The Spirit’s Applying Work

He will take what is mine and declare it to you.

John 16:15

There are times when all the promises and doctrines of the Bible are of no help unless a gracious hand applies them to us. We are thirsty but too faint to crawl to the water-brook. When a soldier is wounded in battle, it is of little use for him to know that there are those at the hospital who can bind up his wounds and medicines to ease all the pains that he now suffers: What he needs is to be carried there and to have the remedies applied. It is the same with our souls, and to meet this need there is one, even the Spirit of truth, who takes the things of Jesus and applies them to us.

Do not think that Christ has placed His joys on heavenly shelves so we may climb up and retrieve them for ourselves; rather He draws near and sheds His peace abroad in our hearts. Christian, if you are tonight struggling under deep distress, your Father does not give you promises and then leave you to draw them up from the Word like buckets from a well. The promises He has written in the Word He will write afresh on your heart. He will display His love to you and by His blessed Spirit dispel your cares and troubles.

Let it be known to you, if you mourn, that it is God’s prerogative to wipe every tear from the eyes of His people. The good Samaritan did not say, “Here is the wine, and here is the oil for you”; he actually poured in the oil and the wine. So Jesus not only gives you the sweet wine of His promise, but He holds the golden cup to your lips and pours the lifeblood into your mouth. The poor, sick, worn-out pilgrim is not merely strengthened to walk, but he is lifted up on eagles’ wings. Glorious Gospel that provides everything for the helpless, that draws near to us when we cannot reach it ourselves—it brings us grace before we seek grace! There is as much glory in the giving as in the gift. Happy people who have the Holy Spirit to bring Jesus to them!



A Prompting From the Holy Spirit

“I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” -2 Corinthians 6:2

Rush from work. Scarf dinner at Hamburger Hamlet with Judy. Dash into van. Oh! Stop and pray before heading to church to speak. 

Pulling out, I noticed a woman leaving the restaurant with a baseball cap over her scraggly hair. I sensed a powerful urge to invite her to church. She needs to hear what I have to say. “Ridiculous,” I thought. What am I supposed to do, God? Yell out, ‘Hey, follow me to church!’ 

Heading out, I berated myself for not following through. “Lord, next time I promise I’ll obey your promptings!” Ten minutes later, Judy screeched up behind me in the church parking lot — the woman in the baseball cap right behind her! Apparently, after I’d left the restaurant, she had asked Judy who I was. “Joni is speaking nearby,” Judy relied. “Would you like to go?”

In the parking lot I heard her story. “I have breast cancer. Two hours ago I learned that it has spread to my brain. It’s inoperable. I don’t know where to turn.” My mouth dropped open. I now understood why the Spirit had urged me to stop and invite her, a complete stranger, to hear me speak.

That night as I talked about heaven and the Gospel, Joyce and her husband opened their hearts to Jesus. I shudder to think it all was nearly lost because I let embarrassment override His voice. That night, I learned that every prompting to share the gospel is a prompting from God. Oh that we would be quick to obey… for that one whom He loves may never pass our way again.

This week, God’s voice may whisper, “Make that call… forgive him of… apologize for… check on her.” Don’t brush it off. Today is the day of salvation.



Returning to God

Malachi 3:7-12
Many Christians are familiar with God’s words in verse 7 of today’s reading: “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” When Malachi delivered this message to Israel, they seemed ignorant of the fact that they had left the Lord. Throughout the book, God made statements about their poor spiritual condition, and they always responded by asking how they had offended Him.

In this passage, God accuses them of robbing Him by withholding the tithes and offerings required by the Law to support the Levites and priests. God viewed their persistent disobedience to His commands as theft because they were keeping for themselves what belonged to Him. If we consider all that the Lord has given us, we must ask ourselves whether we’re robbing Him in any way. Consider these examples:

  • God has given us life and determined the number of our days (Psalm 139:16). Yet some of us claim that we don’t have time to read the Bible or pray. We may be busy, but it’s our responsibility to prioritize time with the Lord in the 24 hours He has allotted to us each day.
  • Our Father has also given us abilities, talents, and spiritual gifts, yet we oftentimes reserve their use for our career or hobby rather than for serving Him.
  • God is the one who has given us the ability to work and earn an income, and all He asks of us is the first portion.

Is there anything of the Lord’s that you’ve been keeping for yourself? With an obedient and grateful heart, you can joyfully give back to Him a fraction of whatever He has given you.



Help to Make It Through

Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ.   Galatians 6:2

“When my Grandma died, it’s like I froze,” Ryan admitted. “My homework wasn’t getting done—especially a huge research paper for social studies. But Taylor got on the phone every night with me. He talked through the project little by little. We brainstormed a topic, talked about research sources, went to the library together to check out books, and came up with a list of questions to ask the teacher when I got stuck. Taylor even helped me get the right format for my footnotes. I couldn’t have survived that semester without his help.”

When you lose a loved one through death—or you face any other life-altering tragedy—you need more than just comfort to get through the pain.

Talk about it: What other kinds of help do hurting friends need?

Here’s a big one. Support. It’s another type of help you can offer friends who suffer. And it’s a type of assistance many of us find easy to offer. So what’s the difference between comfort and support? Check this out:

People supply comfort when they share your emotional pain.

People supply support when they help in practical ways.

Life doesn’t stop after a tragedy. But the heavy emotions you feel often drain the energy you need to keep up. When you hurt, you usually need help for a while just to get normal tasks done. You need people to carry your burdens.

You might not like to admit you need help. But don’t push away the support others offer. God put Galatians 6:2 in the Bible because he knows there are times we need the support of others. Whenever bad things happen, that’s a time to let others do things for us—like helping with homework. It’s one of God’s great ideas for meeting our needs when we need it most.

So what if I need something and nobody steps up to help? Ask for it. There’s nothing wrong with telling a trusted friend or a leader at church about our needs—and explaining exactly what kind of help we need.

God didn’t design you to go through life’s toughest moments alone. You can’t survive without both comfort and support from others. After a while your needs won’t seem as large as they do at first, but don’t expect to dive back into life-as-usual right away. Let your friends and family care for you as long as you need it!

TALK: How have you shared comfort and support with a hurting friend? How did it help?

PRAY: Dear God, get us ready to support people we know who are suffering from the pain of personal tragedy.

ACT: Think of a friend who is suffering. What does he or she need from you right now—comfort or support? How can you provide that?



You Have To Make The Journey Yourself

If I lived to be 120 years old and someone said to me, “You’ve served the Lord since you were 16. Now that you’re older, what is the most important advice you can give to God’s people for their life on earth in the light of the horrendous darkness and need of our world?”

My answer would be very simple: “Be broken.”

Though I am only in my 60s, there is no greater truth I have learned in my journey with the Lord than the significance of embracing the life of brokenness. When it comes to our usefulness in God’s work, the greatest problem that keeps us away from the life God has for us is not our failure, sin or lack of ability, but it’s our stubbornness and lack of brokenness. God cannot work through an individual who is proud, defiant and self-sufficient.

His Strength Instead of Ours

King David, for example, knew God so intimately, but when he chose his own way, as in the case of Bathsheba, he lived spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically sick for a full year. He fought with everything he had in him to hide his sin and keep his image and honor intact. But in the end, he couldn’t do it anymore; he was dying inside. In his confession, he declared and passed on to us what God is looking for: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

Some of us are naturally gifted and able. As such, we are in great danger of walking through our life and doing great things for God—all in our own strength. Only in the end will we find out that in spite of all our accomplishments, God could not use us to impart Christ’s tender, gentle, broken and creative life to others. No doubt our gifts and abilities are given to us by our Creator; however, they will only become useful in building God’s kingdom if we walk in humility and brokenness, depending on His strength instead of ours.

Soft and Pliable

There is so little that God or anyone else can do for us as long as we manipulate circumstances, justify ourselves and fight every opportunity to be broken. The more we fight, the harder our hearts become. On the other hand, when we embrace brokenness, our hearts will become soft and pliable in the hand of God.

When we meet Christians who are broken, we notice their tenderness and that there is no harshness or demand in them. We feel a sense of peace when we are with them, and we are not afraid of them. They may not say much, but we perceive there is something more than words and right or wrong that guides their lives and causes them to radiate God’s peace.

“Learn from Me”

Jesus, who is Almighty God, embraced humility and brokenness to such an extent that the prophetic Scripture describes Him, saying: “But I am a worm, and no man” (Psalm 22:6). Because He was completely yielded to the will of His Father, He was able to lay down His life for us and become our Savior.

Jesus desires that we cease from strife, walk in peace and produce eternal fruit. That’s why He invites us: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).

The only way we experience this rest is when we cease from fighting to preserve ourselves, and embrace brokenness. No one can make this decision for us; there is no shortcut.



Effective Radical Prayer

Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.  Matthew 18:19–20

Effective radical prayer engages the hearts of men and women, teenagers and young adults, boys and girls. Solo prayer invites the ear of the Lord, but group prayer purifies prayer. In a group of devoted disciples, God’s will is established and boldly petitioned to heaven. Prayer support from a small group gives confidence, direction, and determination.

For example, the righteous one who fervently prays for those outside the faith is effective to draw them within the faith. There is no doubt hell shudders when heavenly supplications seek to snatch lost souls from eternal damnation. The Holy Spirit hovers over prayer meetings motivated to glorify the Lord and save sinners. Group prayer ignites eternity.

“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31).

We pray and praise God, but Christ converts. The pressure is not on Christians to make Christians, but to pray for hearts to be pricked by God’s Spirit, converted, and born into the kingdom of God. The Lord uses prayer to soften sinners so the soil of their heart moistens and seeds of truth take root. Pray without ceasing for Jesus to save lost souls.

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46–47).

The local church is a natural location to lean into the Lord in small group prayer. Our home can also be a sanctuary of supplication to Christ, with other like-minded believers. So begs the question, “Are you engaged in effective prayer with other followers of Jesus?” Prayer is a team sport. It is not meant for us to only linger alone with the Lord.

We all need prayer, and we need to pray for others. It is a Holy Spirit-initiated prayer movement that moves cultures and communities toward God. Perhaps we complain less to each other and pray more with each other. When we humble ourselves together before God, He hears, He answers, and He heals. Effective prayers mobilize the body of Christ.

“You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven” (Matthew 16:19 msg).

Prayer

Heavenly Father, give me great faith to pray boldly in the name of Jesus, in His name I pray.

Apply

Does Christ capture my heart in radical prayer with a small group of believers in Jesus?



Blameless!

I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.

Jeremiah 15:21

Notice the personal nature of this promise: “I will.” The Lord Jehovah Himself intervenes to deliver and redeem His people. He pledges Himself personally to rescue them. His own arm shall do it, in order that He may have the glory. Not a word is said of any effort of our own that may be needed to assist the Lord. Neither our strength nor our weakness is taken into account, but the lone “I,” like the sun in the heavens, shines out resplendent in complete sufficiency. Why then do we allow ourselves to be wounded by calculating our forces and consulting with mere men? God has enough power without borrowing from our puny arm.

To enjoy peace, our unbelieving thoughts must be stilled, and we must learn that the Lord reigns. There is not even a hint of help from any secondary source. The Lord says nothing of friends and helpers: He undertakes the work alone and feels no need of human arms to aid Him. All our looking around to companions and relatives are vain; they are broken reeds if we lean upon them—often unwilling when able, and unable when they are willing. Since the promise comes from God alone, it is best for us to wait only on Him; and when we do so, our expectation never fails us.

Who are the wicked, that we should fear them? The Lord will utterly consume them; they are to be pitied rather than feared. As for terrible ones, they are only terrors to those who have no God to turn to, for when the Lord is on our side, whom shall we fear? If we run into sin to please the wicked, we have cause to be alarmed; but if we maintain our integrity, the rage of tyrants will be overruled for our good. When the fish swallowed Jonah, he found him a morsel that he could not digest; and when the world devours the church, it is glad to be rid of it again. In all occasions of fiery trial, let us maintain our souls in patience.



When Faith Is Tested

Genuine seekers who as yet have not obtained the blessing may find comfort in this story. The Savior did not immediately bestow the blessing, even though the woman had great faith in Him. He intended to give it, but He waited awhile. “He did not answer her a word.” Were her prayers no good? Never better in the world. Was she not needy? Dreadfully needy. Did she not feel her need sufficiently? She felt it overwhelmingly. Was she not sincere enough? She was intensely so. Did she have no faith? She had such a high degree of it that even Jesus wondered and said, “O woman, great is your faith!” Notice then, although it is true that faith brings peace, it does not always bring it instantaneously. There may be certain reasons for faith to be tested rather than rewarded.

Genuine faith may be in the soul like a hidden seed, but so far it may not have budded and blossomed into joy and peace. Silence from the Savior is the painful trial of many a seeking soul, but heavier still is the affliction of a harsh, cutting reply such as, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Many in waiting upon the Lord find immediate delight, but this is not the case with all. Some, like the jailer, are in a moment turned from darkness to light, but others are plants of slower growth.

A deeper sense of sin may be given to you instead of a sense of pardon, and in such a case you will need patience to bear the heavy blow. Poor heart, though Christ beat and bruise you, or even slay you, trust Him; even if He should give you an angry word, believe in the love of His heart. I urge you, do not give up seeking or trusting my Master because you have not yet obtained the conscious joy that you long for. Cast yourself on Him, and perseveringly depend even when you cannot rejoicingly hope.



Obedience or Preference?

Every believer must choose whether he will live by the principle of obedience or follow his preferences. When a person commits to doing the Lord’s will, then every situation and decision is sifted through the standard of “God said it, so I’m going to do it—and that’s the end of it.” He or she may complain, weep, or try to argue. But in the end, the individual will be obedient, no matter what.

I recall being invited years ago to interview with a church in Atlanta. During the entire trip, I told the Lord that I didn’t want to move. I fussed and carried on a good while, but I knew Atlanta would be my new home. I didn’t like the idea, but the alternative was unimaginable: There are few things more unpleasant than living with the nagging anxiety that you missed out on something good.

The Lord certainly understands our need to question, cry out, and petition Him for the strength to do what He commands. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that we have a high priest who can sympathize with us. Jesus wasn’t excited or happy about the cross. He grieved over the coming separation from His Father. Nevertheless, He was committed to following God’s will (Matt. 26:39). No one took Christ’s life from Him; He laid it down (John 10:18).

Our lives are about fulfilling the heavenly Father’s purpose. Many people miss out on its goodness because they choose to follow personal preferences instead, believing their own choices are better. Obedience is sometimes hard, but the struggle and sacrifice are worth it. The Lord’s ways and principles lead believers to joy and peace.



Persevere

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.’ Hebrews 10:36
 
Did God not tell His people during the exodus from Egypt: ‘The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still’ (Exodus 14:14)? And yet here we read: ‘…Joshua fought the Amalekites.’ From this we can learn that we can never sit back with folded arms when the Lord is fighting for us. He always involves us. Sometimes He wants us to sing (2 Chronicles 20:22), another time He calls us to battle, like Joshua in this passage. But whatever God tells us: while carrying out our orders, we must be fully aware that it is only God Who wins the victory!
Therefore it is written: ‘Joshua fought the Amalekites (…) and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. (…) So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army.’ We cannot say: So Moses overcame the Amalekite army. Moses only stood there as God’s witness to remind Israel that – through the full commitment of our lives – it is, ultimately, only God Who wins the victory. That is why it was so important that Moses kept raising his hands until God had gained the victory.
As Christians, we may learn from this that – if we long for God to win the victory – we must persevere in raising our purified hands praying and blessing until… God shows and tells He has won the victory. Therefore it is written that we need perseverance, so that when we have done the will of God, we will receive what He has promised.
Perhaps we still need a rough life in the wilderness to learn to trust God like this!