Friday, February 6, 2009
Promises for the Battle
What, then, has God promised us that ensures that we will not only gain freedom in Christ but also walk in that freedom day by day? Here are six promises God gives to those who follow Him. Promise one: Blessings. First, God promises His blessings. Two specific ones described in Scriptures are note worthy. First, He gives us "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 1:3). In addition to our salvation and a place in heaven, those spiritual blessings include our freedom in Christ and the fruit of the Spirit that come as we abide in Him and serve Him. Second, there is the special blessing that comes by meditating on the Word of God. The one who learns about Him and His plan-the one who has "his delight...in the law of the Lord, and in [that] law...meditates day and night"-is blessed (see Psalm 1:1-3, especially verse 2). But these blessings do not come without cost. For instance, we can be certain that when God opens the windows of heaven to bless, Satan will open the gates of hell to blast (Revelation 2:9-10). The lost man's greatest terror is God, but God is the Christian's greatest joy. The best measure of our spiritual life is not its ecstasies, but our obedience. When we obey, we invite Satan's wrath, but God's blessings will always overcome it. Caroline looked at me from the chair she was sitting in and said, "I have a major problem. Every time I start walking the Christian life the gates of hell open up, and the enemy himself fires his darts at me, Ken, what do I do? "Caroline, you're experiencing the Christian life," I said. "If the enemy can keep you defeated, if the enemy can keep you a prisoner of war, he will just leave you there. If you are not doing damage to his kingdom, your testimony is not going to get anybody saved. If you're not raising your children in such a way that they will see Christ and have a desire to walk with Him, then the Evil One will back off. He could care less about you. But when you start taking steps with the Lord as you just described, you invite the blasts of the enemy. It might seem difficult at first, but if you keep walking, you will find that Jesus Christ will walk with you. He will teach you how to fight the good fight. You will see fruit and blessing in your life." Caroline began to understand that this life is battle; this life is warfare. I encouraged her and said, "Many Christan's go from the cradle to the grave and never comprehend. Heaven is over yonder; the battle is here today. The Lord has told us to fight the good fight because we do it in His strength. I assure you, He will be with you every step of the way." I am happy to report today that Caroline is in the battle. She is walking with the Lord, her life is being used of God, and she is doing tremendous damage to Satan's kingdom. Promise two: the ability to do His work. God's second promise is to empower us for His work. Paul expressed this truth twice in his letter to the Philippians: "God...works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" and "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (2:13; 4:13). Ultimately, what is the goal of freedom in our lives? To do God's work, especially in soul winning. God will strengthen us for each work. In the arena of winning people to faith in Christ, the average person doesn't care about how much you know until they've seen how much you care. Part of our walking in freedom is our obedience to the Lord in serving others by showing such love and care. A man in his mid-thirties, Leroy gave me the following testimony. "I work at a tire manufacturing plant and there are several fellows there who are Christians. They were kind to me and nice even when I occasionally pulled a trick on them. They would just laugh and become part of the joke. They kept inviting me to church. One morning I showed up. They invited me to sit with them, and then one of them invited me to come home with his family after church for lunch. They just simply cared about me. I continued to go to church because of the love, care, and concern of the people. It was not the preaching, it was not the music. It was the love that was displayed to me that drew me to Jesus Christ. One day under conviction of sin I trusted Christ as my Savior." Every church should have this testimony. We have the tendency to think that it is the music, or the preaching, or the fellowship dinners that draw people. But it is the love of Christians that draws people. The writer John said we would be known by our love. The question to ask yourself is "Are you known by your love?" Promise three: Wisdom. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him," the Scripture declares (James 1:5). Our walk in freedom is a wisdom walk. In times of trial or testing, we need spiritual wisdom. We will love and support and give our lives to what we treasure most. In effect, we should not give our passion and commitment to anything that we cannot take to heaven with us. Once a doctor told me that he had just sold the family home. I knew that Elvin was about to retire; I also knew that his wife and he had three grandchildren who probably would love to visit. So I asked, "How come you sold such a lovely home?" "Who needs a 5,000-square-foot home when we're going to be traveling a great deal abroad? he answered. I said, "Well, that's nice. You and your wife can do some traveling." "Yes," Elvin told me, and then he dropped his bomb. "Myra and I are committed to spending six months out of each year on the mission field. As a retiring physician, the mission agency will still let me do surgery. If they have no one for me to operate on, my hands work real well, and they can work a shovel and I can lay cement blocks and whatever else needs to be done. We are committed for the rest of our lives to serving the Lord Jesus Christ." I was amazed but also pleased to hear that in an age when retirement is often the very goal that people strive for, work for, and save for, here was a husband-and-wife team who wanted to give those golden years to the Lord Jesus Christ to advance His kingdom. Oh, may people of this kind of character increase! Promise four: Peace. "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you" (John 14:27). During the time of storm, God's peace, "which surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:7), will sustain us on the inside as the waves beat on the outside. We must bother the Lord about everything or in time everything will bother us. That is exactly what the enemy wants. An agitated and uneasy saint (without peace) is targeted for a fall. Both meditation on who He is (consulting the Scriptures) and prayer give such peace. True, prayer can work. Perhaps that is why we are so reluctant to exercise it. But not only is prayer work, it is the greatest work. It gives us peace, and it moves the hand of God on our behalf. This leads to God's fifth promise. Promise five: Answers to prayer. God will hear and answer prayers of those who seek His help (though not always as we expect or even prefer). Jesus' commands in Matthew 7:7-9 are instructive. The three verbs that concern our prayer life are ask, seek, and knock. All are in a verb form indicating action that is continuing. In other words, "keep asking, seeking, and knocking." In verse 8, the Lord ensures the certainty of answers to our prayers. We are assured that He hears our prayers and answers them in His loving, fatherly way according to His perfect will. And it is our faith and trust in God that leads us to continue asking. Just as it would be an insult to knock once at someones door and leave, so with the lord in prayer. As the apostle James explained in his classic statement on prayer, a major reason you "do not have [is] because you do not ask" (4:2). Let's also remember that whether we pray for others or ourselves, it must be with the right motives, we will not receive because God is not going to help us fulfill selfish desires. A prayer less saint is prey for the enemy. Prayer usually determines whether our problems or God's promises have our life. The devil has temporary, limited control of our world system, which is why it is in such a mess. This alone should prompt us to pray. We ought to be so familiar with prayer that the moment the enemy shows up, our response is to call upon the Lord for help (Psalm 50:15; 91:15). when the enemy shows up, resist him and cry out to God. There is no better prescription for dealing with temptation. Promise six: Help against temptation. "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13). These words offer encouragement and assurance that it is not necessary that we fall as the Israelites did in the earlier verses of this chapter (6-10). This is a call for us to learn from the Old Testament examples. From these we learn God is with us and He will strengthen us and help us stand. The temptation spoken of in verse 13 has two important aspects to it (1) any temptation to sin comes from the enemy, never from God, and (2) it's a testing that God allows for the purpose of our refinement and purification. Through the Lord's strength we can bear the temptation and pass the test. He is not the originator of the temptation, but He is in control of the temptation. He is always available to help us through the temptation. He not only limits the temptation, but in His sovereignty supplies the means of escape. Thus, we are assured that in His perfect timing the Lord will remove the trial. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.