Archives for the month of: March, 2017

Your phone rings, and your heart flutters.  On the other end of the line is yet another bill collector making a futile attempt at debt collection.  There was a time when your phone rang incessantly, and you spent countless hours mentoring, inspiring and championing those on the other end.  You bore the burdens for countless many.  But where are they now?  Your spirit yearns for even just a few words of encouragement, as your days have been dark, and your cares have been many.

The silence is deafening.  Your well has run dry, and the takers have moved on to fertile springs.  Many would look at your circumstances and pity you as the one who once was.  I challenge you to see your situation through different lens.

Many people have a disproportionate amount of takers in their lives—self absorbed narcissists who think only of themselves.  Oftentimes, takers align themselves with givers because givers are typically selfless and seldom place requirements on takers.  However, times of trials are perfect opportunities to reassess and re-equilibrate dysfunctional relationships.  It is a time to sift the givers from the takers.

Relationships should be reciprocal and edifying.  They should have additive value.  If the people in your life take disproportionately more than they give, move on!  Chances are, they probably aren’t your friend, at least not in the true sense of the word.  It is okay to say no.  It is okay to be protective of your mental and emotional stasis.   True friends understand that it’s not always about them.  They understand that you also have desires that need to be met and hurts that need to be nurtured.  True friends give as much as they take.  While giving and taking in healthy relationships might not always be in the same arenas, the actions ultimately balance out.  If you find that your needs are just not being met, it may be time to find some new friends.

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Our delayed blessings aren’t always due to our so-called wrongdoings, strongholds or generational curses.  Sometimes, we could be in the right with God and still face calamity.

 

“Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’  ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied.  ‘Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.  But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.’  The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.’  Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord,” (NIV).

 

God knew that Job was a righteous man.  Satan’s tests were not a testament of Job’s unfaithfulness, but, instead, of his righteousness.

 

Lesson 1:  Testing builds our endurance and increases our faith.

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything,” (NIV).

 

Lesson 2:  Those who believe in God are not immune to trials and testing.

“…do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed,” (1 Peter 4:12-13).

 

Lesson 3:  God will not allow us to be tested beyond our limits.

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure,” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NLT).

 

One of the many problems that we often face when we are going through our fiery trials is that there are observers who will accuse us of living faulty lives.  Job’s wife and friends were no different.  They accused Job of secretly sinning against God.

 

“His wife said to him, ‘Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die,’” (Job 2:9)!

 

“Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished?  Where were the upright ever destroyed?  As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it,” (Job 4:7-8, NIV).

 

“Surely God does not reject one who is blameless or strengthen the hands of evildoers,” (Job 8:20, NIV).

 

Lesson 4:

When we are going through fiery trials, we have to be steadfast in our beliefs about who we are and who God has called us to be.

 

“Job’s three friends refused to reply further to him because he kept insisting on his innocence.  Then Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the clan of Ram, became angry. He was angry because Job refused to admit that he had sinned and that God was right in punishing him.  He was also angry with Job’s three friends, for they made God appear to be wrong by their inability to answer Job’s arguments,” (Job 33:1-3, NLT).

 

The details of Job’s trials might not be mirror images of our adversities, but the skeletal outline is the same.  Many of Job’s friends and family were against him.  Over and over, they falsely accused Job of sinning against God.  Job must have felt as if his back was against the wall.  Additionally, there were times where it seemed as though even his cries to God had gone unanswered.  Isn’t that the case for many of us.  During our moments of fiery trials, there is often radio silence.  During times of difficulties, some of our closest allies become some of our biggest critics.  They blame our actions, or lack thereof, for our woes.  However, we should take a cue from Job and remain steadfast.

 

Lesson 5:  The moment we pray; a command is given.

 

In the Old Testament, the prophet Daniel was disheartened by the world around him.  He often prayed for favor, guidance and deliverance.  On one of the occasions when Daniel prayed, the angel, Gabriel, appeared to him and said, “‘Daniel, I have come here to give you insight and understanding. The moment you began praying, a command was given,’” Daniel 9:22-23, NLT).

 

The moment we begin to pray, God hears us and a command is given.  Our prayers are what connect us to God.

 

Lesson 6:  Sometimes, the immediate receipt of our blessings/breakthrough could be due to a temporary blockage caused by spiritual warfare.

 

In the Book of Daniel, Daniel had been praying to God for a specific answer.  In the natural, it seemed as if his answer was tarrying.  After a period of praying and fasting, an angel presented before Daniel and he said the following to Daniel: “‘Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia,’” (Daniel 10:12-13, NLT).

 

Maybe the answer to our prayers is being upheld by a spiritual battle.  During times when it seems as though our answers might be loitering, maybe we should pray that our answers be released.

 

Lesson 7:  Prayer and faith are the spiritual armors needed to fight against spiritual warfare.

 

Ephesians 6:12 says:

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” (KJV).

 

Scripture tells us that there is a spiritual resistance surrounding us.  The enemy’s mission is to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10).  Fortunately, God have given us His Word as a defense against the wiles of the enemy.  He has also encamped his angels around us to protect us from harm.

 

Psalms 91:11-12 says,

“For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.  They will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” (NLT).

 

Hebrews 4:12 reads:

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires,” (NLT).

 

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds,” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

 

Lesson 8:  Keeping a written account of our visions/prayers helps us to remember them, recognize them, understand them, clarify them and thank God for them.

 

Sometimes our visions are blurry and even truncated.  Writing them down could allow us to thrash out the hazy details.  Additionally, reviewing past visions reminds us of God’s faithfulness.

 

Habakkuk 2:2-3 says:

“Then the Lord replied: ‘Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.  For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false.  Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay,’” (NIV).

 

As we check in with God, we may need to revise our written prayers/requests.  We need to make sure that the herald is carrying the right message.  If we don’t know what to pray, the Spirt will guide us.

 

Roman 8:26 says:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans,” (NIV).

 

Final Lesson:

 

Sometimes, we are exactly where God wants us.  What we might consider as an imposition could oftentimes be divine positioning.  Our trials aren’t always caused because of something we’ve done wrong. According to Habakkuk 2:3, the vision may linger, but it will not be delayed.  Though the answer may be blocked in transition, it’s delivery will not be prevented.  Like Daniel, we might have to fast and pray for the receipt of our answers, but we should know that once we have prayed, a command has been given.

 

 

Take home message:

 

  1. Nothing happens without God’s knowledge or consent.
  2. We will never be tested beyond our limits.
  3. Once we pray, a command is given.
  4. Write down the vision.
  5. God’s promises/answers might linger, but they will not delay.
  6. If the answer tarries, go to God in prayer using the weapons of God, which is the Word of God.

For the past few evenings, God has been nudging my heart to read the Book of Job.  If you’ve ever read the Book of Job, then you know exactly why I wasn’t jumping at the bit to read it.  It’s not the most cheery book in the Bible.  However, tonight, I decided to hunker down and sludge through the 42 chapters.  After all, it was only 20 pages in my Bible.  I grabbed my Bible; snuggled under my covers and I began to read.  I never made it past the first chapter.

 

After just a few verses, I found myself angry with God, even doubting him.  The fact that God had allowed Satan to test Job was counterintuitive to me.  I was especially mad at the fact that God was even talking to Satan.  After all, the Bible said that God detested evil and stayed far from the proud and the wicked.  Well, Satan is definitely the embodiment of all things wicked and evil.  So, why was God even chatting with Satan?

 

As I was having my existential breakdown, I contemplated whether my questions grieved the Holy Spirit.  Surely, I could have skimmed past the verses that didn’t make sense to me and pretended that my uncertainty didn’t bother me.  But what sense did that make?  God knew my heart, so, there was no point of even pretending.  Additionally, my Type A personality couldn’t allow me to move forward.  As strange, or as wrong, as it may have been, God needed to make sense to me.  At the very least, His existence had to be consistent with who He says that He is because, at first glance, my image of God in the first chapter of Job, seemed anything but consistent with who the Bible says that God is.

 

In an effort to better understand the first chapter of Job, I meditated on the words found in Job 1:6: “One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the LORD, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them,” (NLT).  I asked God for revelation.  I earnestly wanted to understand the chapter.  Moreover, I earnestly wanted to understand God’s character.  Like Solomon, I prayed for wisdom, and God gave the following revelation:

 

According to Job 1:6, the members of the heavenly court, or angels, came and presented themselves before God, and the Accuser, Satan came with them.  The phrase “presented themselves before God” seemed to suggest that the angels, including Satan, had to give an account to God for their activities/actions.  Perhaps they were going before God for judgment.   There are several passages in the Bible that corroborate the notion that even angels are subject to judgment.  For example, in the New Testament, Paul stated that believers should exercise good judgment when attempting to resolve secular disputes as there will come a time when believers will not only judge the world, but they will also judge angels as well (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).  As a sidebar, I must note that the translation of the Greek word for judge is krino, which also means to rule or govern.  I digress.  Another example that indicates that angels are also subject to God’s judgment is 2 Peter 2:4. The passage reads: “For God did not spare even the angels who sinned. He threw them into hell, in gloomy pits of darkness, where they are being held until the day of judgment,” (NLT).  Even Jude, the half bother of Jesus, weighed in on the topic by saying, “And I remind you of the angels who did not stay within the limits of authority God gave them but left the place where they belonged. God has kept them securely chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the great day of judgment,” (Jude 1:6, NLT).

 

The above passages support the notion that Satan presented to God in the book of Job, not as a peer or comrade, but as one who is subject to God’s authority.  In Job 1:7, God asks Satan, “Where have you come from?”  The question required Satan to give an account for his actions.  This is similar to when God asked Adam, “Where are you,” (Genesis 3:9, NLT)?  Considering that God is omniscient and omnipotent, we could conclude that God knew the answer in both cases. In both examples, God was not interested in unearthing the truth.  He was exposing their pride.  Proverbs 16:5 says, “The Lord detests the proud: they will surely be punished,” (NLT).  When God asked Satan about Job, God knew the status of Satan’s heart and that Satan had already set his sights on Job.  In fact, when God brought up Job’s name, Satan didn’t even flinch or pause.  He immediately knew exactly who God was talking about.  When God mentioned Job, Satan must have been ecstatic because he thought that he had finally found God’s Achilles’ heel.

 

As Satan roamed the Earthy, he must have noticed how the angels, who are at God’s command, fawned over Job.  In fact, in his accusation against God, Satan said, “… Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is!  But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face,” (Job 1:10-11, NLT)!

 

In allowing Job to be tested, God was exposing Satan’s pride.  He knew that Job was indeed faithful and that Job would not be tested beyond his limit.  Scripture tells us that God will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we could bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

 

As I attempted to conclude my studies, my reading took me back to Jude.  Verse nine was of particular interest.  It read: “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you,” (NIV)!  The verse reminded me that judgment belongs to God and God alone.  To further understand the verse, I went on a quest to find out more about the archangel Michael.  My search brought me to Daniel 10.

 

In Daniel 10, the prophet Daniel had been praying and fasting to God for an answer to a vision that he had been given.  After 21 days, an angel appeared to Daniel and advised him that that the answers that he sought had been delayed because he, the angel, had been held up by a spiritual battle that both he and Michael were still involved in.  The angel replied, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince,” (Daniel 10:20-21, NIV).

 

Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” (KJV).  Both the verses in Daniel and Ephesians remind us that there are things of this world that we do not understand and cannot explain.  There are battles and wars being wages in the spiritual realm that are beyond the scope of our comprehension.

 

In the Book of Job, Job’s spirit waned.  He eventually questioned God about the calamity he faced.  God’s answer was similar to the conclusion that we just drew.  There are things of this Earth that are simply inexplicable.  We just have to trust God and stand on his word.  “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires,” (Hebrews 4:12, NLT).  Like Daniel, we should take comfort in knowing that Word of God has power to break strongholds.  According to 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds,” (NIV).