Why does the Lord allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it? Part 4

14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.’ ” John 11:14-15

We are learning from the seventh miraculous sign of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John (John 11:1-44) why the Lord may allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it. We have learned that the Lord does this to …

– Display more of His glory (John 11:1-4).

– Declare His love toward us (John 11:5-6).

– Deepen our sensitivity to His will (John 11:7-10).

The fourth reason the Lord may delay His answers to our prayers is to DEVELOP OUR FAITH IN HIM (John 11:11-16). “These things He said, and after that He said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.’ ” (John 11:11). The Lord Jesus views Lazarus’ death as “sleep” because from His divine perspective, death is harmless and hopeful. When Jesus said, “I may wake him up,” He was referring to when He would raise Lazarus from the dead. Since the coming of Christ, the death of a believer is regularly called “sleep” (cf. Acts 7:60; 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Dead Christians are asleep not in the sense of an unconscious “soul sleep,” but in the sense that their bodies appear to be sleeping.

But the disciples did not understand Jesus. “Then His disciples said, ‘Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.’ ” (John 11:12). The disciples misunderstand Christ and think He is speaking of natural sleep. “Why risk Your life, Lord, to arouse a man from a night’s sleep especially if he is on his way to recovery?!”

“However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.” (John 11:13). Death is not a state of unconsciousness or “soul sleep” as some teach. When believers in Jesus die, they go directly and consciously into the presence of the Lord Jesus (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:21-24). Their physical bodies are asleep in the grave (cf. John 11:11-14), but their spirit and soul have gone to be with the Lord Jesus in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21-24; Revelation 6:9; 20:4; cf. Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:46; John 19:30).

This is why Paul writes, 6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). Paul refers to death as his spirit and soul being “absent from the body” and “present with the Lord” in heaven (5:8). There is no intermediate existence. We are either “at home in the body” (5:6) or “present with the Lord” (5:8). There is no mention of some other kind of existence in between being at home in the body or present with the Lord.

In Philippians 1:21-24, Paul writes, 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.” For Paul, death “is gain” because he (his spirit/soul) will “depart and be with Christ, which is far better” than living “on in the flesh.” Where is Christ right now? He is in heaven at the right hand of God the Father (Acts 5:31; 7:55-56; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrew 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; I Peter 3:22) as are all believers in Jesus who have died (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:21-24).

“Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead.’ ” (John 11:14). The Lord “plainly tells His disciples that “Lazarus is dead. But then Jesus says something that is very shocking. “And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” (John 11:15). Christ says He was glad He was not there to prevent Lazarus’ death! What is there to be glad about in Lazarus’ death or anyone’s death for that matter?!

When Jesus said he was glad for the disciples’ sake that He was not there to prevent Lazarus’ death, “that you may believe,” He was not talking about their salvation. His disciples had already believed in Christ for everlasting life (cf. John 1:35-51; 2:11; 6:69). Jesus’ joy is for the disciples’ faith which would be strengthened when they would behold Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. What would the disciples’ faith have been like if they did not witness the raising of Lazarus? Their faith would lack content. And they would have less courage when they would face life-threatening situations.

God allows disappointment in our lives to strengthen our faith. We look at other people and think, Lord, how can You do this with this type of person? How can You do the impossible? Death is final! How about people we do not think God can change? We may have doubts about God changing a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or a neighbor. We may even doubt that the Lord can change us! But God can make a difference!

Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with Him.’ ” (John 11:16). Thomas looked death in the face and chose death with Jesus rather than life without Him! This is not the kind of commitment or courage we may have expected from this doubting disciple. Thomas’ comment, “that we may die with Him,” is intriguing because history tells us that eventually all but one of Jesus’ disciples would die a martyr’s death for their Lord.

Even though Thomas expressed great courage and confidence now, he would express doubt over Jesus’s resurrection later (cf. John 20:24-29). But for now, he was ready to die with Jesus! This tells us that those who are spiritually confident today may find themselves in the depths of despair and doubt tomorrow.

What about you? Are you willing to face death with Jesus rather than life without Him? Are you willing to follow Christ no matter what the cost? When people ridicule you or mistreat you, or even threaten to kill you, will you still follow Jesus? Thomas expressed this kind of commitment now even though he did not know for sure how safe or unsafe he would be going up to Judea again. When non-Christians encounter this kind of courage among believers, it can cause them to consider their own eternal destiny.

Paul alludes to this in Philippians 1:27-28: “27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.” This kind of boldness in the presence of one’s enemies assures the believer that his message his true and proves to his opponents that their defeat is certain.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, when You delayed Your coming to Martha and Mary, You were wanting to strengthen the faith of Your disciples and all who would witness what You were going to do at Lazarus’ grave. It may be difficult for us to understand this at the time of our own disappointment and loss. But You do not waste our fears and pain. You want to transform our anger into acceptance, our fear into faith, our grief into gladness, and our despair into hope through Your resurrection power. The more convinced we are of this resurrection power, the more courage we will have to face those who oppose the gospel of Jesus Christ. This boldness before our enemies assures us that Your message is true and it proves to our enemies that their defeat is certain. Thank You, my Lord and my God, for this assurance You give us when our trust is in You. In Your powerful name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

How can I overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus? Part 4

“Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.” John 8:55

A fourth way we can overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus is to APPEAL TO OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD (John 8:54-55). Jesus explains “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.” (John 8:54). Christ was not trying to glorify Himself when He claimed to be able to deliver from death those who keep His words (John 8:51) because self-testimony alone is not valid. Although Jesus does not seek to glorify Himself, that does not mean He is without glory. His Father “honors” or glorifies Him. Ironically, Jesus’ opponents, who claimed to know God, did not perceive that this is how God was working in their midst. Their relationship with God was formal, but Jesus’ relationship with God was personal.

Jesus says, “Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.” (John 8:55). In reality, they did not know God the Father, but Jesus had an intimate relationship with the Father. Christ is saying, “You have not come to know God by your personal experience or observation (ginosko), but I know (oida) Him inherently and intuitively.” For Jesus to deny knowing God would reduce Him to being a liar like they were liars. If Jesus’ audience would keep Jesus’ word by believing in Him for everlasting life, they would come to know God the Father.

When Jesus says, “But I do know Him and keep His word,” we learn that Christ’s knowledge of the Father results from keeping His Word. Likewise, as believers in Jesus learn to obey Christ’s Word, they will come to know Him in a deeper, more personal way. Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21). As we demonstrate our trustworthiness to Jesus by obeying His Word, He will manifest or reveal more of Himself to us. Friendship with Christ requires obedience to Him. “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:14). The closer we grow to Christ, the more boldness we will have when facing opposition to the truth about Him. We see this in Acts 4 when the apostles boldly preached Jesus to their persecutors who were their educational superiors.          

As Peter and John boldly spoke of Jesus before this educated crowd, their listeners could discern that these men had spent time with the Savior. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13). These two, lowly fisherman were not intimidated by all the intellectual knowledge and training of these men. They were more impressed with Jesus and they wanted this group to know Him in a personal way. This elite religious group acknowledges the boldness of Peter and John while noting their lack of education.

Often a person’s boldness for Christ shrinks as his education increases. He or she becomes “too sophisticated” to be excited for Christ!! It is better to possess boldness and lack learning, than to possess learning and lack boldness. And it is one thing to be bold with our social equals, but it is an entirely different thing to be bold – as Peter and John were – with our social and educational superiors. True boldness knows no respect of persons.

Boldness does not arise from having a theological degree or a vast knowledge of the Bible. The key to boldness is spending time with Jesus Christ. Peter and John had been in a discipleship relationship with Jesus for over three years. His heart became theirs. So, the closer we get to the heart of Christ, the closer we get to the people for whom He died.

Jesus’ heart bleeds for the lost. Luke 19:10 explains: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The heart of our Lord is a seeking heart. Aren’t you thankful for that? We would still be lost in our sins if Jesus did not seek us out. Look at God’s heart in I Timothy 2:3-4: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God created hell for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), not for people. God desires that all people go to heaven regardless of their background, education, culture or color of skin, and He wants to use you and I to introduce them to the Savior who can get them there.

Are we willing to go to the people who need Jesus even if they do not know they need Him and are hostile to the truth? I believe the more we know Jesus’ heart for the lost, the more we will love those for whom He died. And the more we love them, the more motivated we will be to introduce them to the Savior.

Prayer: Lord God, I can relate to Jesus’ audience approaching Him formally instead of personally. Before I became a Christian, this was the way I approached You through my religion. But the moment You rescued me from my own sin and gave me everlasting life, You began a new work with me that was internal, not external; it was relational, not religious; it was personal, not formal. I can still engage in the formalities of religion. But that only leaves me empty and without direction. But the closer I grow to You, Lord Jesus, the more Your heart for unbelievers becomes my heart as well. When I face opposition from people whether they be unbelieving or believing, help me to see them through Your eyes as broken and wounded sinners who need You more than anything or anyone else. Only You can understand and meet their deepest needs. Please use me to point them to You so You can show Yourself to them in ways that will enrich their lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can I overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus? Part 1

“Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.’ ” John 8:49

In John chapters 7 and 8, the Lord Jesus has encountered substantial opposition from unbelievers, including His brothers, Jewish pilgrims, Jerusalemites, religious leaders and others. In John 8:31-37, Jesus taught how He could free His audience from bondage to sin. But much of His audience were children of the devil because they sought to kill Christ and refused to believe in Him (John 8:38-47). From Jesus’ interaction with His opponents in John 8:48-59, we will learn how to overcome opposition to the truth about Jesus in our own lives.

How Can I Overcome Opposition to the Truth About Jesus? First, we want to ANALYZE THEIR ACCUSATIONS WITH GOD’S WORD (John 48-49). “Then the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?’ ” (John 8:48). Since the Jews had no answer to Christ’s arguments, they resort to name calling. Their question, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” expects an affirmative answer in the Greek language.

Samaritans were despised by the Jews because they were a mixed race. When Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel, many Jews were exported and many foreigners were imported. Jews who stayed and Gentiles who came, intermarried. The offspring were half-breeds called “Samaritans.”Samaritans were lax in Judaism and did not observe all their traditions. Perhaps the Jews were responding to Jesus’ denial that they were children of Abraham (cf. John 8:42-47), and were saying, “You are no better than Samaritans.” After Jesus tells them that their father is the devil (John 8:44), they say that Jesus is demon-possessed.

Jesus responds, “Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.’ ” (John 8:49). Were Jesus’ claims like those of a demon-possessed person? Of course not. Rather than seeking His own self-exaltation like a demon, Jesus sought to honor and exalt His Father. By seeking to dishonor Jesus, these opponents of Christ were dishonoring God the Father (cf. John 5:23).

When people make accusations against Christ, it is important to analyze those charges with God’s Word. In this case, Jesus was far removed from having a demon as He aims to give honor where it is due while His Jewish audience did not. They sought to honor their father, the devil, who embraces lies and despises the truth.

Throughout the world, there are many religious groups that deny that Jesus is God. This assertion ignores the many verses in the Bible that point to the deity of Christ (cf. Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 8:13-14; Mark 14:61b-64; John 1:1, 14, 17; 5:17-18, 23-24; 8:59; 9:35-37; 10:30; 11:25-27; 12:44-45; 14:7-9; 20:28; Acts 16:31-34; Romans 1:3-4; 9:5; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-17; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:1-3, 8-12; I John 5:20; et. al).

The Bible makes it clear that those who deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah-God, are liars and they are antichrist. “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (I John 2:22-23). Antichrists deny God the Father and God the Son. Their goal is to oppose and replace Jesus Christ with gods of their own making. They want to deceive and derail Christians from pursuing Christ. But when Christians submit to the Lord and stand upon His truth, the devil and his followers will flee (I John 2:19; cf. James 4:8).

Prayer: Lord God, we are living at a time where there is so much deception in the world. People are being dominated by emotions instead of truth. The ruler of this world, the devil, is using anything and everything to mislead people away from the truth about Jesus Christ. Please renew my mind with Your truth so I may honor You with my response to those who oppose the truth about Jesus Christ. I want to know Your Word so well that I will be able to identify lies in an instant because they are contrary to what I know to be true. I need Your Holy Spirit to empower me to give an answer to those who seek to replace Jesus as the true God with false gods of their own making. Please grant me boldness and clarity to lovingly share Your Word in season and out of season with all people, regardless of their country, culture, or color. Thank You for the hope I have in Jesus Who has already defeated the father of lies through His death and resurrection. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.   


“Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going.” John 8:14

We are living in a “post-truth” era whereby objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals (see Tony Watkins’ article entitled, “CONTENDING FOR THE TRUTH AMIDST THE FAKE NEWS EPIDEMIC,” LAUSANEE GLOBAL ANALYSIS, July 2017, Volume 6/Issue 4). I am amazed at how much influence the media has over people today. People are more interested in fake news on social media than they are facts offered up by established news sources.

When emotional appeals take over from truth, a society is in big trouble. Katharine Viner says, “This does not mean that there are no truths. It simply means … that we cannot agree on what those truths are, and when there is no consensus about the truth and no way to achieve it, chaos soon follows.” (https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/12/how-technology-disrupted-the-truth).

The religious leaders that Jesus spoke to in the temple were not interested in the facts about Christ. They were more interested in themselves and keeping their followers. So rather than examine the facts about Jesus, they wanted to relate to Him according to their preconceived thoughts which were not based upon the truth. They were not about to adjust their beliefs about Christ to align with the facts.

With this said, we are now going to look at three implications from Jesus’ wonderful claim to be the light of the world (John 8:12). First, CHRIST’S CLAIM DEMANDS THAT WE DEAL WITH THE FACTS (John 8:13-20). In the verses that follow we can see something of the darkness that was keeping these men from coming to the light of Christ. It is interesting to note that the Pharisees do not focus on Jesus’ claim, but upon a legal technicality. “The Pharisees therefore said to Him, ‘You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.’ ”(John 8:13). The Pharisees said that Jesus’ witness was not valid, because He was bearing witness of Himself. Therefore, the testimony had no weight and was of no legal worth. But, was that the real issue? Was Jesus at court? No.

You know, it is hard to get the facts right when you don’t have the right information beforehand. This is definitely a problem the Pharisees had. And it is time they got the facts right. Like the Pharisees, millions of people are held in darkness due to ignorance of the facts about Jesus. Many have never heard of Jesus, and many of those who have heard of Him have heard a distorted, twisted, unreal picture of Him that makes Him appear to be what He is not in the Scripture. This should not surprise us because the Bible warns that in the latter days there will be many false teachers and prophets who misrepresent Jesus Christ and mislead people away from Him (Matthew 7:15-23; 24:4-5, 11, 23-26; I Timothy 4:1-2; 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 4:1-4; I John 2:18-19, 22-23; 4:1-6). Because of this, it is very important that we see the true Jesus… that we get the facts right about Him.

Christ responds to the Pharisees, “Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going.” (John 8:14). Jesus says,“First of all, My testimony is valid because it is true. Even if I claim to be God Himself, that is no reason to reject Me. What you need to do is look for more evidence. Secondly, My knowledge about Myself is much greater than your knowledge about Me. I know more facts about Me than you do. I know who I am. I know where I have come from, and I know where I am going, but you are ignorant of these things”.

Have you noticed that people who know who they are, where they are from, and where they are going, always seem to have a sense of confidence and security that enables them to stand up against the assaults and even the accusations of others? But people who don’t know who they are, who are not sure exactly where they came from and where they are going are wobbly and wishy-washy, uncertain and undependable. This is certainly true of Christians.

When Christians really believe what God says about them, when they refuse to listen even to their own feelings that lie to them about who they are, but they believe God has made them new creatures in Jesus Christ and they are free from the old life, the old sinful habits, they always have a tremendous sense of security and effectiveness in their lives. This is what our Lord had. What marvelous assurance He displayed as He moved with confidence and courage through all the opposition and strife that He lived through! That is why He can say to these Pharisees, “I know who I am but you do not.”

The third thing Jesus tells these men is, “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.” (John 8:15). Jesus is saying,“You reject My claims because you look only at appearances. You judge according to the flesh. You think I came from Nazareth, in Galilee, and for that reason you say I am not the Messiah. But you never investigated and found that I was born in Bethlehem, according to the word of the prophet. You don’t know Me at all. You judge by superficial things. You think that as the Messiah I am supposed to lead a revolt against Rome – and I will, in God’s time – but you never read the Old Testament that says many things have to come before that. I did not come to judge, but to save people.” Like many people today they were saying “No” to Jesus because of their ignorance of the facts.

Jesus continues,16 And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me. 17 It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. 18 I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.” (John 8:16-18). “Yet even if I do judge, My judgment is true because I do not act alone but in oneness with My Father. According to your Law, two witnesses are needed for a valid testimony in a court of law (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15). I do have two witnesses – Myself and My Father, who is always with Me. If the witness of two men is valid, how much more the witness of God the Father and God the Son? So even if we do this according to your own rules, My testimony still proves valid,” Christ says.

Now Jesus has thoroughly answered their complaint. What will they do?  Will they humble themselves and say, “Surely this is the Son of God, I will bow to Him and trust in Him as the Messiah?” No, they try again to trap him. “Then they said to Him, ‘Where is Your Father?’ ” (John 8:19a). “Well then, let’s see Your witness, let’s see Your father—if He’s the one validating your testimony.”

“Jesus answered, ‘You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.’ ” (John 8:19b). “You wouldn’t know Him if I did show Him to you because You don’t know Me. Your mind is made up and you are not seeking the truth.” Their ignorance of Jesus proved that they did not know His Father. We know at that point their hearts were completely hardened against Him and they had every desire to kill Jesus on the spot. But they couldn’t – “These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come.” (John 8:20). The “treasury” was part of the court of the women where thirteen trumpet-shaped collection boxes were kept for receiving the half-shekel temple dues. Even though Jesus spoke out in public right in the temple courts where the offering was taken, where everybody had to pass through, yet no one could arrest Him because the Father was with Him.

One of the amazing things about this account is that, although these men were claiming to know God, they really did not know Him. I find this is the problem with many people today. They say they know God, but the god they are talking about is a god of their own imagination. They are merely projecting an idea about God that is not real; consequently, they do not know God at all. Neither do they worship God; they are worshiping a figment of their imagination.

People will say, “I cannot believe that God would ever punish someone for eternity because they never believed in Jesus.” In other words, God does what they believe He ought not do. This is a false and blasphemous view of God! It is utterly untrue and unworthy! Yet this is the new paganism of today.

We have religious leaders reconstructing a different Jesus than is presented in the Bible. They have created a Christ that is made in their own image instead of the One portrayed in the Scripture. Why? I believe the primary reason is pride. If they accept the facts about Jesus – that He is fully God and fully Man (John 1:1, 14) Who died for their sins and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6) – then they are accountable to Him for everything. They must come to grips with their own sin and its penalty (Romans 3:23; 6:23). And they must trust in Someone outside of themselves to save them (Acts 16:31) from an eternity separated from God in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). And many people are too arrogant to accept this.

In a world that pursues feelings more than truth, I believe Christians can make a big difference by pursuing God’s truth and wisdom once again. Will we lovingly share the facts about Jesus Christ with those who are perishing without Him? Or will we allow fake news to shipwreck our own Christian faith? Abiding in the truth of Jesus Christ will be uncomfortable and it will take courage in this “post-truth” world. But it will bring freedom from the lies that keep people enslaved to their sinful and shame-filled patterns of living (John 8:31-32). We must be ready to confront the many false assertions about the Jesus of the Bible and offer the hope and purpose that only He can give. This is only possible as we rely upon the Holy Spirit to empower and guide us into all truth (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:13-14; Acts 1:8).

Prayer: Lord God, so many people have misinformation about Jesus Christ today because there are more false teachers sharing their fake news about Christ than there are Christians sharing the truth about Him Who is the truth (John 14:6). Please raise up a passionate army of believers who know who they are, where they are from, and where they are going so that Christ is boldly shared with a world that is driven by emotions. In Jesus’ name, I ask that You give us the boldness and strength to make Christ known to our families, neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances, and to people online. May we love Jesus more than our own lives. May we long for His approval more than peoples’. May we know Him and His Word so well that we are ready to answer the questions that people have about Him. In Jesus’ powerful name I pray. Amen.

How do I follow God’s Plan? Part 4

“The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.” John 7:7

The fourth way I follow God’s plan is when I CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO (John 6b-7, 9). When Jesus’ brothers tried to encourage Him to go to the Feast of Tabernacles to make Himself known as the Messiah, Jesus said to them,“My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.” (John 7:6). They could come and go to the feast any time they pleased because they would only be fulfilling what everybody expected of them. They could go to the feast without fear of arousing antagonism or opposition because they were a part of the world. They were non-believers and thus friends with the world. That is why Jesus says, The world cannot hate you…” (John 7:7a). “Because you are living according to the way the world thinks; you are not raising any questions; you are not challenging anything.” Jesus continues, “…but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.” (John 7:7b). “The world hates Me because when I speak I expose the hearts of men; I call sin, sin; they hate Me because I tell them the truth.”

This is surely why our modern world loves euphemisms – polite ways of describing sinful things. We change the label on the bottle of poison and think we have changed the power of the poison. That’s why we call Grouchiness “executive tension;” we call Gossip “concern”; Drunkards want to be called “alcoholics”; Prostitutes want to be called “businesswomen”; Rich snobs are called the “upper class”; Abortion is called “pro-choice”; Homosexuality is called an “alternative lifestyle.”

More recently we have seen government intrusion into common Christian worship practices in the name of health concern. Most churches in America have complied with generalized healthcare guidelines to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading. But a few churches refused to comply with government demands, claiming that their allegiance to God outweighs their allegiance to Caesar. So they refused to cancel live worship services and opened their doors for those who were led to attend. Some churches even offered “drive-thru” worship services for people to attend while observing social distancing from the comfort of their cars.

But some elected leaders deemed these measures too risky. For example, Kentucky’s governor, who mandated the closure of all Christian worship services while declaring the state’s abortion clinics and liquor stores “essential services,” sent law enforcement officers to record the license plate numbers of every vehicle that attended unauthorized church services. California’s governor and local officials have banned churches from singing and playing wind instruments in their services. While some people may label these measures as “healthcare practices,” I wonder what the Lord Jesus would call it?

Christ doesn’t play these kinds of games. Jesus calls sin, sin. He came to tell the truth and that is why the world hated Him. And if we are going to be like Him, we must do the same. If we find ourselves fully accepted by the world it is cause for concern. We are to be loving, kind, sensitive, and understanding. But if our lives do not challenge the wickedness of the world around us, if our lives do not provoke some persecution, criticism, and/or opposition, something is probably wrong. We have probably become too friendly with the world around us (cf. James 4:4).

Ask yourself, “Does my life challenge the status quo of wickedness around me or am I a chameleon who simply adapts to whatever environment I find myself in?” Jesus went to Jerusalem and when He got there He upset the status quo. Thus, He says to His brothers: “You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” (John 7:8). Christ was not going up with His brothers, but He would eventually go up. “When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.” (John 7:9). Christ would remain in Galilee for a time while His brothers and other pilgrim travelers made their way to the feast. But eventually He would go in the Father’s time, and when He did He would challenge the status quo.

Prayer: Lord God, we need Your wisdom and strength during these times when people are doing what is right in their own eyes instead of doing what is right in Your eyes. Please give us a balance between grace and truth as we interact with those who are friends with the world. Instead of focusing on the response of others before we speak, help us to focus on what pleases You, my Lord and my God. May we live so closely to You that our lives will challenge the wickedness of this world to pay attention to You, Lord. Please use our voices to call people back to You, the only true God and eternal life. Forgive us for withholding the truth because of our longing for the approval of others or in an attempt to keep the peace at the expense of Your truth. Without the truth, people will not see their need for You. And without Your grace, their needs will not be met in You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen. 

How can we have boldness on the battlefield of evangelism?

When the apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome, he was under house arrest, chained to a Roman soldier. He asked for prayer to open his “mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel” while he was “in chains” (Ephes. 6:18-20). What does this say about the apostle Paul when it comes to evangelism? He was afraid to share the gospel while guarded by Roman soldiers. He needed boldness from God to overcome his fear. This is the context in which Paul instructed Christians to pray (6:18) the whole armor of God found in Ephesians 6:10-17. The greatest spiritual warfare takes place on the battlefield of evangelism. If we are going to have boldness to share the gospel in a world that is hostile toward Christianity, we must pray “the whole armor of God.”   

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:10-17

Since our battle in evangelism is not against “flesh and blood,” but against the “spiritual hosts of wickedness,” we need the Lord’s power and strength “to stand against the wiles [schemings] of the devil” (6:10-12). Satan and his demonic armies are far too strong and wise for us to overcome on our own. We need the Lord’s power, strength, and weapons to defeat them. Our primary responsibility is “to stand” (6:11, 13-14) and to “put on” or “take up… the whole armor of God” (6:11, 13, 17). Failure to put on all of God’s armor leaves us vulnerable to spiritual attack and defeat. Paul then describes the armor that Roman infantrymen wore in the order they would put it on.

The first thing a soldier would put on his long tunic shirt was a “belt” (6:14b) to hold his breastplate and sheathe for his sword in place. The “truth” refers to God’s revealed truth and the truthfulness of the believer. This is foundational to spiritual victory. We cannot overcome the father of lies (John 8:44) apart from the truth of God’s Word (John 8:31-32). The lies of the enemy will quickly erode our defenses and discourage us from sharing the gospel.

The second piece of armor that a soldier put on was “the breastplate” (6:14c) which covered him from his neck to his thighs, and was normally made of bronze or chain mail. The breastplate protected his vital organs, particularly his heart. The “righteousness” refers to both being declared righteous before God at the moment of faith in Christ (Romans 4:5) and to righteous living after we are saved (Romans 6:11-14). Knowing we are covered with Christ’s righteousness at the moment of our salvation can protect us from Satan’s accusations and motivate us to live out that righteousness as we yield to the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1, 4-5). Living a consistent Christian life will give us more boldness as we witness to the unsaved. For example, when we witness to a non-Christian, we won’t be plagued with guilt or shame about living a double life if we are consistently walking in the Spirit.

Next the soldier put sandals on his “feet” (6:15) that were studded with sharp nails to give him better footing especially on a slippery battlefield. “The preparation of the gospel of peace” refers to a Christian being prepared to share the good news of Jesus that brings peace with God (Romans 5:1) and with one another (Ephesians 2:14-18). One of the obstacles that keeps Christians from sharing the gospel with unbelievers is not knowing what to say. We must become so familiar with the gospel of grace (John 3:16; Acts 20:24; I Corinthians 15:1-8), that we can share it at any time when God gives us the opportunity. This kind of grip on the gospel will give us sure footing when the Devil attacks us.

The fourth piece of armor was “the shield” (6:16) made of wood and rectangular (about 2.5 feet wide and 4 feet long), covered with a leather flame retardant. A Roman soldier used this to protect his entire body. Before a battle involving flaming arrows from their enemies, soldiers poured water on the leather shields to extinguish flaming arrows. Top priority (“above all”) is to be given to this piece of armor. The “faith” that provides this extensive protection from “the fiery darts of the wicked one” refers to trusting God’s promises in the heat of battle. Satan wants us to doubt the trustworthiness of God’s Word (cf. Genesis 3:1-5). For example, God promises to go before us and to be with us, never leaving us nor forsaking us (Deuteronomy 31:8). Satan wants to cast doubt on this promise to cause us to be afraid and discouraged.

Following the shield, the soldier took up “the helmet” (6:17a) to protect his head. This “salvation” probably refers to three types of salvation: our past salvation from hell (Ephesians 2:8-9), our present salvation from the power of sin (James 1:14-22), and our future salvation from the presence of sin (I John 3:2-3). Satan wants to cast doubt on a believer’s past, present, and future salvation so he is more vulnerable to temptation and defeat. But God wants to protect our minds from doubting His promises to save us from the penalty of sin in hell, from the power of sin now, and from the presence of sin in the future. The more secure we are in the salvation God guarantees, the more confidence we will have on the battlefield. The point of this piece of armor is that we are fighting from victory, not for victory.

The final piece of armor put on by the soldier was “the sword” (6:17b) which was short and two-edged, used to cut and stab in hand-to-hand combat. This was the only offensive weapon in Paul’s list of armor. “The word of God” refers to the spoken “word” (rhema) of God rather than to the written word. For example, Jesus spoke God’s Word to the devil when he tempted Jesus to sin, and the devil was defeated (cf. Matthew 4:1-11). This is “the sword of the Spirit” in that the Holy Spirit gives us the Scripture to speak to the devil when he attacks us on the battlefield of evangelism, so that he will flee from us and no longer disrupt the sharing of the gospel (cf. Matthew 10:19-20; James 4:7). Every Christian is to arm himself with the spoken Word of God through Scripture memorization. 

The way to put on the whole armor of God is “praying always…in the Spirit, being watchful” (6:18a). You can have more boldness on the battlefield of evangelism by praying the whole armor of God:

Belt of Truth – Protect me O God with the Belt of Truth. You are truth, Jesus, and in You and in Your Word I find truth. You are the foundation for all of life. Replace Satan’s lies with the truth of Your Word. Please empower me to be truthful and honest with You, myself, and others.

Breastplate of Righteousness – I pray the protection of the Breastplate of Righteousness. Keep my will, emotions and personality subject to Christ. Protect my inmost being from selfishness and self-pity. I will not believe the lies from Satan that I am no good or that I can be good enough to earn Your acceptance. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I have been declared totally righteous before You the moment I trusted Jesus. I am completely covered by the righteousness of Your Son so there are no grounds for my condemnation. Please manifest Your righteousness in my motives, words, thoughts and actions.

Shoes of the Gospel of Peace – Protect me from anything that would rob me of Your peace. Please enable me to be prepared to always share the gospel of grace with those who need Your peace. Give me Your compassion and alertness for those who do not know You. Help me to see the lost through Your eyes of compassion.

Shield of Faith – Protect me from the flaming arrows of the evil one. Extinguish anything Satan has to give out as I place my faith in the promises of Your Word. Help me to realize who I am in Christ and to appropriate faith in all situations. I can trust You, Father, because You are faithful to keep Your Word and You are in control of all things. Thank You, Father.

Helmet of Salvation – I pray the protection of the Helmet of Salvation on my head. Satan is out to trick me into doubting my salvation, but I am God’s child by grace through faith in Christ alone and Jesus is more powerful than Satan. He will never abandon me. He lives in me to give me the power to say “no” to sin and “yes” to God. He will take me safely to heaven. I ask for the protection of my mind from Satan’s lies and that I would take every thought captive unto Jesus Christ. The helmet of salvation is a sign of victory in Christ over sin, death, and Satan. Thank You, Father that I am fighting from victory, not for victory!

Sword of the Spirit – I am protected and have all power through Jesus Christ and through the sword of the Spirit, the Bible. Holy Spirit, please open my eyes to see wonderful things in Your Word! I will be in Your Word and memorize Your Word so that I may stand firm against the evil one. Holy Spirit please give me the words to speak to the devil when he attacks me on the battlefield of evangelism so that his lies and deceptions are exposed and defeated. I pray the power of the Holy Spirit is ignited in my life, so that Christ may live His life through me today and every day. Thank You Father for the freedom I have in You!

How can we overcome fear in evangelism?

One of the greatest challenges we face as believers is fear in evangelism. It’s not that we don’t want to share Christ with others. Nor is it due to a lack of commitment. I believe most Christians would love to share the gospel with non-Christians, but they are overcome with fear. They are afraid of rejection. They are nervous about not knowing what to say. It is important to understand that fear in evangelism is normal. Even the apostle Paul was afraid to share the gospel at times. This is why he asked believers to pray that he would have boldness in preaching the gospel (Ephesians 6:18-20; cf.  I Corinthians 2:3). The issue is not having no fear in evangelism. The issue is how to overcome fear with boldness. How can we overcome fear in evangelism?

In Acts 4:12-31 there are four principles for overcoming fear in evangelism. In the context of these verses we see that as a result of healing a lame man in the name of Jesus Christ, Peter and John were brought into the custody of the Jewish supreme court of Israel known as the Sanhedrin (Acts 3-4). Instead of standing before the wealthiest, most intellectual and powerful group in the land as a victim, Peter and John stood before them as their judge. Peter accuses them of crucifying not only the One Who was innocent, but also the One Who was the long-promised Messiah (4:10-11). Ouch! That is boldness! Do you want that kind of boldness to speak up for Jesus?  Then…

GRASP THAT YOU HAVE THE RIGHT MESSAGE (4:12). Peter said, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (4:12).  Do you believe that? If you do, it will increase your boldness to share Christ with others. He is the only One who can save people from their sins. The more you are convinced that the gospel is true, the more boldness you will have to speak up for Christ. 

Who should have more boldness, a Christian talking about Christ, or a Buddhist talking about Buddha? A Christian, of course! Why? Because unlike the Buddhist, the Christian has a message from God (cf. I Thessalonians 2;2-4). It contains no error. We have only truth and Good News, not error and bad news to give peopleOnly a Christian has the message that proclaims Christ’s name as the only name by which God will save those who come to Him in faith. 

Why is Jesus’ name the only name by which people can be saved from hell forever? Because He alone is God (John 1:1, 14; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; I John 5:20) and He paid the full price of admission into heaven when He died on the cross and rose from the dead. All other religions, whether it be Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, Iglesia Ni Cristo, etc., are spelled D-O. Their message centers around a false gospel – what the person must DO for God to get to heaven. Christianity, however, is spelled D-O-N-E. The work of paying the full penalty for all of our sins was“finished” or DONE when Jesus Christ died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:1-6). This is the true gospel based on what God has done for us, not what we have done or will do for Him. Knowing that we have the only message in the world that guarantees a future home in heaven for all who believe in Jesus Christ alone can give us more boldness in evangelism. 

GROW CLOSER TO JESUS (4:13). As Peter and John boldly spoke of Jesus before these educated and powerful opponents, their listeners could discern that these men had spent time with the Savior. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (4:13). These two lowly fishermen were not intimidated by all the intellectual knowledge and training of these men. They were more impressed with Jesus and they wanted this group to know Him in a personal way. This elite religious group acknowledges the boldness of Peter and John while noting their lack of education. 

Often a person’s boldness for Christ shrinks as his education increases. He or she becomes “too sophisticated” to be bold for Christ!! It’s better to possess boldness and lack learning, than to possess learning and lack boldness. And it is one thing to be bold with our social equals, but it is an entirely different thing to be bold – as Peter and John were  – with our social and educational superiors. True boldness knows no respect of persons. 

Boldness in evangelism does not arise from having a theological degree or a vast knowledge of the Bible. The key to boldness in evangelism is spending time with Jesus Christ. Peter and John had been in a discipleship relationship with Jesus for over three years. His heart became theirs. So the closer we get to the heart of Christ, the closer we get to the people for whom He died. His heart bleeds for the lost. Luke 19:10 explains: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The heart of our Lord is a seeking heart. Aren’t you thankful for that? We would still be lost in our sins if Jesus did not seek us out. Look at God’s heart. First Timothy 2:3-4 say, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God created hell for the devil and his angels (cf. Matthew 25:41), not for people. God desires that all people go to heaven and He wants to use you and me to introduce people to the Savior who can get them there.

Those who live close to Christ capture His heart for the lost. They bleed for the same people He bleeds for. And the more they experience Jesus’ love and grace in their lives, the more compelled they will be to tell others about Him and what He can do for them. 

Also, as we grow closer to Christ, we can approach people with a clear conscience (cf. I Thessalonians 2:10-12). We don’t have to consider witnessing to a lost person thinking, “I sure hope he doesn’t find out how I live or treat my family.” Instead we can walk up to someone who doesn’t know Christ knowing we are attempting to live a consistent Christian life. Notice, I said “consistent,” not perfect. If we are living with unconfessed sin, it will reduce our boldness for preaching the gospel since our fellowship with the Lord will be broken (I John 1:3-10). I cannot be bold for Christ if I am out of fellowship with Him. 

GIVE CHRIST OUR OBEDIENCE, NOT OUR OPINIONS (4:19-20). Overcoming fear in evangelism is not done in a classroom or convention. It is cultivated through obedience. Peter had just accused the Sanhedrin of crucifying the long-promised Messiah named Jesus. These leaders did not want to hear this, so they commanded them not to preach Christ any longer (4:18). To share Christ now would be to go against the highest authority of the land. What would they do? It’s one thing to share Christ in a friendly environment such as in the church, but what about sharing Christ with those who could take your life? What would Peter and John do? Would they hover in a corner… pray for the rapture…or plead with God to send someone else? No. Their response was immediate. There was no, “Would you allow us a day or two to pray about this?” 

19But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard’ ” (4:19-20). The apostles had made their decision. Obedience to God must come first, not a surrender to the fears and threats presented by people. They made their decision; their accusers could make their own. The apostles were so gripped by the message of the gospel that everything else became immaterial in comparison. They had the attitude, “If you miss this, you have missed everything.” Peter and John are compelled to make the truth of Jesus known and they continue to do so. 

God honors obedience. The humble, dependent heart that says, “Lord, I’m afraid to preach the gospel, but you are my Master. I am Your disciple. I will do it for You, Lord Jesus, with Your help” (cf. Luke 5:5). We cannot overcome fear in evangelism apart from obedience to a simple God-given command. 

The more you know Jesus, the more You want to please Him instead of people. Jesus is not interested in hearing our opinions about why we lack boldness in preaching the gospel. Some of those opinions may include :

“But, Lord, I don’t know what to say to these people. I don’t want to be embarrassed.”

“These people may ridicule me or reject me.”

“Lord, I could lose my life.” 

What’s at the center of all those opinions? The word “I” or “me.” Focusing on ourselves becomes distracting at the least and defeating at its worst. Instead of focusing on ourselves, let’s shift our focus to Jesus and what would please Him. He is more interested in our obedience to His command, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8; cf. Mark 16:15). 

The power and boldness of the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey. When we seek to please Jesus Christ instead of ourselves or others, we will always have boldness in our preaching. It won’t matter if our audience is receptive or not because our most important Audience is seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven, not next to you at work or school or on a bench at a film showing. Keep looking unto Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Seek to please Him, not people (Colossians 3:23-24). In order to renew our boldness in evangelism, we must resolve to obey Christ at any time. He may ask you to share the gospel when it is inconvenient or uncomfortable or even when it does not make sense. But when Jesus tells you to share His gospel with someone, JUST DO IT. He will give you the words to say through His Spirit (cf. Matthew 10:17-20). He will give you the boldness with which to say it (Acts 1:8; 4:29-31).

GO TO GOD IN PRAYER (4:23-31). When Peter and John returned to the rest of the church, they did not brag about how they stood up to the Sanhedrin. They reported all that the religious leaders said to them (4:23). The apostles were afraid and together with the rest of the church they laid their fears before God (4:24-30). Often times we tell one another about our lack of boldness in evangelism, but seldom do we talk to the Lord about it. God ought to be the first Person we talk to about our lack of boldness in evangelism, not the last.

As these believers looked up to God in prayer, they focused on four  things…

God’s Strength (4:24): They prayed,“Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them…” (4:24). Threatened by the rulers of Israel, these believers now turn to the Ruler of the universe who also created these rulers. The majesty of God’s creation dwarfs the earth and its problems. We must not let our problems dwarf our concept of God but let our concept of God dwarf our problems. Since God can create the universe in six days, He will have no problem giving us the strength to renew our boldness for preaching the gospel. 

God’s Scriptures (4:25-26): They prayed, 25Who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? 26The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.’” (4:25-26; cf. Psalm 2:1-2). These Christians are praying the Scriptures found in Psalm 2:1-2, which describe a future day of rebellion when the nations will gather against Christ under the Beast of Revelation at the end of the Tribulation period (cf. Revelation 16:12-16; 19:19). They were so familiar with the Bible that they could see the relevance of Psalm 2 to their situation. The more we know God’s Word and its relevance to our situation, the more boldness we will have in evangelism.

God’s Supply (4:25-26): When these Christians focused on Psalm 2 which talks about a future day of rebellion when the nations will gather against Christ under the Beast of Revelation, do you know how the Lord will respond to their opposition? Psalm 2:4 says, “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh.” This is like the laughter of a father whose three-year old boasts that he can outrun him or beat him in a wrestling match. It’s not going to happen. Likewise, God knows the boundaries of power among the nations and He is amused by their attempts to overthrow Him. That, my friends, is boldness! If God laughs at this spirit of rebellion among the nations, it would be inappropriate for you and me to be afraid of those who oppose the gospel. God has an abundant supply of boldness to give us if we will ask Him for it. 

God’s Sovereignty (4:27-28): They prayed, 27For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done” (4:27-28). These believers apply the future spirit of rebellion to those who crucified Christ. They understood the sovereignty of God – that everything happens according to His plan. And the more you believe this, the more confidence and boldness you will have. God allows difficulties in our lives to teach us that He is in control and that nothing is impossible with Him. Have you ever met people you think even God cannot save? That person you think will never become a Christian? Bring him or her to God in prayer and he can melt that heart of stone. 

Look what happens next. 29Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus” (4:29-30). They don’t say, “Lord, would You remove these troublemakers… save us from prison or death.” No, they don’t pray that. Instead they ask God to give them the boldness and the power to share His Word with those who could take their lives. We often ask God to remove our problems rather than pray for God to be glorified in them. Thank God these believers prayed in this way, otherwise the church would not be here today. If we don’t pray in this way, the church may not be in our communities for future generations. 

What happened after they were done praying? “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (4:31). The more we look up to God in prayer, the less fear we will have in evangelism and the more we will boldly speak up for Christ with others!

Someone once said that in Acts 1-2 they pray for ten days, Peter preaches for ten minutes, and three thousand get saved. Today, churches pray for ten minutes, preach for ten days, and three people get saved. A.C. Dixon once said:

“When we rely upon organization, we get what organization can do; when we rely upon education, we get what education can do; when we rely upon eloquence, we get what eloquence can do, and so on…But when we rely upon prayer, we get what God can do.” How much bolder would we be in evangelism if more were happening in our prayer lives?!

If we want to overcome fear in evangelism…

GRASP that we have the right MESSAGE (4:12).

GROW closer to JESUS (4:13).           

GIVE Christ our OBEDIENCE, not our OPINIONS (4:19-20).

GO to God in PRAYER (4:23-31)