Apr 12, 2008
The Legendary Willie Banks in Jackson, Mississippi
Apr 12, 2008
The Legendary Willie Banks in Jackson, Mississippi
The Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them. Numbers 14:9
“My husband was offered a promotion in another country, but I feared leaving our home, so he reluctantly declined the offer,” my friend shared with me. She explained how apprehension over such a big change kept her from embracing a new adventure, and that she sometimes wondered what they missed in not moving.
The Israelites let their anxieties paralyze them when they were called to inhabit a rich and fertile land that flowed “with milk and honey” (Ex. 33:3). When they heard the reports of the powerful people in large cities (Num. 13:28), they started to fear. The majority of the Israelites rejected the call to enter the land.
But Joshua and Caleb urged them to trust in the Lord, saying, “Do not be afraid of the people in the land” for the “Lord is with us” (14:9). Although the people there appeared large, they could trust the Lord to be with them.
My friend wasn’t commanded to move to another country like the Israelites were, yet she regretted letting fear close off the opportunity. What about you—do you face a fearful situation? If so, know that the Lord is with you and will guide you. With His never-failing love, we can move forward in faith.
Loving Father, may I not let my fear stop me from following You, for I know that You will always love me and will never leave me.
Fear can paralyze but faith propels us to follow God.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. James 1:2-3
Think of the people in the Bible who faced the death of their dreams. Abraham dreamed of being the father of a great nation, but he was still childless in old age. Joseph dreamed of grandeur in Genesis 37, but he landed in an Egyptian prison. Prince Moses of Egypt dreamed of liberating his people, but he was thrown out of Egypt as a murderer. David dreamed of leading the armies of Israel, but he became their prey. Thomas dreamed of proclaiming the Messiah, but his Jesus was crucified. Paul dreamed of going to Spain, but was a prisoner of Rome.
And yet in each case, the setbacks became stepping stones; for in God’s will there is no failure, and out of His will there is no success. Our dreams sometimes die so they can be reborn in the image of God’s will.
Faith is trusting God’s promises when they are most needed, and going forward without a loss of enthusiasm. God provides the opportunity of having big dreams, but we must work according to His timing and will to achieve them. Along the way, if your dream dies, don’t let your spirits falter. Keep your eyes focused on Jesus, count it all joy, and wait for Him to give the victory.
Failure isn’t so bad if it doesn’t attack the heart. Success is all right if it doesn’t go to the head. Grantland Rice
The Scriptures contain many stories of people who waited years or even decades before the Lord’s promises came to pass. What modern believers can learn from the patience of biblical saints like Abraham, Joseph, David, and Paul is that waiting upon the Lord has eternal benefits.
Today let’s look at Israel’s most memorable monarch. David was the chosen heir to Israel’s throne, but he spent years dodging King Saul’s wrathful pursuit. Despite having two different opportunities for vengeance, David resisted the temptation and spared Saul’s life. He chose to adhere to God’s timetable for his coronation instead of dishonoring the Lord by killing the divinely anointed king. David’s psalms reveal his intimate awareness of Yahweh’s work in his life. The shepherd king not only achieved his objective through patience; he also observed that God’s way is always the best.
David left behind an incredible testimony of God’s faithfulness for each of us to read and ponder. He was committed to waiting upon the Lord, and as a result, he had the Father’s approval and blessing. We cannot underestimate the reward of living in divine favor. That isn’t a special state reserved for the “giants of the faith” like David. All who obediently endure until the Lord acts on their behalf abide in His favor (Isa. 40:31).
David didn’t receive his blessings because he was special; he was honored among men because he honored the Lord above all. And since he trusted in God’s faithfulness, he endured hardship with patience. We, too, can expect to be blessed when we wait upon the Lord.
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33)
Scientists and philosophers have been able to learn many wonderful things about the universe when they have attempted reverently to think God’s thoughts after Him, but His majesty and purposes are still far beyond human words and understanding—unspeakable and unsearchable. He “doeth great things and unsearchable; marvelous things without number” (Job 5:9).
Not only are His judgments unsearchable and His ways past finding out, but so are His resources. The apostle Paul spoke about “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8), and he once had the unique experience of being caught up somehow into the very paradise of God, where he “heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:4).
We shall learn more, in the ages to come, of “the exceeding riches of his grace” (Ephesians 2:7), as well as the depth of “the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge” (3:19).
We can have a good measure of peace and joy right now in Christ, but there is much more yet to learn. In the new earth some day we shall really experience “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) and be able to “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
His great gift of salvation and eternal life we comprehend only faintly now, but we know it is indeed a gift of love and grace and peace and joy! Although we cannot begin to describe it now, we can simply say in gratitude, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15). HMM
The plea of Saul that he had preserved the cattle for sacrifice, when the Lord had bidden him destroy them, reminds us of the folly of those who imagine that religion lies in outward forms, and forget that it is a matter of the heart. To such persons the Lord spake by the mouth of his servant Isaiah, and said—Isaiah 1:10-20.
The mention of Sodom and Gomorrah was intended to be a warning to them of the certain punishment of their crimes. On account of their forms and ceremonies they reckoned themselves to be the favourites of heaven, but for their hypocrisy they were named after the most accursed of men.
They stopped at the outward shell, and never entered upon the kernel of real love to God; hence their religion was useless.
God wants not the superstitious to adore him, he has never invited them to his house. He seeketh those who worship him in spirit and in truth, and not mere formalists.
While they were cruel and oppressive, it was idle to offer elaborate ceremonies, devout postures, holy days and many prayers, for God abhors a heartless worship. Men who do not really believe in the Lord Jesus and obey the Lord’s will, might save themselves the trouble of attending upon sacraments, for they only make their case worse, and add to their sins.
Isaiah 1:16, 17
Repentance, practical and thorough, is a great gospel duty, and a grain of it is better than a ton of ceremonies.
Have done with the vain boast of your religiousness, and be indeed religious, spiritually and practically. Seek mercy of the Lord with humble heart, since he is ready to bestow it, for the vilest sins can be put away by Jesus’ blood; but mere ceremonies avail nothing.
To the same purport is that memorable passage in the book of Micah.
The true proof of godliness is not expensive rites, but hearty obedience; not a loud profession, but holy living; not large subscriptions, but a yielding up of the heart. Have we this vital godliness? Has the Holy Spirit wrought in us a change of heart?
Not streaming blood, nor cleansing fire,
Thy righteous anger can appease;
Burnt offerings thou dost not require,
Or gladly I would render these.
The broken heart in sacrifice,
Alone, will thine acceptance meet:
My heart, O God, do not despise,
Abased and contrite at thy feet
You have been given so much in Jesus Christ! You have no legitimate reason for failing to be an awesome success in life, because you have so much going for you! In fact, you have much more going for you than you could possibly imagine. Today let me encourage you with just a few of the things you’ve been given in Jesus Christ!
John 1:12 says, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” This verse reveals that you received divine power the day you became a child of God. The word “power” is the Greek word exousia. It describes delegated authority or influence. The day you chose to make Jesus your Lord and Savior is the day He delegated to you the power and authority to become a child of God. Think of it—at that moment of decision, all the power, authority, and divine influence that is resident within the mighty name of Jesus Christ came to live on the inside of you!
So rather than complain that you’re weak and nothing special, it’s time to start laying claim to what is stored up inside you! The same explosive, dynamic, phenomenal authority and power that resides within Jesus has now been delegated to reside in you!
As if that wasn’t already enough, Second Corinthians 5:17 declares, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” This verse says you’re a brand-new creature if you are in Christ Jesus. The word “new” is from the Greek word kainos, and it describes something that is brand new or recently made. It also carries the idea of something that is superior. This means when Jesus Christ came into your life, you were made brand, spanking new! The new you is superior to the old you! In fact, you are so new that this verse calls you a new “creature.”
The word “creature” is the Greek word ktisis. It is the same word used to describe the creation of the world. When God created the universe, he used no existing materials or old elements to make it. Everything in creation was newly made. Now that same word is used to describe what happened to you the day you got saved. Everything about you is new! You’re not an amended, corrected, improved version of what you used to be. You are an absolutely brand-new creation! You are completely detached from the person you once were before Christ.
Psalm 103:12 tells you how far your old ways have been removed from you: “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” When Jesus Christ came into your life, He created you to be free from the past, free from the negative effects of your family, and liberated from all former hang-ups—in short, a brand-new creature!
So stop laying claim to your family’s genetic problems, inheritable sicknesses, dysfunctional behavior, disorders, hang-ups, curses, or any other negative thing that was a part of your life before Christ. That old person no longer exists. He is dead. You are brand new.
But wait—there’s so much more that you’ve been given in Jesus Christ! For instance, Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
The first part of this verse says that you and I are God’s “workmanship.” This comes from the Greek word poiema. The word poiema carries the idea of something that is artfully created. The Greek word for a poet, poietes, comes from this same word. In reference to a poet, this Greek word would denote one who has the extraordinary ability to write or create a literary masterpiece.
Because Paul uses the word poiema to explain what happened when you became a child of God, it emphatically means that on the day you got saved, God put forth His most powerful and creative effort to make you new. Once God was finished making you new, you became a masterpiece, skillfully and artfully created in Christ Jesus. There’s nothing cheap about you at all! God’s creative, artistic, intelligent genius went into your making.
Look how much you’ve been given in Jesus Christ! Don’t you think it’s time to stop moaning about how dumb, stupid, ugly, or untalented you “feel” compared to others? Those “feelings” are all lies. Some of that may have been true before you were born again, but none of it is true of you now that you are in Christ. God turned you into something spectacular. That’s who you are now! So lay claim to your new identity Adjust your thinking and talking to reflect who you really are!
Lord, forgive me for being so negative and for talking so badly about myself after You have given me so much! I have no excuse for accepting defeat or low self-esteem as a way of life, because You have made me totally new! Help me renew my mind to the truth about who You have made me to be, and help me guard the words of my mouth so that instead of speaking evil of myself I affirm the truth about who I am in Christ.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I confess that the day I was born again, I received the dynamic, explosive power of God into my life. That power removed my old nature and made me a brand-new creature! Nothing from the old me continues to exist, for I am completely brand new. When God made me, He put forth His finest creative powers, and I now live on this earth as a masterpiece of His grace. God has made me into something quite spectacular!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
They are: “But,” “If only,” and “Why?”
As the Israelites approached the Promised Land, Moses commissioned 12 spies to go in and scope out the territory. Upon their return, they reported that the land was indeed flowing with milk and honey!
“But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large… ” (Numbers 13:26a)
By this report, ten of the twelve spies gave evidence of the fact that they were paralyzed by fear, rather than mobilized by faith. Sadly, they had allowed their perception of the facts, rather than the promises of God to dictate their response to the situation. In their minds,
God was not big enough to surmount the obstacles.
“If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert!” (Numbers 14:2b)
Clearly, God had led the Israelites across the desert, assuring them of His presence in providing the pillar of fire by night and the cloud of protection by day. Wonderfully, He had furnished them with manna from heaven, water from the rock, and clothing that did not wear out.
Yet, the moment they were faced with adversity, they cried out, “if only.” By that lament they signaled their preference to living in bondage under their Egyptian oppressors over living in freedom under God’s sovereign care. (Numbers 14:2)
“Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?” (Numbers 14:3a)
Faced with formidable obstacles in conquering the land God had promised them, the
Israelites whined “why,” rather than believing God could and would help them overcome the barriers.
When God calls us to Himself, He calls us to a life of faith: “But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” (Hebrews 10:38)
QUESTION: So tell me, fellow pilgrim, as you trek across your own God-assigned desert, are you shrinking back from the barriers with “but“, “if only“, and “why“? Or are you choosing to forge ahead, trusting in His power, His goodness, and His wisdom?