy; Jesus warned that the way of faith includes suffering. Indeed, many early Christians were beaten or killed for His sake, and faith is still met with harsh persecution in various places around the world. While that may not be our experience, each of us has encountered ridicule, misunderstanding, or lost friendships because we follow Christ.
Even mild persecution can cause us to question whether living out our faith is worth the sacrifice. The truth is, it’s the best way to live. God responds to faith by enabling His children to endure difficulty, demonstrating His power in their circumstances, and providing joy.
What do you consider your most prized possession? A house, car, boat, or cash would likely be high on most folks’ lists. But even treasures and luxuries won’t bring lasting satisfaction—why else do so many men and women keep trading up and adding to their collection? Sadly, in the race to have “better” and “more,” a lot of people overlook the most valuable asset of all: faith.
Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”—and this corresponds to trust in Jesus Christ as Savior. Faith isn't something we can work to obtain; rather, it is a gift from the Lord.
Consider the power that God makes available. In Matthew 17:20, Jesus said that faith as small as a mustard seed—which His audience would have known to be tiny—enables us to achieve the miraculous. The book of Acts shows that the apostles’ belief led to numerous healings (3:1-8; 5:16). And Matthew’s gospel tells us that through a Canaanite woman’s faith, her daughter was freed from demonic possession (15:22-28).
Trust in Christ is more than an avenue to miracles—it is the way to salvation. The Bible states that there is nothing we can do to achieve eternal security in God’s kingdom; we are saved only by His grace, through faith (Eph. 2:8-9).
The best way to move forward is by first receiving life’s greatest gift: faith in Christ. Romans 10:9 says to “confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, [and] you will be saved.” Salvation and abundant life are found nowhere else.
Most of us enjoy feeling in control of our own schedule and grow frustrated when things don’t go according to plan. Yet if we truly desire to walk in the center of God’s perfect will, we must become willing to cooperate with His time frame.
Consider how you pray about situations in your life. Without realizing it, you may be demanding that God follow the schedule you've constructed according to your very limited human wisdom. Yet if we believe He is who He says He is, how can surrendering to His way not be to our benefit? Think about His unique, praiseworthy qualities:
• His all-encompassing knowledge. The Lord has complete understanding of our world and the details of every individual life—past, present, and future.
• His complete wisdom. God understands man’s every motive, whereas none of us are able to accurately discern people’s intentions. We make choices based on partial information, whereas He has the wisdom to take action based on truth.
• His unconditional love. Our Creator is always motivated by love and constantly has our best in mind. Unless we trust His heart, our view of reality will be distorted.
• His perfect sufficiency. At just the right time, God will provide us with everything we need to carry out His plan.
Submitting to God’s timetable requires faith and courage. Believe in the goodness of His heart and His plans—and wait until He gives the signal to move forward. Then, as you follow His schedule, you’ll experience the joy of watching Him make all things beautiful in His timing.
“God bless you!” We hear it all the time, don’t we? From the pastor’s benediction in worship to a simple courtesy when someone sneezes, we hear wishes of God’s blessing so often that we don’t even stop to consider what the phrase means.
Let’s break away from habit and discover what it truly means to be blessed by the Lord. In Genesis 12, God’s commission of Abram shows His wonderful promise to make the man into a prospering nation and give him a great and enduring name. More than that, God extends His blessing to those close to Abram and ultimately takes it to a global scale, pledging to bless the entire world by what He’s doing in this one person’s life.
So, when the Lord speaks about blessing someone, it’s a promise to intervene mightily and noticeably in that individual’s life. This could mean a thriving, happy family or, possibly, financial prosperity. Maybe it involves emotional security or spiritual insight. The heavenly Father might have in mind to give honor, wisdom, or lasting purpose. In fact, we see every one of these things in God’s pledge to Abram.
But let’s not overlook two conditions for the Lord’s favor. From Abram’s life, we see that God values obedience and faith (Gen 12:4, Gen 15:6, Gen 22:2-3, 12).
God wants to bring abundance into your life. Be sure His blessing isn’t being hindered. Ask, Am I trusting Him? Have I ignored something He has asked me to do? Give in to His call, and open your arms to receive what your Father longs to give you.
How is it that two people can sit in the same pew, hear the same sermon about the same portion of Scripture, and walk away with two different reactions? One is joyful and the other is unaffected. I think the reason is that some people do not know how to listen to the Word of God.
Nehemiah 8 is an amazing scene of God’s people coming together to hear His Word. Remember that they didn't have individual copies of Scripture to read. For generations, the events of Genesis through Deuteronomy were passed down from parent to child. Moreover, the people had been in captivity for many years. This was the first time most of them heard the Word read. Imagine their excitement as they listened attentively for the Lord to speak to them.
The Israelites were hungry for God’s Word. Are you? Do you listen eagerly and with an expectant mind and heart? The length of a person’s attention span is directly related to the intensity of his hunger for something. If you crave to know more of God, then your mind is going to be fastened on what He’s saying through your pastor or your personal reading. And the reality is that nothing in the world matters as much as what the Lord has to say.
So many things clamor for our focus but few truly deserve it. The Lord is worthy of nothing less than our undivided attention. He has something to say to every person. So whoever listens to God’s Word with an open heart and alert mind will receive from Him.