Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. Ephesians 3:20
Sometimes God takes His time in answering our prayers, and that isn’t always easy for us to understand.
That was the situation for Zechariah, a priest whom the angel Gabriel appeared to one day near an altar in the temple in Jerusalem. Gabriel told him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John” (Luke 1:13, italics added).
But Zechariah had probably asked God for a child years before, and he struggled with Gabriel’s message because Elizabeth was now well beyond the expected age for childbirth. Still, God answered his prayer.
God’s memory is perfect. He is able to remember our prayers not only for years but also for generations beyond our lifetime. He never forgets them and may move in response long after we first brought our requests to Him. Sometimes His answer is “no,” other times it is “wait”—but His response is always measured with love. God’s ways are beyond us, but we can trust that they are good.
Zechariah learned this. He asked for a son, but God gave him even more. His son John would grow up to be the very prophet who would announce the arrival of the Messiah.
Zechariah’s experience demonstrates a vital truth that should also encourage us as we pray: God’s timing is rarely our own, but it is always worth waiting for.
What are you praying for today? Tell us at yourdailybread.org.
When we cannot see God’s hand at work, we can still trust His heart.
Waiting for God to answer our prayers is hard—especially when we feel the pressures of life. But we have been given the encouragement and promise of the help of the Holy Spirit. How does God’s presence in your prayers strengthen you as you wait? (see Rom. 8).
The Holy Spirit guides believers to make wise and godly decisions. But when Christians fail to listen, they can instead make choices that appeal to the flesh.
After the serpent spoke to Eve, she no doubt took a long look at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17; Gen. 3:3, Gen. 3:6). Whatever she might have thought about the tree before, she now saw it with new eyes— flesh-focused eyes. Genesis 3 tells us that the forbidden tree appealed to Eve in three ways: It was good for food, delightful to look at, and desirable to make one wise.
In other words, the tree could fulfill three legitimate human appetites: the desire for tasty meals, beauty, and wisdom. There is nothing wrong with these God-given yearnings. The Lord created a variety of food and an earth filled with breathtaking sights so that people could enjoy them. He also offers the Holy Spirit as a source of His true wisdom and knowledge. In fact, it is the Spirit who teaches believers to keep fleshly appetites under control and in balance.
Meanwhile, Satan works hard to corrupt healthy desires. He abhors seeing people’s appetites satisfied. What he wants is to watch a person lusting after a good thing until he or she is controlled by the impulse to have it.
The devil is pleased when people make themselves slaves to a desire that—in the proper context—the Lord intended to be enjoyed freely. A believer walking in the Holy Spirit rejects gluttony, preferring desires that are within God’s boundaries instead. That’s how we get His very best.
“For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2:10)
The Lord never asks us to go anywhere that He has not gone before. He is the captain (literally, the “leader”) of our salvation, and we only need follow our divine leader. The same word is used in Hebrews 12:2, where we are exhorted to be “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince [same word] and a Saviour” (Acts 5:31).
The same wonderful truth appears under various figures. He is our Shepherd, for instance, and He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish” (John 10:27-28). He also illumines our path. “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). He guides us along the way by His indwelling Holy Spirit. “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth. . . . and he will show you things to come” (John 16:13).
With such a dauntless leader, a perfect example, a loving Shepherd, a clear light, and an infallible guide, we are (or should be) happy to follow Him, even if the way sometimes seems steep and hard.
He is the goal and prize at the end of the journey. For Him, Paul said, “I have suffered the loss of all things . . . that I may win Christ . . . forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8, 13-14). HMM
2 Chronicles 9:31
2 Chronicles 9:31
So ended the wisest man, and so must we all end; there is no discharge in this war. What a change came over the nation when the great ruler passed the sceptre into the hands of his feeble successor. Sad is it when great fathers have foolish sons.
2 Chronicles 10:3, 4
The people had felt the government of Solomon to be too despotic, and they determined before they allowed his successor to take the crown, to bind him down to constitutional measures. Their hope of liberty lay in threatening to set up another king if Rehoboam would not grant them a charter.
2 Chronicles 10:5
He did well to take time for consideration. Important steps ought not to be taken in a hurry; we may do in an hour what we cannot undo in a lifetime.
2 Chronicles 10:7
Full often we must stoop to conquer. To yield a little in order to gain much is wise policy. The people had a right to what they asked, and the young prince should have granted their demands with a hearty good grace, and then he would have been the beloved monarch of an enthusiastic people.
2 Chronicles 10:8, 10-11
These young aristocrats thought it dangerous to humour the people, for what might they not ask next? Let them be at once put down with an iron hand; to consent to their demands would only inflate them with pride, and lead to yet further insubordination. We have heard men talk in this fashion in our own day, but we judged them to be vain fellows. If the people ask for right things, let them have them, and no hurt can come of it.
2 Chronicles 10:16, 19
Thus was the sin of Solomon visited on Rehoboam his son, but not unjustly, for the unwise action of Rehoboam naturally led to the breaking away of the ten tribes. God’s ways are always just, and we may rest assured that if he seems to act unjustly, it is not really the case. His ways are equal, and in the end men will confess that it is so.
When any turn from Zion’s way,
(Alas, what numbers do!)
Methinks I hear my Saviour say,
“Wilt thou forsake me too?”
Ah, Lord! with such a heart as mine,
Unless thou hold me fast,
I feel I must, I shall decline,
And prove like them at last.
How vain are all things here below!
How false, and yet how fair!
Each pleasure hath its poison too,
And ev’ry sweet a snare.
Dear Saviour! let thy beauties be
My soul’s eternal food;
And grace command my heart away
From all created good.
I thirst, but not as once I did,
The vain delights of earth to share;
Thy wounds, Immanuel, all forbid
That I should seek my pleasures there.
It was the sight of thy dear cross
First wean’d my soul from earthly things;
And taught me to esteem as dross
The mirth of fools and pomp of kings.
Jesus, my Saviour, is enough,
When all is gone and spent;
He fills and over-fills my soul,
Thus I am pure content.
My covenant with flesh and blood,
And every sinful thing,
Is broken, and is stedfast made,
With Jesus Christ my king.
Vanish from me, ye objects vain,
All scenes of lower kind;
A pleasure equal to my wish
In God alone I find.
Lord, season all my speech
With thine own Spirit’s salt,
And never let excess of words
Become my grievous fault.
Let grace dwell in my heart,
So shall it rule my tongue,
And all my faculties for thee
Become a harp well strung.
Each word a note of praise,
Each speech a line of song,
Thus like the angels round thy throne,
I’ll praise thee all day long.
Hear ye not a voice from heaven,
To the listening spirit given?
“Children, come,” it seems to say;
“Give your hearts to me to-day.”
While our day is in its dew,
And the clouds of life are few,
Jesu, may we hear thy voice,
And in thy dear love rejoice.
Then, when night and age appear,
Thou wilt chase each doubt and fear:
Thou our glorious Leader be,
When the stars shall fade and flee.
Now to thee, O Lord, we come,
In the morning’s early bloom:
Breathe on us thy grace divine;
Touch our hearts, and keep them thine.
Think gently, and as gently speak,
If thou art strong, respect the weak;
If thou art weak, from what thou art,
Judge gently of another’s heart.
For gentle thoughts and gentle words
Were ever thy dear Saviour Lord’s;
Shall worms a fellow-worm reprove,
When the great holy God is Love?
Therefore be gentle, O my soul!
Thy thoughts and words alike control;
And if thou must in aught decide,
Err ever on the gentle side.
It is difficult for most people to confront someone else regarding an offense, but sometimes confrontation is necessary. Ignoring confrontation is often what causes bad feelings to turn inward and fester into something much worse. Those ugly feelings can sit in the pit of a person’s stomach, churning away until he becomes so upset that he can hardly see straight.
Usually it’s better to kindly say what you feel and get over it than to let those raw emotions turn into an ugly monster, just waiting to crawl out at an opportune moment and attack its victim. That is frequently what happens when you allow ugly emotions to go unchecked. Confrontation may be uncomfortable, but it’s a lot less painful than having to apologize later for erupting in a fit of flesh like a volcano that spews destructive lava all over its surroundings.
This is exactly why Jesus said, “… If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). The word “trespass” is the Greek word hamartano, which means to violate a rule; to cross a line; to commit a grievance; or to miss the mark. By using this word, the Bible teaches you what to do when someone has violated you, crossed a line he shouldn’t have crossed, committed what you perceive to be a grievance against you, or seriously missed the mark of what you expected of that person: You are to “rebuke” that person for what he did.
The word “rebuke” is the Greek word epitimao, which in this case means to speak frankly, honestly, and politely as you tell a person how you feel that he has wronged you. This doesn’t mean you have to speak to him like he’s a devil; it just means you need to directly and honestly confront him.
This issue of honesty is a big one in the Body of Christ. Many believers are dishonest about what they really think and feel. Inside they seethe with anger toward someone about a perceived offense. Yet on the outside, they smile and pretend as if everything is all right. This dishonesty divides believers and keeps God’s power from freely flowing between members of the Body of Christ.
Believers put themselves on dangerous territory when they harbor hidden disagreements or secret petty grievances against other people, yet go around smiling and acting as if everything is all right. They’re not just being dishonest—they’re engaging in outright lying and deception!
When you refuse to confront an offense, you are just as wrong as the one who violated your rights and stepped over the line. Jesus said, “… If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him…” (Luke 17:3). That means if you are going to be mature in your relationships, you must learn how to confront others when you feel they have wronged you. It may be difficult to do that, but it’s a lot less painful and leaves less scars than does a soul that is filled with bitterness and resentment.
When you have to confront someone regarding an offense that you perceive he has committed against you, I recommend that you take the following three steps:
Don’t confront anyone until you’ve first made it a matter of prayer.
Prayer resolves a lot of problems by itself. There have been times in my own life when I’ve been upset with someone, only to discover after getting into the Presence of God and praying about the matter that my own attitude was uglier than the actions of the one who wronged me. Once I recognized my own sinful condition, I couldn’t hold a thing against the other person anymore; I just wanted to get my own heart right before God.
Prayer will put you in a position where God can speak to your own heart. After praying, if you still sense that you are supposed to confront the other person, make sure you pray for that person first. The Spirit of God may give you a strategy regarding what to say, as well as when and how to say it.
Believe me, taking directions from the Holy Spirit about how to confront someone will only help you. Confrontation without prayer is like barging into the middle of the fray with no preparation. Therefore, let prayer be a time of spiritual fine-tuning as you prepare to do what you need to do.
As you pray, spend a few minutes thanking God for your offender. This will help bring you to a new level so you can deal with the issue at hand in the right spirit. Remember the good things that person has done. Take time to reflect on all the enjoyable moments you’ve had with him and all the benefits you’ve gained in life as a result of that relationship. It’s difficult to remain angry at someone when you are thanking God for him at the same time!
Don’t confront anyone with a judgmental attitude.
We’ve all made mistakes—and that includes you! So assume that your offender would not deliberately hurt or offend you. Take a positive position about the other person.
When you do finally sit down to talk with the person who offended you, start the conversation by assuring him that you know he didn’t intend to do what he did. Tell him that somehow the devil got into the middle of your relationship with him through his actions—and now you want to get the devil back out of the relationship as you get your heart right with him. This immediately removes any sense of an accusatory spirit and puts the spotlight on the devil instead of on that person. The issues will still be dealt with, but from a different perspective.
Starting from this approach is much more beneficial than taking a defensive approach that treats the other person as if he were your adversary. Remember, that person is not your enemy; he isn’t on the other side of the line, fighting a battle against you. Your relationship may be going through some rough times right now, but you still need to view the two of you as being on the same side. The purpose of this time of confrontation is not to prove how wrong the other person is; it is to learn how to work together better and how to keep the channel of communication open and in the light.
Remember that you, too, have been offensive in the past.
Never forget that you’ve probably offended people in the past. You didn’t intend to do it. You didn’t even know you did it until the person later told you. You were probably embarrassed or sad when you heard how the devil had used some statement you innocently made to leave a wrong impression.
When you were in this type of situation, didn’t you want the person you had offended to tell you the truth rather than to walk around harboring bad feelings about you? Weren’t you glad when that lie of the devil was exposed and your relationship was made right again? Weren’t you thankful for the opportunity to make things right with that other person?
So when someone offends you, remember that you’ve stood in his shoes in the past. Were you forgiven at that time? Were you shown mercy? Now it’s time for you to show the same forgiveness and mercy to someone else that has previously been shown to you.
If you still feel the need to confront the person who offended you after following these three steps, you should now be able to do it with the right attitude. You have prayed about the matter; you have been in the Presence of the Lord. Now your heart is free, liberated from negative feelings and attitudes toward that person. You are finally in a position to go to him or her in a spirit of love and reconciliation instead of in a spirit of accusation. As Jesus said, “… if he repent, forgive him” (Luke 17:3).
The word “forgive” is the Greek word aphiemi. It means to set free; to let go; to release; to discharge; or to liberate completely. It was used in a secular sense in New Testament times in reference to canceling a debt or releasing someone from the obligation of a contract, a commitment, or promise. Thus, it means to forfeit any right to hold a person captive to a previous commitment or wrong he has committed. In essence, the word “forgive”—the Greek word aphiemi—is the picture of totally freeing and releasing someone. A modern paraphrase of this Greek word would simply be to let it go!
This means you and I don’t have the privilege of holding people hostage to their past actions if they repent and ask us to forgive them. If they sincerely seek forgiveness for offending us, we are obligated to “let it go.” If your offender repents and sincerely asks for forgiveness, Jesus said you are to put away the offense and no longer hold on to it. You must release those ugly feelings you’ve held against that person. You have to let it go!
- So are you able to let go of the offense that someone has committed against you?
- Are you able to put away that offense once and for all instead of dragging it up again and again?
Just as God has removed your sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), you must now decide that this person is freed in regard to that past offense. Once you forgive him, you cannot drag up the offense again and again. You have released and liberated him completely from that sin. Therefore, you never have the right or privilege to pull out that offense later and use it against him. It is gone!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, please help me have the courage to lovingly speak to those who have sinned against me. Help me know how to tell them what they did wrong and kindly ask them not to do it again. If they repent and say they are sorry, please help me forgive them for what they did and then release them completely from that grievance, never to bring it up again. Help me put that offense out of my mind forever, just as You have done so many times for me!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am courageous, bold, and loving in the way I confront people who have sinned against me. I do not hold bitterness inside my heart; instead, I politely speak to those who have wronged me so my heart can stay free and they can learn from the experience. God’s Spirit is changing me and helping me to speak to my offenders from a gracious, helpful spirit, rather than from a spirit that is bitter and critical. Therefore, the end result of each difficult situation is reconciliation and peace instead of division and discord!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Can you think of a time when someone truly forgave you for something wrong you did to him or her? When that person forgave you, what effect did this genuine forgiveness have on your life?
- Are you able to forgive others as you have been forgiven, or do you find that you keep reaching into the past to try to drag up those past issues again and again?
- Who is it that you need to confront and forgive right now? Why not spend some time in prayer and get the heart of God for this situation so you can go to that person in the spirit of Jesus and make things right in your relationship with him or her?
The right to revenge: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth,‘ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38, 39)
The right to dignity: “Do not resist an evil person, If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39b)
The right to justice: “If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” (Matthew 5:40b)
The right to freedom: “If someone forces you to go a mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:41)
The right to control my resources: “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you… Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 5:42; 6:19a, 20a, 21)
The right to hate my enemies: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.‘ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… ” (Matthew 5:43-44a)
The right to recognition: “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness‘ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1)
The right to bear a grudge: “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.” (Matthew 6:14b, 15)
The right to judge others: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1, 2)
The right to anything: “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33b)
Because, “The man who wants to save his life will lose it, but the man who loses it for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24 – Phillips Translation)