What is God’s will for my life? What is God’s will for me today? What does God want me to do? How can I know God’s will? These are important questions that everyone of us thinks about. We all wish that we will accomplish God’s purpose and calling in our generation just as David did. Acts 13:22 speaks of David being a man after God’s own heart and when he died, it was written of him that he accomplished God’s purpose in his generation – Acts 13:36. How many of us wouldn’t want something like this be said of us when we are no more in this world? Definitely, all of want to leave behind a legacy that will be remembered, but the question is; do you know God’s will and purpose for your life and generation?
No one can ever say that he/she knows the foolproof method for always knowing the will of God in all circumstances. There are times when God leads us in a way that is so clear and obvious and there are other times when it is just a journey of faith. But I can tell you this: as Christians, we are not victims of chance. I do believe God has a plan for our lives. I do believe God has a will that He wants to reveal to us and He wants to speak it to us and actually he does speak to us. There are principles from the Bible that will enable you to discover, know, and walk in the will of God that He has for you. But first, you need to know that the will of God is not so much an itinerary as it is an attitude. Be willing to walk in the way that He wants you to. The good news is that God does not play hide-and-seek. He is more interested in revealing His will than you may be in knowing what His will is. But often we make hearing God’s voice and knowing His will too mystical.
When you put your faith in Christ, you entered into a friendship with God. Jesus said in John 15:15, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” Friends share secrets with friends. The Bible says, “The secret of the Lord is with those that fear Him” (Psalm 25:14). God, your friend and your father, wants to reveal His will to you. He wants to speak to you. God has given us a user’s manual for life called the Bible. It helps us to understand the will of God. Before we get into the specifics and try to discover His plan and purpose for our lives as individuals, let’s ask ourselves the question, “Am I already doing what God has clearly told me to do in His Word?”
Starting with the simplest of all: to know the will of God, you need to be a believer. 2 Peter 3:9 says that “the Lord is not willing that anyone should perish but that all should come to repentance.” In other words it is the will of God that you believe in Jesus Christ. By this I mean; there has to come a moment in your life when you acknowledge that you are a sinner, that you are separated from God, and that you turn from that sin and put your faith in Jesus. Having established what is obviously the will of God for every person, Romans 12:1-2 helps us discover the will of God for our lives as individuals. If you want to know God’s perfect and acceptable will for you, give yourself to God. Present yourself to Him without reservation – in other words, Total Surrender. God is essentially saying, Give me your life, and then I will show you my will. Next, don’t let this world squeeze you into its mold. When the Bible speaks of the world, it is speaking of a culture that is largely hostile to God. Live the way that God wants you to live. As you do that, you will begin to discover His plan for you. Then you will know what is the “… good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
Did you know God’s will is good? Sometimes we envision God as the ultimate party pooper. How far from the truth that is! God’s plans for you are good. The Bible tells us, “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). God is not trying to make your life miserable. He wants you to reach your potential and live in the perfect plan He has for you. His plan and purpose for you is good. The only decision God does not want us to make is the decision to sin or resist His will. God wants us to make choices that are in agreement with His will. If you walk closely with the Lord and truly desiring His will for your life, God will place His desires in your heart. The key is wanting/desiring God’s will, not your own. “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). . If you truly seek God’s will with a humble spirit and an open mind, He will reveal His will to you.
As we desire to know and do God’s will, here are some principles from God’s Word that will help you to discern what God’s will is for you.
- God does have great plans for your life! – We were created by God, in His image, for a purpose. Just as God set apart from birth Isaiah (Isaiah 49:1), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5) and Paul (Galatians 1:15) for a specific purpose, he also has a specific plan for your life. The bible reminds us “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declared the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). The Bible says that God’s will is “good, pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
- God’s will, first and foremost, is that we have a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. – This is the main reason that made Jesus leave his throne and glory in heaven to come and humble himself to appoint of death on the cross for you and for me. “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
- God wants us to be Christ’s disciples. – This means Christians must be committed to following God’s will daily, whatever the cost. “If anyone would come to me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
- The Bible will help us to know God’s will. – David said “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). As said earlier, the bible is the manual to how we should live and make decisions.
- God promises to give us wisdom if we just ask Him in prayer, believing that He will give it. - Sometimes we need to just ask God to give us wisdom to discern His will. “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” (James 1:5). In Philippians 4:6, the bible says that we can pray about everything.
- God has given us the Holy Spirit for guidance. – “…when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13a).
- We should listen to the advice of Godly men and women that God has placed in our lives. Many times a simple advice of a parent, pastor, mentor or a mature person is just what we need to hear to help us decide what God wants us to do. “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15). “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).
- There is a peace that comes when we are pleasing God with our lives. – When deciding between two alternatives that you have been praying about, sometimes one of the options will give you a greater peace. That option is probably God’s will. “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever” (Isaiah 32:17).
- We should trust God in faith that He will accomplish His will in our lives. - “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in your will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
- God has given each of us gifts and abilities to use in His service. - God always equips us to do what he calls us to do. If you aren’t gifted in a certain area, God is probably not calling you to minister in that area. (See Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 and Ephesians 4:11-13.) Remember that God’s ultimate purpose for all of us is that He would be glorified (1 Corinthians 10:31) and that the gospel and God’s kingdom would be advanced (Genesis 50:20 and Philippians 1:12)
God does not desire to guide us magically. He wants us to know his mind. He wants us to grasp his very heart. We need minds so soaked with the content of Scripture, so imbued with biblical outlooks and principles, so sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting that we will know instinctively the upright step to take in any circumstance, small or great … Through the study of Scripture you may become acquainted with the ways and thoughts of God
9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:9-14
This week has been amazing to me as well as challenging. I believe God wants us to take a critical turn in our lives and live extraordinary lives that not only honour him but also bring and draw people to himself. I have been asking myself what does God want from me in person and it triggered me to ask myself as well as God this question. What does it mean to live a life that pleases God? You cannot please God by your good works or actions. There is more to just being a good person. But this morning I took a critical look at the life of Apostle Paul and I got to what a life that pleases God looks like. We see four characteristics of a life pleasing to the Lord. They are revealed by four participles in verses 10-12. They are: “bearing fruit”; “growing in knowledge”; “being strengthened”; and “giving thanks”.
A Life That Pleases God Bears Fruit - The idea of “bearing fruit” is not that foreign to us. If we purchased a fruit tree, planted it, and took care of it we would expect to be getting fruit from that tree in a matter of years. If after many years the tree was not yielding fruit, we would feel that the tree was defective or really not a fruit tree at all. Jesus says the same is true of people who profess faith. He says, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:15-17) How can we tell if someone is professing to be a believer, but isn’t a believer? We can tell by watching their lives. If there is not a change in their living then we can conclude there is no change in their soul. Our heart and our lives go together – they are not separate. Now it is important that we remember that fruitfulness takes time. It takes time for the tree to mature.
The same is true for followers of Christ. The change might not be immediately discernable. However, over time we should be seeing a difference in the way people live. This is what Paul tells the Galatians “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.” Galatians 5:19-22.
Jesus said: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4 Jesus was very clear with his words. When you are not attached to the vine – who is Jesus and you are out there, you cannot bear any fruits. We should seek to draw closer to Him and then the fruits will come naturally. The life that pleases God is the one that glorifies God in our daily life: in how we do our job; how we treat our co-workers; the tactics we use and won’t use to make a profit; the way we handle our mistakes; the way we treat our families.
A life that pleases God is one that yearns to know God better – The life that pleases God is the one that “keeps on growing in knowledge.” It is continually seeking to know God better. But in order to understand the force of what is being said here let me state two negatives: First, growing in the knowledge of God is not the same as seeking to learn how to get more from God. Many of us are only concerned with how we can tap into God’s resources. We want to know how to get God to answer our prayers. We want to know how to get God to meet our needs and banish our problems. Take this example; if your children came to you only when they wanted something, would you feel that they loved you? Or if they spent their life studying how they could get you to give them what they wanted would you feel loved? Of course not. You would feel used. Thus, when our concern in seeking to know God better is to be able to “experience more of His blessing.” We are not loving God . . . we are using Him.
Second, growing in the knowledge of God is not the same as growing in knowledge ABOUT God. We can spend all our time mastering information about God and not have a relationship WITH God. There is always a danger of substituting facts for a relationship. The life that pleases God is the one that yearns to know more about God so that they can know God better. I think this kind of person,
- Reads the Bible not primarily for factual information but to discern the heart of God. They look for direction not merely information.
- Their prayer is not totally consumed with requests. They take time to work on their relationship with God.
- They are eager to learn of God. They want to read or to be taught anything that might help them know God better. They are like a boyfriend or girlfriend who enjoys looking at family pictures and hearing stories of the past. They want to learn anything they can that will help them know the one they love better.
- They are careful to make sure they are seeking truth and not just seeking ammunition to defend their own knowledge of God. I have to remind myself that I am to read the Bible not for primarily for writing these devotions daily . . . I am to read the Bible because I want to know God better!
A life that pleases God endures troubled times and is patient with difficult people – Paul tells the Colossians that a life that pleases God is one that is “being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might . . .” But notice the purpose of this power: it is given so we might “have great endurance and patience.” The word endurance (or perseverance) literally means to “remain under”. I would say “it means to hang in there.” It is a strength that helps us endure the troubled times of life. The word patience here has reference to the way we deal with difficult people. God gives us the strength to be patient with those people who annoy us, disturb us, and make us want to scream. God enables us to endure by giving us the strength of His Holy Spirit, and the promises of His word and by reminding us,
- He is in control that even circumstances and people cannot overthrow His plan.
- He only does what is good – you may not understand what is happening but know it is purposeful
- He never makes a mistake.
- This world is not our home. (Don’t let the happenings in the world get you down)
So in hard times don’t complain… instead – trust. Don’t walk away… listen and try to learn; don’t despair… hang on tighter
A life that pleases God is the life lived gratefully - Have you ever noticed how much we complain? At times we do not have even the time to reflect back on what God has done for us. At times, we thank God for what He’s given while at the same time feeling he should have given more. We seem to think that if God really loved us we would have fewer problems, more money, more stuff, more influence, less illness, more good times, less difficult times. But we tell God we’re grateful like we are not content or we do not mean it. If you were God, would you believe us? Gratitude begins when we realize we do not deserve the inheritance that has been reserved for us. We should spend every waking moment being grateful that God by His Spirit has pulled us from the jaws of Hell. The Lord has taken our dead end life and set it on the course for eternity. We must think often of where we would be if He had not drawn us to Him.
An attitude of gratitude grows as we learn to open our eyes to the blessings we take for granted. When was the last time you thanked God for the breath you were able to take? When did you last thank Him for your family? We also grow in our gratefulness as we see how wonderful our Savior is. Over the time, I have come to appreciate, cherish and thank God for you (most of you) more and more jot just for reading my devotions but also for the emails that I receive to encourage me. This is even more true of Christ. We have so little idea of His greatness. As we study His word and become more attuned to His character, we will naturally grow in our gratitude that we are united with one who is so magnificent.
If you take these characteristics and use them to measure your own life I would think you would feel that your life is not very pleasing to God. I know I feel that way. But instead of getting depressed, please remember two things: First, Paul is pointing to the goal. This is what we are working toward, not where we should already be. Second, we need to remember that we cannot bear fruit apart from Christ. These are not traits we can produce in ourselves by greater effort. We must remember that the key is not to work harder . . . it is to draw closer. It’s possible that you are reading this devotion today and you realize that you don’t have this kind of relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s possible that you have just been “playing along”. Friend, before you can live a life that is pleasing to God, you must receive the salvation that God offers. Today I encourage you to acknowledge that Jesus died in your stead. I invite you to tell the Lord that you are willing to trust Him for your eternal destiny.
I find this devotion as a call to a Christianity life that is more than being religious. It’s a summon call to a relationship with Christ that will transform us. It’s an invitation to a life that will invigorate us. It’s the doorway to a lifestyle that will make the world stop and wonder. If you will step out of the pretend and dreary world of superficial faith and into a genuine, humble relationship with the Lord who calls us to Himself… wouldn’t it be nice if someone could point at us and say, “Now, that’s what it’s like to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord?” May God lead us towards that end.
5“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites… 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9“This, then, is how you should pray… ‘Our Father in heaven,” Matthew 6:5-9
Jesus takes time with his disciples and he teaches them how to pray. I believe the disciples had seen Jesus go to a solitude place more often to speak to his father in heaven through prayer and thus, they too had a desire to know how to speak to him just as he did. Prayer is a vital and essential aspect in a Christian’s life and ought to be taken seriously. I do believe that we all pray and more often I know we all remember to pray more earnestly when we are in situations beyond our strength and thus we turn to God in prayer asking for his intervention. Ideally, is that the way it ought to be? No! Paul urges the Ephesians/as well as us to “…pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Ephesians 6:18. Thus, we should pray on all occasions not only when we are in trouble or in need.
Jesus teaches his disciples to pray and he gives them a way to pray. When you read the Lord’s Prayer, you get to know the order. The question I ask is; when you pray, do you pray in the manner that will please God to answer or honour your prayers? Let’s look at Solomon’s prayer when he became King of Israel in 1 Kings 3:5-10. This is what the bible says; 5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” 6 Solomon answered, 7-8 ”And now here I am: God, my God, you have made me, your servant, ruler of the kingdom in place of David my father. I’m too young for this, a mere child! I don’t know the ropes; hardly know the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of this job. And here I am, set down in the middle of the people you’ve chosen, a great people—far too many to ever count. 9 ”Here’s what I want: Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil. For who on their own is capable of leading your glorious people?” 10It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.” Note what the bible says in verse 10… “It pleased God”
Many times when we pray, we put our affairs ahead of God’s agenda and put or needs and will ahead of God’s. If you take a clear look at Solomon’s prayer, he put his needs and desires behind and asked God to guide him in the task that was ahead of him. In simple, he put God’s work or ministry ahead of him. Leading the children of God wasn’t easy, thus Solomon had to ask God for the wisdom. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all its righteousness and all the other things will be added unto you” This clearly means that when we place God ahead of our personal issues desires and will; He will go ahead and meet even our heart’s desires and will. This is so evident in Solomon’s prayer. He asked God for wisdom to govern his people and he didn’t ask God to give him power, long life, wealth or honour but when God was pleased with the prayer that he made, He gave him more than what he could have asked.
When we pray, many times we tend to think that God won’t honour our prayers. God is just and he knows what we do need even before we ask of him. Yet when we pray or ask with wrong motives as James says in James4:3; we won’t receive what we need. James urges us to pray as per the will of God as well as in the right motive. You will come to realize that apart from sin, the biggest hindrance to God answering our prayers is selfishness and praying with the wrong motives and desires. Do we seek to know God’s will when we pray? Remember Jesus saying “seek ye first…” The kingdom of God is ruled or operates as per the will of God. Thus as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “…thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” means that we ought to be ready to comply with the will of God in our lives, circumstances and situations. You will notice that when Jesus taught his disciples how to pray; he starts by acknowledging God’s will and placing God’s business first then lastly comes the prayer for our needs and wishes but woe unto us because we first pray as per our will (our needs first) then afterwards is when we as God ‘nevertheless your will be done’.
In simple words, we come with option ‘B’ to God when we pray and at times, we give God some terms and conditions to work with as per what we need. How I do pray that we will always trust God and know that whatever we ask of him, He hears and will answer us if only our prayer pleases him. If we believe that God hears prayer as per Psalms 65:2 and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), then let’s be sure we offer the kind of “Prayer That Pleases God”!
9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:9-14
What does it mean to please God? If you are like me, that simple question may leave you tongue-tied. It’s likely that you never thought about the question in such simple form. But, if you were pressed for an answer, you would probably list a number of things that you think may please God. Can we, then, please God? Is it now possible, if we are united to Christ by the Holy Spirit, if we are justified and adopted into the very family of God – to delight the Father, as the Son delights him? There is a sense in which we have been so careful to assert that you can’t earn your salvation through meriting it that we have forgotten the way the New Testament talk about the Christian life, not as a mere moral duty, but as a way of seeking to please God. Good works are not good in and of themselves but because of whom they please and praise.
As Paul puts in Romans 8:8 that those controlled by the flesh cannot please God. But that is not what we are now, if the Spirit lives in us. And so Christians ought to make their goal to please God, just like Paul did say “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it” (2 Corinthians 5:9) – not because we win our salvation this way, but because is what we were saved to do. It is then, not only possible, but imperative that we live to please God! We please God in two ways: by exalting his name in praise, and by sacrificing ourselves for the God of others. Have a look at Hebrews 13:15-16: it says “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise– the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
Firstly, God delights in the praises of his people. It is a sacrifice we are now, in Jesus, free to give him – ‘through Jesus’. This praise is a verbal activity, emanating from the mouth, and involving confession of his name. Making great the name of Jesus makes great the name of God. Exalt Jesus in your life and words, and God is pleased. Praise is not just evangelism, though it surely includes the proclamation of the good news in the world. I think God is genuinely delighted by the words and songs and prayers we address to him – not just because others are overhearing them but because they are directed to him. He is not needy for it, but he revels in it. When we praise him we offer him a sacrifice which delights him, because it is directed to him. Ephesians 5:19-20 says “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we sing in church, for example, we are not merely singing to each other – we are singing to God, for the pleasure of God. So: praise him with your lips, with a sincere heart, because it delights your Father when you do.
Secondly, in Jesus we are finally free to do what we are made to do as his creation: to please God in our acts of self-sacrifice for the good of others. We offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. It is hard not to think that Paul has in mind here the possibility of our suffering on behalf of others in an echo of Jesus’ death. Note that our self-sacrifice does not make atonement for our sin, but it does serve others and it does please God. We bear with one another, carrying each other’s burdens, as he did. It is a sacrifice that delights God’s heart, not because it wins his acceptance but because it hallows his name. Through Christ, our self-sacrifices make a sweet smell in God’s nose. So: make an offering of your whole self to God, because it pleases God when you do.
Very few believers actually believe that they are pleasing to God. Most feel some degree of forgiveness and maybe acceptance, but to think that the Lord is actually pleased with us is another matter. A person can choose to love you because of his or her own goodness, but to be pleased with you; they actually have to like your performance. With God, no one could ever be pleasing to Him based on performance. His standard is perfection, and no goodness on our part can ever compensate for our sins. We may please man with our actions, but “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It takes the precious blood of Jesus to do that. The way we receive the forgiveness that’s available through Jesus’ blood is by faith (Romans 10:9-17). When we put our faith in Jesus as our Savior, we are pleasing God. Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him.”
Faith comes from the heart; Romans 10:10 says, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” and God looks on the heart and not the actions. God told Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7 “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” God sees our actions and will deal with us about them, but only because they are inseparably linked to our hearts. Proverbs 23:7 says “for he is the kind of man who is always thinking about the cost.”Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.” It’s our hearts that really concern God, and faith in Him (trust, reliance) is what He is searching the heart for. A person whose actions are not right but who trusts the Lord is more pleasing to God than an individual who is doing the right things but has no faith in God. It’s not a case of those who act the best will get accepted, and those who act the worst get rejected. That would put some of the followers of other religions ahead of many Christians, but that is not what the Bible teaches.
This is exactly the point Paul is making in Romans 11:6: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works; then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.” There is old English for saying, “It’s one way or the other but not a combination of the two.” We’re either saved by God’s grace through what Jesus did for us, or we’re saved by what we do without Jesus, but not a combination of the two. The choice should be the obvious. Elijah is an example of a great man who lived a holy life and didn’t earn God’s pleasure with his actions. He made some serious mistakes. He ran in the face of persecution and became so depressed over it that he asked the Lord to kill him (1 Kings 19). The Lord gave him three direct commands in an audible voice (1 Kings 19:15-16), and Elijah never did two of them. Most people would think God couldn’t have been pleased with Elijah, yet Elijah was translated.
Even though our heart conditions influence our actions, we all fail in our performance to some degree. Elijah did. If God used performance as the basis of whether or not He was pleased with us, no one would ever pass the test. David says “If thou, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Psalms 130:3). Satan will accuse you and me and say, “What makes you think God will use you?” The truth is that none of us is perfect; we don’t deserve the blessings of God. Instead, put your faith in Jesus. It’s hard for some people to accept this. It has been ingrained in us that if we aren’t holy, God won’t bless us. When God looks at you, He doesn’t see your goodness – He sees Jesus. If you’re walking in faith, you use faith as the rate of exchange between you and God. God is pleased with you even though your actions don’t measure up.
Colossians 2:6 says, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” When we are born again, we come to Jesus just as we are. In fact, if a person has a lot of sin, it’s even more reason to come to Jesus. You may think I’m advocating sin. I’m not – your actions are important to you. Your holiness is important because it changes your heart toward God and not God’s heart toward you. Unholiness will hurt you. Even though God will love you just as much, you won’t love God as much. It will harden your heart toward God. It’s like eating. You must eat to stay alive, but eating is not life. If you miss one meal, will you die? If you constantly live in sin and never feed yourself spiritually, it will kill you. I am not saying you should ignore your actions. You will never do everything perfectly, but don’t let it keep you from receiving the blessings of God.
“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). You do please God through your faith in Jesus as your Savior, and you must perceive that you please Him.
“One day the wife of a man from the guild of prophets called out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead. You well know what a good man he was, devoted to God. And now the man to whom he was in debt is on his way to collect by taking my two children as slaves.” 2 Elisha said, “I wonder how I can be of help. Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Nothing,” she said. “Well, I do have a little oil.” 3-4 ”Here’s what you do,” said Elisha. “Go up and down the street and borrow jugs and bowls from all your neighbors. And not just a few—all you can get. Then come home and lock the door behind you, you and your sons. Pour oil into each container; when each is full, set it aside. 5-6 She did what he said. She locked the door behind her and her sons; as they brought the containers to her, she filled them. When all the jugs and bowls were full, she said to one of her sons, “Another jug, please.” He said, “That’s it. There are no more jugs.” Then the oil stopped. 7 She went and told the story to the man of God. He said, “Go sell the oil and make good on your debts. Live, both you and your sons, on what’s left.” 1 Kings 4:7
Many times we find ourselves in some situations that we really desire someone to come to our aid. We are so challenged and put in a fix till we feel like God has neglected us. But in real sense, that’s not the case. Paul reminds us in Hebrews 13:5 the words that Jesus promised us in Mathew 27:20 that He will never to leave us nor forsake us. He is ever with you and me and He knows and sees all that we go through. But most of the time, we tend to think and see as if we are trending/walking alone in this life each and every day, but I want to remind you this day that God is ever present and near you always. All you need is to put your faith in him and trust him in all that you are going trough.
We see this wife of the prophet in such a situation. Her husband had died and he had many debts and the debtors came and were threatening to take her sons as slaves so as to recover what her husband owed them. She is so troubled that she has nothing to do but she remembers to go and seek advice from the man of God Elisha. Elisha tells her what to do and later on we see that she was able to pay all the debts that she had and lived on the rest that she had left. Elisha tell her to go and borrow as much and many jugs and bowls as she can and then pour out the oil she had into all the vessels that she had borrowed.
If you will notice what the scripture says afterwards in verse 6 that when she started pouring out the oil into the jars that she had borrowed, the oil flowed till the last jar then when there was no more jars, the oil stopped. Sometimes, God tells us to take a step of faith and trust him totally but we do it yet with reservations within us. I believe if the woman went even to the neighboring village to borrow jars, she would get and she would have plenty of oil to sell and live on the surplus but she just concentrated in her neighbourhood. We need to stretch our faith beyond where we can see with our physical eyes. Many times we do concentrate on the situations that are so near us and thus we are not able to look ahead and see what the Lord can do. Thank God for the song “open the eyes of my heart Lord.” It is until our spiritual eyes are open, thus we can be able to behold and see what the Lord is about to do.
Remember Gehazi – Elisha’s servant? 2 Kings 6:15-17 – he wakes up only to see that they are besieged by a vast army and he was so afraid. But when Elisha prayed for him, he saw the vast army that surrounded them was more than the Syrian army. We need to ask God to open our eyes so that we can see beyond what we are facing. See beyond the storm. God tells the children of Israel to collect manna only for that day because He would provide for the next day, yet because of their little faith, some collected more and kept it for the next day only to come and meet that it was full of maggots. Sharing last night with one of my friends, he gave me a testimony and told me that “I have decided to trust in God and not allow myself to worry about my situations which are worrying”. This statement got me thinking so much and asked myself this “Have I ever had such faith to trust God in such a way?” I realized that even though I do, I always have reservations within me.
In Mark 6:34-44, Jesus tells his disciples to get the crowd seated so that they could feed, but the disciples tell him that the crowd was too large to be fed and it would require almost a whole year’s wages to have then fed to their fill. Jesus then asks them what they have and they had a boy who had two fish and five loaves of bread. Jesus takes them, prays and gives them out and tells them to distribute. Later, they collected 12 full bags of left over’s. The disciples were so worried that the people were so many yet they had no money enough to feed them. But when they entrusted Jesus with what they had, it was enough and they had surplus. The problem we have is that we want to hold onto the little that we have and we do not want to release it to God to work with it and multiply it for us and yet, when we do so, we have reservations and sometimes we end up regretting why we did release.
Remember the window of Zarephath during the days of famine in 1 Kings 17:10-16; Elijah tells her to make some bread for him and water. She tells Elijah that she has little left for her and her son to eat and then await death. But look at what happened when she obeyed. She never lacked till the famine period was over. For some of us, all we need is just to obey and release what we are really holding onto for God to move in our lives and situations. Release yourself and allow God to take control in all your circumstance. He works with what we have if only we allow him to take control. Do not allow him with restrictions. Let him have the whole of you and what you are so that He can do as he wills.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…” Psalm 46:1-2
Do you remember a time in your life when you felt really bad, you were scared, depressed, and hopeless? You felt like you had nobody to help you. You felt like you wanted to end this meaningless life and you needed a place to find refuge? A refuge is a shelter or sanctuary, it’s a place that covers, and provides shelter or protection from danger or distress; it’s a place that offers rest and security. Many times in the Word of God, we see the people who ran to God in times of trouble. They cried out to God, knowing that He would hear them and that He would be with them. They trusted that God would be their refuge. They sought refuge in God because He loved them and that He was faithful, and they knew that He would protect them. They felt secure because God was strong. They believed His promise that He would always be with them. Just like them, when we are facing trials or storms, we must learn to run to God. We need to believe His word and trust Him. He is our Father and He loves us and cares about us. We need to realize that He is sovereign, and He is trustworthy. We can rest in the midst of our storms, knowing that He is in control.
Have you ever experienced God as a fortress in your life? Have you ever asked for God’s help? Then, if God is our ever-present help, why don’t people seek God’s help whenever they are in trouble? I think there is only one reason. We don’t know God enough to ask His help. We don’t ask help from strangers, do we? We need to know God better and better day after day in order to seek His help whenever we are in trouble. How can we know God better? David suggests a way to know God better. Look at vs.10. “Be still, and know that I am God”. Being still has both literal and metaphorical meaning. Literally it means keeping the body still without any movement. Metaphorically it means keeping the mind still without any movement of thoughts or feelings. Have you ever tried to keep your mind still like that? We usually call it meditation.
If you look directly at the Sun, you cannot see it. You go blind. But you can see the reflection of Sun in a pool if the water remains still. Just like this, God cannot be seen directly. We can see only the reflection of God in our mind if and only if the mind remains absolutely still without any kind of movement. Not only Christianity but also almost all the other major religious traditions in the world tell us that God can be seen and known only with a pure heart and a clear mind. I believe our minds need a daily shower just like our body because our mind gets covered with dirt like excessive guilt feeling, anxiety, fear, hatred and jealousy. Just as a child jumps onto the lap of his mother with all the dirt on his body, and the mother washes all the dirt off of his body, we need to present ourselves to God, our dear parent in heaven, as we are, with all the dirt. If we open up our heart totally to God, He will make us clean of all the dirt. An infant can’t see very well just because he can’t focus his eyes. As he grows up, he tries day after day to focus better, and finally he gains the ability to see very well. Similarly, our mind’s eye needs focusing. Meditation is basically an exercise to train our mind to focus. If we can spend a few minutes everyday to try to focus our mind by keeping it still, we will eventually be able to see an amazingly different world.
David declares that the nations rage, the kingdoms totter. There are wars, some physical and some spiritual which are being carried out today – yet he continues to invite us to come and behold the wonderful works. Such confidence does not come from individual strength within, but from conviction that the LORD is leading one’s life even if it means death of the Lord. The devil’s purposes are thwarted by one little word. It is no secret and it is not magic; it is the Name of the LORD. It is the name which is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD. Our confidence and our security must come from the fact that He is God, He is unchanging, He is faithful, He is reliable, He is dependable, and He alone provides our security. He promised us in His Word that He will never leave us or forsake us (Romans 13:5). He is always with us. We can find comfort knowing that He is our refuge in good and bad times. He’s our refuge when we’re on the mountain and when we’re in the valley.
So, I just want to encourage you that whatever you are facing, God loves you, He cares about you, and He wants to be your refuge. He wants to shelter you and cover you and protect you. If you are you weary and tired, His word says, that He wants to give you His strength (1 Peter 4:11). If you need direction for your life, He wants to guide you and give you wisdom (James 1:5). If you are you sad or depressed, He wants to give you His joy (Psalm 6:11) If you are you lonely or grieving, He wants to comfort you and give you His peace (2 Corinthians 1:4). “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. O my strength, I sing praise to You; You, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.” Psalm 59:16-17.
Don’t you ever forget that your God is a mighty, saving God. Yes, the LORD is truly and always will be the believer’s Refuge and Strength. Whenever you think things are getting a little tough or, a whole lot tough – whenever questions begin to arise in your mind as to whether God really is aware of you and your problems, remember that yours is a God about whom we can boldly say: God is our Refuge and Strength. Yes, a mighty Fortress is our God. He has freed us from every bondage which wants to bind us for eternity. He was in the ancient, He is today in your life and He will ever be such a God to the ends of time and beyond. Yes, God truly is our Refuge and our Strength.
A while back in the beginning of the year I did share about prayer – how to pray, what hinders our prayers and how to listen to God and hear him as we pray to him. (For more, check on the Series tab on the blog). Sometimes we do pray but miss some key elements in our prayers or else we pray amiss as James tells us in James 4:3 Nevertheless, Revelation 5:8b tells us that our prayers and worship are like a sweet smelling incense before God and thus John tells us that our prayers are kept in a bowl before God and he always remembers us and answers us when the opportune time comes. The problem with us is that most of us do not want to wait for the right timing of God to come. We are always in a hurry to have our prayers answered.
At times, we come to God when we are double minded and thus, we do not receive what we want from God. James tells us that a double minded person will not receive anything from God no matter how hard he tries to ask. As noted, I have found myself at times going before God in prayer but yet at the back of mind it’s like I already have a solution (plan B just in case God fails) and I have found myself going for the plan B that I have and it fails me on the way. I have noted that when God sees that we have an option, He allows us to go ahead with our plans till we reach a dead end simply because it is an indicator that we do not trust Him fully that he can take care of us. That is what is known as the permissive will of God. We need to understand that there is the permissive and the perfect will of God.
In the permissive will of God, He allows us to do what we think is right to us though He knows that it is not his will. Working on the permissive will of God is not pleasant at all because at the end of the day, we will come to a dead end and we will pay the cost of getting back on track and do or follow the perfect will of God. What then do we need to do so that we can be sure that we pray effectively? We need to know the following principals for our prayers to be effective.
- Our prayers will not be answered unless we have a sincere, true faith. Jesus states explicitly: “What things so ever ye desire, when you pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). To the father of a demon-possessed boy, He spoke these words: “all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). The bible exhorts us in Hebrews to draw near to God “with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22), and James encourages us to ask of God “in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:6; James 5:15).
- Prayer must also be made in Jesus’ name. Jesus Himself expressed this principle when He said: “And whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). Our prayers should be made in harmony with the person, character, and will of our Lord (John 14:13).
- Prayer can only be effective if it is made according to the perfect will of God: “And this is the confidence that we have in him; that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14). One of the petitions that Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer confirms this: “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2; note Jesus’ own prayer in Gethsemane, Matthew 26:42). In many instances we know God’s will because He has revealed it to us in the Scriptures. We can be sure that any prayer that is truly based upon the promises of God in His Word will indeed be effective. Elijah was certain that the Lord God of Israel would answer his prayer with fire and later with rain because the prophetic word of the Lord had come to him (1 Kings 18:1), and he was fully confident that none of the heathen gods was greater than or even as powerful as the Lord God of Israel (1 Kings 18:21-24). At other times God’s will becomes clear only as we earnestly seek to determine what it is. Then once we know His will about any given issue, we can pray with confidence and faith that God will answer (1 John 5:14).
- Not only must we pray according to God’s will, but we must be in God’s will if we expect Him to hear and answer us. God will give us the things we ask for only if we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). John says: “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22). Obeying God’s commandments, loving Him, and pleasing Him are indispensable conditions for receiving answers to prayer. When James wrote that the prayers of the righteous are effectual, he meant both a person who has been made righteous by faith in Christ and one who is living a righteous, God-fearing, and obedient life. (James 5:16-18; Psalm 34:13-14). God made clear that Moses’ prayers on behalf of the Israelites were effective because of his obedient relationship with the Lord and his loyalty to Him (Exodus 33:17). Conversely, the psalmist claims that if we cherish sin in our lives, “the Lord will not hear” our prayers (Psalm 66:18; James 4:3). This attitude was the main reason why the Lord turned his ear away from the prayers of the idolatrous and wicked Israelites (Isaiah 1:15). But if God’s people repent of their sins and turn from their wicked ways, the Lord promises to again turn His ear toward them, forgive their sins, and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14; 2 Chronicles 6:36-39; Luke 18:14; Exodus 26:33).
- Finally, for prayer to be effective we must be persistent. This is the main point of the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-7; 18:1). Jesus’ instruction to “ask . . . seek . . . knock” in Matthew 7:7-8 teaches perseverance in prayer (Matthew. 7:7-8). Paul also encourages us to be steadfast in prayer (Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians. 5:17). For example, only as long as Moses persevered in prayer with his hands lifted toward God were the Israelites successful in their battle against the Amalekites (Exodus 17:11). After Elijah received the prophetic word that rain was coming, he still persisted in prayer until the rain came (1 Kings 18:41-45). On a previous occasion, this great prophet had persistently and earnestly prayed for God to give life back to the dead son of the widow of Zarepath until the Lord answered his prayer (1 Kings 17:17-23).
After knowing the principles of effective prayer, there are also some scriptural elements and methods of effective praying that I have learnt and I what to share with you.
- To pray effectively, we must praise and adore God (Psalm 150; Acts 2:47; Romans 15:11).
- Closely related and equally important is thanksgiving to God (Psalm 100:4; Matthew 11:25-26; Philemon 4:6).
- Sincere confession of known sins is essential to the prayer of faith (James 5:15-16; Psalm 51; Luke 18:13; I John 1:9).
- God also instructs us to petition Him according to our needs; as James writes, we do not receive the things we want because we do not ask, or we ask with wrong motives (James 4:2-3; Psalm 27:7-12; Matthew 7:7-11; Philemon 4:6).
- And we must pray fervently for others (Numbers 14:13-19; Psalm 122:6-9; Luke 22:31-32; 23:34).
How do we pray then? Jesus emphasizes the sincerity of our heart, for we are not heard simply for our empty words (Matthew 6:7). We can pray silently (1 Samuel. 1:13) or we can pray out loud (Nehemiah 9:4; Ezekiel 11:13). We can pray in our own words or using the words of the Scriptures. We can pray with the mind or we can pray with the Spirit (i.e., in tongues, 1 Corinthians 14:14-18). We can even pray by groaning, (not using any human words) (Romans 8:26), knowing that the Spirit will bring those inaudible requests to the Lord. Yet another method of praying is singing to the Lord (Psalm 92:1-2; Ephesians 5:19-20; Colossians 3:16). Earnest prayer to the Lord will at times be accompanied with fasting (Ezra 8:21; Nehemiah 1:4; Daniel. 9:3-4; Mark 9:29; Luke 2:37; Acts 14:23; Matthew 6:16).
You may ask what posture is appropriate for prayer? The Bible records praying while:
- standing (1 Kings 8:22; Nehemiah 9:4-5)
- sitting (1 Chronicles 17:16; Luke 10:13)
- kneeling (Ezra 9:5; Daniel 6:10; Acts 20:36)
- lying on a bed (Psalm 63:6)
- bowing down to the ground (Exodus 34:8; Psalm 95:6)
- lying upon the ground (2 Sam. 12:16; Matthew 26:39)
- Lifting up hands to heaven (Psalm 28:2; Isaiah 1:15; I Timothy 2:8).
The Bible is filled with examples of prayers that were powerful and effective.
- Moses had numerous intercessory prayers that God answered, even when He had told Moses that He would follow a different course of action.
- A repentant Samson prayed for one more opportunity to fulfill his life’s task of defeating the Philistines; God answered this prayer by giving him strength to pull down the pillars of the building in which they were celebrating the power of their gods (Judges 16:21-30).
- The prophet Elijah had at least four powerful prayers answered, all of which brought glory to the God of Israel (1 Kings 17-18; James 5:17-18).
- King Hezekiah became sick and was told by Isaiah that he would die (2 Kings 20:1; Isaiah 38:1). Feeling his life and work were incomplete, Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed intensely for God to give him more time. God sent Isaiah back to Hezekiah, assuring him of healing and fifteen more years of life (2 Kings 20:2-6; Isaiah 38:2-6).
- Daniel undoubtedly prayed to the Lord in the den of lions, asking for deliverance from their mouths, and the Lord granted his request (Daniel 6:10, 16-22).
- The early Christians prayed earnestly for Peter’s release from prison, and God sent an angel to free him (Acts 12:3-11; Acts 12:5).
Such examples should fill us with holy desire and faith to pray effectively according to the principles outlined in the Scriptures.
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
We often struggled in what it looks like to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul and mind. Jesus said that doing so was obedience to the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37). What comes out of our hearts when we love God, through our relationship with Christ as Savior, is the second greatest commandment. We are enabled to love our neighbors as ourselves. Those who annoy us, serve us, teach us, hate us, or who desperately need us to act – we can love them all because we as sinners have been loved. Our heart is the seat of an obedient life, and it impacts our ability to sync with the will of God. Both Jesus Christ in the New Testament and Solomon of the Old Testament considered the heart to be a significant factor in our relationship to God. We must protect it so that what comes out of us is the life of the redeemed in Christ, not a life controlled by sinful desire.
The Hebrew word nasar, when translated means “keep,” and it carries the strong idea of protection or guarding. The word is used 10 times in Psalm 119 to stress the necessity of “keeping” (guarding, protecting) the instructions in God’s Word: “testimonies, statutes, laws, precepts, and commandments.” Everything written down and decreed by God is worth guarding. The importance of guarding our hearts is emphasized since it is the source for the “issues of life.” Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” Luke 6:45. Our “heart” is indeed the key to much in our life. It is no wonder that the first commandment of all is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all your mind, and with all thy strength” (Mark 12:30).
Why should we guard our hearts? Verse 23 says “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of your life”. The treasure that Solomon is concerned with is our heart. Not the blood-pumping muscle that keeps us alive, but our mind, emotions, and will; the very center of our being. What we are told to do is keep our heart with all diligence. As I said earlier, the word ‘keep’ means “to guard.” It was used in the Old Testament to mean to guard diligently against the enemy, or to regulate with careful discipline, or to maintain the proper supplies. Why is all this over our mind, emotions, and our will? Because what’s inside of us, our thoughts, our priorities, our desires, the sum total of all that we allow into our eyes and ears and our mind is what comes out in our actions and our words. That’s what verse 23 means when it says for out of it spring the issues of life.”
How can we guard our hearts? Here are a few important principles that we must guard if our hearts are to produce the good “issues of life.” Verse 24-27 tells us this.
a) You need to watch what you say. - Did you know that our mouths get us in trouble? The problem is we say what we think. If it’s inside of us it will come out of our mouth. God tells us in verse 24 to put away from us a deceitful mouth and perverse lips.
i. “Deceitful” – distorted, crooked, and false – This refers to anything we say that distorts what is true and what is right. While we may not always outright lie, we sometimes distort the truth don’t we? Or what about when we bring that corrective action notice home? And we say, “I didn’t do anything wrong, honest!” We need to say only what’s right!
ii. “Mouth” – from a word which also means “edge or side”, or “two-edged” Say one thing, mean another. Could refer to suggestive speech.
iii. “Perverse” – “crooked” related to a word which means “to complain” or “to murmur”. Be careful. Our words betray what’s in our heart. Are you constantly putting others down? Do you say things to hurt others? Are your words and your conversations less than pure? Matthew 12:34-36 – “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart[a] brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment.”
b) You need to watch what you see - Verse 25 says: ‘Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you’. Notice the word “look” this means to look intently at, by implication, to regard with pleasure, favor, or care. I wonder what God often feels about you and me. Far too often our minds are not focused on the things of God but on the garbage dumps of the world. If we are not to be honest, some of us, even though we are children of God have a passion for trash. We read trashy books and magazines. We watch trashy shows on TV. We go to trashy movies. We visit trashy sites on the internet. We use trashy language. We tell trashy jokes name them. In the early days of computers there was a phrase that was often heard: “Garbage in; garbage out!” What it meant was that if you put in bad programming into the computer you would get bad results from the computer. The same is true when it comes to the human heart and mind, this holds true: “Garbage in; garbage out!” If we really want to fully experience the new life God has given us, we must get out of the garbage business. We must quit hanging around the garbage dump all the time. We must focus our minds not on earthly things, but on the things of God. Whatever you and I are programming into our minds is ultimately come out one way or another. Satan takes what you allow into your minds and then uses it to make you hungry for sin.
If we cannot control our thoughts, then we will have little success controlling our bodies. Mark 7:20-23 says: And He said, “What comes out of a man; that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” What our minds dwell upon determines our actions. Do we know how we sin? James 1:14-15 says: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death”. We first have a thought, and then we act on it. First we have a desire that comes from inside of us. Then we have a choice. Colossians 3:2 ‘Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. Many of you here are innocent and you haven’t been feeding your minds with garbage’. Praise God! Stay that way. Romans 6:19 says: “I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.” We need to keep our eyes on Jesus and what is right. Put on the blinders. Determine as the Psalmist did: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes…” Psalm 103:3.
c) You need to serve – How many of you have really given serious thought about the implications and direction of your life and the decisions you’re making right now? Whether you realize it or not, the decision you are making at this time in your life, or lack of decisions, and the life you are living, is setting you on track for life. Years from now you may wonder how did I get here? Why are these things happening to me? Very likely they will be the result of the direction you’re heading at this time. Let me ask you… Who are you serving? Who is your master? Is it God? Your friends? Oh, you’re a slave to something. If it’s the world, you’re going to want to dress like the world, look like world, talk like world and do everything like the world does.
d) If we seek God with all our hearts, we will find Him (Deuteronomy 4:29; Jeremiah 29:13).
e) We must believe with our hearts if we are to be saved (Romans 10:9; Hebrews 11:6).
f) If we hold on to iniquity in our hearts, God will not hear our prayers (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:1-2)
g) If our hearts do not condemn us, then we will have confidence with God (1 John 3:21).
Guarding your heart doesn’t mean you wait around for someone to confront you on sin in your life, or that you idly rest in nominal Christianity. It means that you have to situate yourself in a place to receive instruction and give honor to what is good. You actively humble yourself to faithful Christians who are mature than yourself. Where have you placed yourself? Choose to walk in a straight path. This means that our daily choices should reflect the same as our values. They should be based on a redeemed relationship in Christ. Walking a straight path is difficult when your heart is not fully devoted to God. Most of us choose devotion to ourselves, love interests or even food – much more readily than we do Christ. Our choices should reflect our devotion to God in Christ, a place of humility as God’s grace is heaped upon us to do what is right.
We all have things in our lives that we need to confess. Some of us have things we need to go before God and leave them at his feet. Some of you have things at home in your bedroom you need to destroy. Are you ready to make your life count for God? Purpose that your mind and your heart will not be the garbage dump for Satan. Decide right now that you will keep your heart pure for God’s use and God’s alone? Have you allowed your heart to become defiled? Go to God in prayer and confess and He will make your heart as white as snow. Are you willing to stand up before God and say that by His grace you will watch what you say, what you see, and what you serve? Remember “He that walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart” (Psalm 15:2) will live forever with the Lord of heaven and earth.
“Happy are they who dwell in thy house; continually do they praise Thee. Selah. Happy is the man who has strength in thee, in their heart the pilgrim-ways. Who going through the valley of misery use it for a well; and the pools are filled with water.” Psalm 84:4-6
We all live in three places. We have public lives - the life we live at work, church in public meeting places; private lives - the life we live at home and around close friends and family; and our personal lives - the life we live in our thoughts and the deep cavities of our hearts. God wants to invade our space. Not just on Sunday’s, but Monday through Saturday, at work, in the mall and in the car. He wants to invade our thoughts and hearts with His presence and glory. You see, He changes our atmosphere with His presence. Worship is the avenue whereby God invades our space with His grace and changes whatever is unholy into holy.
Our atmospheres need to be changed. Once I was in a spiritual wilderness – a dry, barren place in my spirit. Was I in sin? No! Trouble, maybe; but more important, I was right where God wanted me… This was the place where I would be forced to find fresh spiritual water. Yes, fresh water can sometimes be found in used sources. Remember, our bodies are subject to the power of time and age, but the Spirit is timeless – this is where God lives and this is where He calls us to live. Since the river of worship flowing from heaven’s throne never stops, it was obvious that my ability to draw had become hindered. Like a water pipe, we can become clogged with spiritual and emotional debris or build-up that affects the flow of worship in our lives. Just because we lead people in worship doesn’t mean that we always enter into worship ourselves.
As I plugged into God’s presence in worship, it caused me to remember the power of God and the flow of the Holy Spirit in worship in my life. I found myself recognizing the “place” where I was. The ‘place’ where I found myself was different. I had become “misplaced”. Not the physical place but the spiritual place. Like Moses, I recognized the place as the “Rock” where God’s glory was passing by, covering and transforming me. Can you remember the place where God transformed you? The place where He hid you and when you left that place people knew you had been with God? The place where Moses was hid on the “Rock” beside God that day is a shadow and type of Jesus. He has provided a place beside the Father for us and through Him and by Him we stand in God’s presence.
Like a deep well, I was drawing again from the wells of worship and the water was still fresh and my spirit renewed! When wells are dug, they tap into water stored in rocks deep beneath the surface called groundwater. This groundwater is a part of the water table, which is rain water that seeps into bedrock and other porous stone located in the earth’s crust. When the water is discharged from a well and is not recharged by rain, the water table is lowered and the well can run dry. For many, worship is surface water that runs off after Sunday rains, but the Psalmist speaks of the continual praise being like a well from which we daily draw; deep from the water table of our private and personal relationship with Jehovah. A place located in the depths of our soul that is recharged by the rain of heaven. It is so bad that we run dry when we draw and we do not recharge these spiritual wells within.
How do we then tap in and draw from this well of worship that never runs dry so that we can be refreshed when we need to recharge our spiritual wells within us? We need to grow in worship and for us to grow, we need to know and remember the following:
a) Remember, God did the work – Exodus 20:2 – “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” God initiates worship by His acts of redeeming love; we must respond appropriately.
b) Worship the right thing – Exodus 20:3 – “You shall have no other gods before me” Deuteronomy 6:4-5 – “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul and strength”. “Worship” must have the right object. How you live your life affects your worship
c) Know who you’re worshipping – Exodus 20:4 – “You shall not make for yourself an idol …” John 4:24 – “worship in Spirit and in Truth”. Here, we speak about Clarity - worship Him as He truly is, not as we imagine or want Him to be. How you know God affects your worship.
d) Don’t take it lightly - Exodus 20:7 – “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God …” Matthew 6:9 – “Hallowed be your name”. You need to worship with integrity - worship with sincerity and reverence, never using His name carelessly or inappropriately. How you treat the time affects your worship.
e) Receive God’s work in your life – Exodus 20:8 – “Remember the Sabbath day …” Hebrews 4:11 – “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest …” You cannot worship God when your mind is tired. You need to be receptive of the situations and circumstances around you. Worship is God’s gracious invitation to enter His rest.
f) Learn a life of submission - Exodus 20:12 – “Honor your father and your mother, so that …” 1 Corinthians 14:33 – “God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (v40). We need to approach God’s throne with humility. Worship involves submission to God’s appointed order, to the Head and Body.
g) Offer your whole life (style) – Exodus 20:13 – “You shall not murder … commit adultery … steal … give false testimony … covet”. Leviticus 19:18 – “Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” How charitable are you? - worship involves the daily devotion to acts of love, justice, mercy & righteousness. How you love others affects your worship
You may be saying that “I don’t think I’m worshipping right …” Draw near to Him anyway, God provides the perfect worship (sacrifice) for you. Have you become spiritually “misplaced”? Are you spiritually dry? Often we try to draw from the surface waters of new songs, arrangements or musical styles. Fresh water is only found deep in the rock. Many people define worship as a category of music but to really experience God we must go deeper. Tap into the spiritual bedrock of God’s presence and find the springs that never run dry.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)
Lately I have been re-examining why I do what I do. Why do I worship? Why do I sing the songs that I sing? Why do we even sing songs in church ? Why do we do the same things over and over again when we are not really seeing any different results? Why does pastor get up and preach? Couldn’t we watch some TV church and hear the same message? Do we do it out of love for God, or do we do these things because that’s how we’ve always done it? Why do I write the devotions that I do write each and everyday without taking into consideration that some will read and others won’t read? Does the bible say, “This is how to have a good and a content life?” or are we in a rut with what we do. Someone told me once that you’ll go insane if you keep doing the same thing and expect different results.
If you are like me, and you have been asking yourself these same questions, I think we need to examine our lives. The scripture above said “Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” Let me ask you a question. Are you giving every part of your life as an offering to God, or are you just giving Him your Sunday morning? That one question could make the difference between a true, pleasing child of God and a religious hypocrite. If you are more concerned with the style, volume, or age of the songs than you sing; what you do or how you do it as you offer up true praise to God, you might have a religious spirit. What I am saying is this. If you are not living a life of true worship from Monday to Saturday, God could care less about what you do on Sunday. David said it best in Psalm 51:16-17, “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Look at how The Message bible paraphrase says the same thing, “Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love do not for a moment escape God’s notice.”
Did you catch that? In the Old Testament, a person could only approach God with a sacrifice or offering. It’s how you showed your devotion and worship. But David understood that above the sacrifice and offering, God truly desired a heart that was broken and humbled before Him. That is not something that happens overnight, but it is something that can only be accomplished through a lifestyle of humility and worship. The Message bible says that if we just sing the songs, give our offering, and listen to the preacher—we are just going through the motions, and just giving a performance. There is nothing spiritual to that. But when we live a constant life of devotion to God, when we have spent time in His presence every day, and when we have taken time to worship Him in every area of our lives, what is our Sunday morning “routine” will be completely changed. We will no longer sing only when we like the songs or give only when we like the message. That is selfishness. But when we are surrendered, we will sing because we want to offer a true sound of praise to God, we will give because we know that God will use our offering to further His kingdom. And we will not be able to sit still until we are serving God in some capacity of ministry.
God created us to live a life of worship. Worship was never meant to just take place on a certain day or place. Nor was it ever meant to be orchestrated, contrived, nor be artificial or unnatural in any way. Worship is not so much just about how one “feels.” It is demonstrating how we love, adore and appreciate God for who He is! True worship springs from a heart that is devoted to God. Yes, it is good to come together to worship the Lord as well. We in our selves have no power. Through His indwelling Holy Spirit we access His power. Together if or when we are truly in one accord we can really “magnify” the Lord together! This is why we come together to fellowship and worship. It is during this type of corporate or community worship we nurture an atmosphere that welcomes the infilling presence of His Holy Spirit! As we sincerely worship and praise Him, we lift HIM UP! Together this is or can also become a means or catalyst when His Spirit draws unbelievers…
Always keep in mind God knows if our praise is authentic or not. Quite often it is more important to impress others rather than to sincerely express oneself to God. It really is not how things appear. God knows our hearts and our true intentions! Often, some of us, not all, settle for a surface superficial worship and relationship with the Lord. Some know how to “do church worship” but do not really realize that God wants us to daily walk in the Truth of His Word. Many have learned to “go to church,” then go right back to a quite worldly lifestyle. Please don’t get me wrong. You don’t have to have an unhappy, legalistic, rigid lifestyle in order to praise God. As believers it is very important to have an ever growing personal intimate relationship with the Lord. “The JOY of the Lord is our strength.” We can have fun and enjoy the things in life… His joy is not contingent on our circumstances.
The life of a worshipper has the following characteristics:
a) A Thankful Life – To live a life of worship before God requires a thankful heart and attitude. Thanksgiving is a gate into the presence of God and as we give Him thanks and praise, He comes and dwells with us. Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 5:19-20 to “make melody in our hearts to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things.” Thankfulness changes things. It changes attitudes, changes us, and changes situations. A good example is Jonah In Jonah 2:7-10. When we love God and have a thankful heart we are able to rise above the circumstances we find ourselves in. See also 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and Philippians 4:4. As we consider what God has done, is doing and will do in our lives, it brings us into closer intimacy with Him.
b) A Sanctified, Holy Life – If we are to be true worshippers of God, we are to be a holy people, separated unto Him - Holy in speech, thought and deed. Matthew 5:8 - “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” God is a holy God and without holiness none of us will see God. We are to be holy for He is holy. We must be people who yield to God’s Spirit for it is as we yield ourselves to His Spirit; He changes us from glory to glory. Joshua 24:15 - “Choose ye this day whom you will serve”. When we allow Christ to be revealed in our lives, there comes a hunger for purity and righteousness. We must crucify daily the deeds of the flesh with its passions and desires. Paul said to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 6:12 - “You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections.” Let us set our affections on things above. Constantly presenting ourselves as living sacrifices.
c) A Repentant Heart – God is looking for people that constantly come with a repentant heart seeking His cleansing and knowing that it’s only by His grace that we can enter into His presence. One of the reasons why God said that David was a man after His heart was because he would always come to God in repentance when he made mistakes.
d) A Humble Heart – By function, you should be committed to serving. You should be constantly involved with people whom you are leading. There should be more concern about the “people” of worship than the “music” of worship. A true worshipper recognizes that without Christ he can do nothing. God detests pride and if we ever get to a place where we think we’ve got it together and are better than others, then we are in a serious trouble. Reflect on Luke 18:9-14.
e) An Obedient Heart - A true worshipper is obedient to God’s commands because they don’t want to in any way grieve the one that they love. God considers obedience far more important than any external expression of worship. 1 Samuel 15:22 – “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to heed than the fat of rams.”
f) A Lover of God’s Word – It is in God’s Word that we discover more of who God is – His character and nature. God can speak to us in a number of ways, but the most common way is by bringing revelation through the reading of His Word. As a worshiper, you need to soak yourself into the word of God and dig deep so as you know God personally and intimately so that when you come into His presence, He knows you and you know him thus, no one is beating about the bush. It is only through his word that you can get to know him intimately.
g) He has a passion for God’s presence – In Him is our life, our health, our peace, our prosperity, our hope, our joy. He has created us so that everything we need is in Him. God’s command is that we love Him with our whole being – body soul mind and spirit. We must realize that there is a longing within us that cannot be satisfied by anything else, but our intimate communion with Him. We must so desire His presence in our lives that we allow nothing to take His place, or to distract us from knowing Him. No one else, nothing else can fulfill the cry of our hearts. God the Father desires a people who are awakened in their affections and passions for Jesus. Like Mary in John 12:1-8, a true worshipper is prepared to give extravagantly unto God, holding back nothing. God requires our all and when we give it, the rewards are beyond compare. When you look at Mary’s sacrifice:
- It cost her, a lot in monetary terms.
- Was an act of public humility.
- Opened her up to criticism of the guests,
- It challenged the other not so devoted guests.
We constantly must ask the question – “Can I ever pour too much cost, time and effort into achieving greater levels of worshipping God? When we consider Christ’s love and sacrifice we realize that we could never give too much back to God.
h) A Person Of Faith – A true worshipper becomes a man or woman of faith because he has built a relationship with God and has come to know His attributes. They therefore have the confidence to believe that He will perform what He has promised e.g. David and Abraham.
Benefits of living a life of worship
(i) You have God’s attention. When we draw near to Him, He draws near to us.
(ii) You enjoy kingdom living. i.e. righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.
(iii) You have His abiding presence because God comes and inhabits (dwells, to sit down, to remain or settles on) their praises.
(iv) God’s power is released in your life. Praise creates faith to believe God.
(v) The enemy is silenced. The Devil hates the sound of Jesus’ name. In other words, praise and worship brings you into a life of victory.
(vi) Worship builds our relationship with God. As we worship we grow more and more in love with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
(vii) Worship brings our lives into order. We can be under enormous pressures and our life totally out of control but when we begin to make worship of God a priority in our lives, things are brought into right order and perspective
I assure you if you begin to sincerely praise God right where you are regardless of what is going on in your life you will begin to feel and see things differently. It is important to keep in mind that only God is SOVEREIGN! Meaning He is Supreme and more than able, everything is under HIS CONTROL! God will give you, “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD.” Isaiah 61:3 The Fruits of the Spirit should also become increasingly evident in our daily lives as we grow spiritually. God delights in our praise! Spending time with God and meditating on His Word will help deepen your desire to give Him the Glory and “Authentic” worship He so richly deserves!
“Man looks on the outside, but God looks at the heart.” I encourage you to try it this week and just see what happens. I think you’ll be amazed.