Day 479: Days of Awe and Excitement

God, in his love and mercy, is allowing disasters to strike the earth to warn all who hear that Jesus is coming back and that it’s time to get ready. He loves his children too much to bring his new kingdom to pass without warning. He knows that mankind is hard of hearing and that it takes disasters of earthquake proportions to get our attention.

These disasters are a kind of countdown, too painful to ignore, allowed by God to set the stage for the final moments of time. These labor pains will become more frequent and intense as we approach the last hour. Christ told his followers, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28, NKJV).

Does it all sound scary? Is the truth frightening? Is it really possible that the end of the world is upon us? Is this the very point in time that all the prophets in the Bible predicted would come? Can even the most devout Christians remotely understand how terribly close this earth is to the midnight hour? One thing is certain: everything appears to be falling apart, as far as the natural eye can discern.

Dear friend, hear what the Holy Spirit spoke to me about these days. Just five little words but so powerful that they awakened in me a glorious new hope and faith. Those five little words are “God has everything under control!”

If you trust God, you can look every disaster in the face and proclaim with confidence, “My God is speaking to this universe, and his power is being demonstrated. I will just stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” God has everything under control, and we are under his control. Scripture’s message for this hour is “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Let us live then in confidence and anticipation of our Lord’s coming.

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Day 478: God’s Measure of Success

Success in God’s eyes is being totally fulfilled in ministering to him. Such servants aren’t striving to “make it” or seeking earthly security. They only want to know their Lord and to minister to him.

Think about the 100 prophets hidden by Obadiah (see 1 Kings 18:4). They lived an isolated existence in caves during a severe famine for probably three to four years. These men had no outside ministry. They were completely out of the public’s view, likely forgotten by most people. They couldn’t even share in Elijah’s victory on Mount Carmel. No doubt, the world would call them failures, insignificant men who hadn’t accomplished anything.

However, God had given these devoted servants the precious gift of time. They had days, weeks, even years to pray, study and grow. God may have been preparing them for the day when he would release them to minister to his people, those who would return to God as a result of Elijah’s warnings and preaching. Others God may have simply wanted to worship before his throne and minister to him.

Years ago, the Lord blessed me with this gift of time. Before I ever pastored a church, I went into the woods and preached to the birds and trees. I had no plans, no agenda, no dreams. I only wanted to get to know God’s heart. I prayed daily, seeking the Lord and ministering to him. I marked my Bible from cover to cover. I was hidden, not seen by anyone, but God knew my address all along.

My advice is to quit looking for ministry. Spend your time seeking God instead. He knows where to find you. He’ll summon you when he sees you are ready. Forget what others are doing. Strive to be a success at God’s throne. If you’re ministering to the Lord and praying for others, you are already a success in his eyes!

Day 477: The Steps of the Humble

Let me distinguish clearly between pride and humility. A humble person is not one who thinks little of himself, hangs his head and says, “I’m nothing.” Rather, he is one who depends wholly on the Lord for everything in every circumstance. He knows the Lord has to direct him, empower him and quicken him and that he’s dead without that!

A proud person, on the other hand, is one who may love God in a fashion, but he acts and thinks on his own. At its root, pride is simply independence from God, and the proud person makes decisions based on his own reasoning, skill and abilities. He says, “God gave me a good mind, and he expects me to use it. It’s silly to ask him for direction in every detail of life.” This person is unteachable because he already “knows it all.” He might listen to someone who is higher in authority or better known than himself but not to someone he thinks is inferior.

Not one word a proud person receives is of God! It is impossible for him to judge righteous judgment, impossible to speak God’s mind, because the Holy Spirit is not present in him to bear witness to truth. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, but a good man will be satisfied from above” (Proverbs 14:12,14, NKJV).

Pride is independence; humility is dependency. The humble Christian is one who makes no move or decision without first seeking counsel from the Lord. Scripture clearly states, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:6-8). The Bible says the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord, but he cannot order the steps of an independent spirit. This is all to say God wants full control. Give it to him.

Day 476: The Power of God’s Spirit

Jesus left the earth in the first chapter of Acts. He told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit, and they did. Jesus had discipled them, but after three years of living with them, setting an example for them, they fled on the night that he was betrayed and arrested. One denied him three times; one betrayed him; one doubted to the very end, and they all fled. He warned them, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41, ESV).

It wasn’t until the Holy Spirit came that things turned around. That’s what the Lord gave us. “The Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).

You can have all the teaching, guidebooks and study guides — they all have their place — but unless God does a work inside of you by his Spirit, you’re just going to act more moral. Only the Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin. Only he makes Christ real. Only he produces the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In fact, Paul says the Spirit is the spirit of Christ, so he becomes our life. God’s not working with the old Jim Cymbala; he wants Christ to live through me and through all believers.

When Peter, the one who denied Jesus, gets up after Pentecost, he preached a sermon so powerful it brought deep conviction of sin. The true gospel which Peter preached is the power of God for salvation, for everyone who believes. Not the sound system, not the building, not what colors you make it, not the signage. Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Peter preached it, and thousands came into the church that day.

The only change for anyone in my church or your church or in me or in you is God’s Spirit in us. “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

Day 475: When You Don’t Know What To Do

Three enemy armies were closing in on Judah, and King Jehoshaphat called the nation together at Jerusalem. Something had to be done immediately. No doubt people expected him to announce plans, a decisive declaration of action, a way to wage war. Instead, Jehoshaphat stood before his people and poured his heart out to God in confession.

Jehoshaphat pointed out that God himself stopped Israel from attacking these nations when they first came into the Promise Land. “Here they are, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of your possession which you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:11-12, NKJV).

We are living in a time when everything is getting shaky and insecure, and almost everybody is hurting in one way or another. Hardly anybody knows what to do anymore. Our leaders don’t have the foggiest idea of what is happening to this world or to the economy. The business world is even more confused with economists arguing with each other about what is coming. Psychologists and psychiatrists are baffled by the changing forces affecting people today.

You don’t fold your hands, sitting around at ease and letting God do it all. That is not what it means to keep your eyes “fixed on the Lord.” We look to the Lord, not as people who know what to do but as people who don’t know at all what they must do. All we do know is that he is the King who sits on the flood. He is Lord of all, and we know that even if the world falls apart, he is a rock of certainty. As scripture says, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Our eyes are fixed on a risen Lord. If we do not know what to do, our faith assures us that he knows what to do.