How can we experience God’s life-giving Word? Part 3

“Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your son lives.’ So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.” John 4:50

The third way we can experience the life-giving word is THROUGH TRUSTING CHRIST’S PROMISE (John 4:49-50). Tears were probably flowing down his cheeks when the nobleman said – “Sir, come down before my child dies!” (John 4:49). This dad thought Jesus only had the power to heal before his son died and from a close distance. He knew Jesus had the power to help him. How could He withhold it? The next words were more shocking than the first.

“Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your son lives’” (John 4:50),  meaning “he will not die now.” “My son lives?” the nobleman thought. Then recovery was guaranteed. What a wonderful promise. It sounded too good and gracious to be true. Could he believe it? Yes – yes, he could. He had no proof, nothing visible to rely upon, just the Word of Jesus. That was all he had. But there was absolute, unwavering authority in that word.

Are you able to take Christ at His Word even though your situation seems impossible? Jesus’ Word is not limited by distance or the condition of the recipient. That’s why we can pray for people who are thousands of miles away from us. Maybe your health doesn’t permit you to go prayer walking around your neighborhood. It doesn’t matter. Christ’s Word is not limited by distance. Nor is Jesus’ Word limited by the condition of the recipient. The nobleman’s son was near death. No doubt, the nobleman could afford the best doctors but they could not cure his son. He probably called the priests but they couldn’t help him. He probably tried every possible means to save his son but without success. He was broken. His only hope was in Jesus.

But death is no match for Christ. No matter how bad your situation is, Christ can overcome it with His life-giving Word. He can give life to a dead marriage… relationship… job… or church. He can overcome a bad habit or attitude. Don’t let circumstances or the condition of your life keep you from asking for His help. He promises to provide if you will only ask Him. Jesus said, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:14). If you pray for what He wants and what glorifies Him, He will do it.

Prayer: Jesus help.

Living life with the right priorities

“Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.’” John 4:34

During COVID-19 restrictions, I have noticed my waist line growing in size. If you are like me, you may be in the process of finding a diet plan to take off that COVID-19 fat to look good in your warm weather clothing. And there are as many diet plans out there as there are people. But that is not the case in our spiritual lives. God has one diet plan that will answer the needs of every person. His plan will reduce unwanted spiritual fat and fatigue. It will give you benefits which last far beyond this life. What is God’s diet plan?

LIVE YOUR LIFE WITH THE RIGHT PRIORITIES (John 4:31-34). While the Samaritan woman went back to her village to tell people about Jesus, Christ’s disciples focus on Jesus’ physical needs. “In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’ But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat of which you do not know.’ Therefore the disciples said to one another, ‘Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?’”(John 4:31-33). The disciples were encouraging Jesus to eat and He told them that He had food to eat. The disciples are asking themselves, “How can this be? He didn’t carry any food with Him. Did that woman give Him something to eat?” Before they left to get food, Jesus was tired and hungry (John 4:6), but now food and rest was not important to Him. Whatever food Christ spoke of, they weren’t familiar with it.

Have you ever gotten so wrapped up in what you were doing that you forgot to eat? Christ was so consumed with love for lost souls He had no interest in food or rest.

As followers of Christ, we must be careful that we do not get so focused on the physical realm that we forget about the spiritual needs of others. Christ shares the key to God’s diet plan. “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.’” (John 4:34). His focus is on doing what God wants Him to do. It was God’s will for Christ to give eternal life to the Samaritan woman and through her to the people of Sychar. Consequently, He felt no hunger while doing the will and work of God. God was seeking true worshipers (John 4:23-24) and that is why He gave the woman eternal life so she could worship the Father. Now it was time for the disciples to find worshipers for God. To eat and enjoy that task as one who eats and enjoys food was what Jesus was teaching them now. The Samaritan woman seemed to know this intuitively as she quickly went back to the village to tell others about Christ

Jesus says the priority now is to DO God’s will and FINISH His work. He is not talking about just knowing His will, but doing it. There may be 101 things you can do this week, but how can you get it all done? There is housework, homework, schoolwork, office work and church work. In a world full of things that need to be done, where do we go to get some sense of what to do first? How do we determine our priorities? Most of us just jump right in and overload ourselves. As a result, we begin to get very nervous. We say to ourselves, “Well, I will just have to try harder.”

Learn from Jesus how to determine your priorities:

1. Pray and seek wise counsel from the Lord. We can have problems determining our priorities if we are not taking time to hear God’s voice. Look at the order of determining priorities in Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

a. I must be still enough to hear God’s voice.

b. I will be able to know God and what He wants me to do.

c. God will be exalted as His priorities are carried out.

2. Plan and prioritize. We need to plan. Jesus did not choose to go with His disciples. He found a quiet place and had a one-on-one conversation with the Samaritan woman. He started talking about water, because that’s what the woman came to the well for. Then He gave her water that would satisfy her forever. Prioritize and you will be able to DO and FINISH the works God has entrusted you. 

Prayer: Father God, this is such a convicting message for me. It has been a struggle maintaining the right priorities in my life lately. I can easily become preoccupied with my own physical needs and the physical needs of those close to me during this COVID-19 crisis, so that I forget about the spiritual needs of others. Thank You for the example of Jesus with the Samaritan woman. Even though He was tired from His journey, He focused on her need for everlasting life. His food was to do Your will and finish Your work. Father, I want the same food that Jesus consumed. Please show me Your will for me at this time so I may finish the work You have set before me. I believe it involves sharing Your message of everlasting life with those You have prepared to hear and believe it so they may worship You in spirit and in truth. By Your grace, help me to finish well what You have set before me so that all the glory is given to You. Thank You for hearing my prayer, Father God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

There is hope even if I don’t know how to pray

26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27

As we face the many challenges presented to us by the coronavirus, we may not know how to pray to God. And we can lose that sense of hope that says things will get better. Maybe you are feeling that way now. Maybe you have an ache in your heart over a loss of some kind. It may be the loss of connections with people through social distancing. Or your loss may revolve around finances… a job… a friendship … your own health… or the loss of a loved one.

Romans 8:26-27 tells us, 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” These verses are telling us that if you are a Christian, you can have hope through the indwelling Holy Spirit Who “helps us in our weaknesses” (8:26a). When we encounter pain and suffering (Rom. 8:18-25), we may not know exactly how to pray to God, so the Holy Spirit helps us by praying on our behalf (“makes intercession for us”) to God the Father (8:26b).

The word “groanings” expresses feelings of compassion for our weak condition. The Holy Spirit requests the Father’s help for us with deep compassion (cf. Eph. 6:18). However, we should not confuse these “groanings” with praying in tongues. These “groanings … cannot be uttered” by the Hoy Spirit. This is not an audible prayer language to the human ear. Besides, this passage promises all Christians God’s help, not just those who had the gift of tongues. Furthermore, the Scriptures never connect the gift of tongues with intercessory prayer. The main point of verse 26 is that even when “we do not know what we should pray for,” the Holy Spirit prays to God the Father on our behalf, telling Him exactly what is on our hearts (8:26).

Even though we cannot hear the Holy Spirit’s intercession for us, God the Father can hear and understand Him. So not only does the Holy Spirit pray on our behalf, but we have a heavenly Father “who searches” our hearts and “knows what the mind of the Spirit is” (8:27a).The Holy Spirit makes our hearts understandable to the Father. We can be assured that the Holy Spirit’s prayers for us are effective in securing God’s help for us, because the Spirit prays on our behalf “according to the will of God” (8:27b).

For example, when our children were infants, my wife would tune in to each child’s wordless cry. She learned to distinguish a cry for food from a cry for attention, an earache cry from a stomachache cry. To me the sounds were identical, but not to their mother who instinctively discerned the meaning of the helpless child’s cry. The Holy Spirit has resources of sensitivity beyond those of the most discerning mother. The Spirit of God can detect needs we cannot articulate. So as the Spirit prays for us, He gives content and expression to our heavenly Father as to the deep things of our hearts. He makes us understandable to the Father. When we do not know what to pray the Holy Spirit fills in the blanks.

I remember visiting a church member in his home several years ago after he had battled an illness that made it difficult for him to put his thoughts into words. He told me there would be times with the Lord that he would be unable to finish his prayers and this greatly disturbed him. So I turned to Romans 8:26-27 and explained to him that even when he was unable to finish his prayers, God the Holy Spirit would finish them for him. The Spirit would pray to God the Father on this man’s behalf, telling the Father exactly what was on his heart. The Holy Spirit made him understandable to the Father. And not only that, the Spirit prayed on his behalf according to the will of God. These truths gave this man hope that God truly did understand his deepest longings and needs that he was unable to put into words.

So when we feel uptight about our inability to pray about a particular need or situation, we can rest in the promises found in Romans 8:26-27. We are assured that God will help us in our weaknesses because the Holy Spirit makes our needs and longings known to the Father by praying to Him on our behalf. During difficult times, we need to know that God understands us. Even if we can’t express ourselves well, our compassionate Father in heaven will understand how we feel and what we need because of the work of the Holy Spirit in us. When we feel understood, we really begin to experience hope. Because if God understands our hearts and our needs, then He can do something about them.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, during these uncertain times, it can be difficult for me to find the words that express my deepest longings and needs to the Father in prayer. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for praying to the Father on my behalf according to God’s will even when I do not know what to pray. Knowing that You make my heart’s desires understandable to my compassionate Father in heaven gives me hope in the midst of these difficult times. Because when my heart’s deepest longings and needs are understood by You, then You can do something about them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Overcoming incredible odds

15 Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s… 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.” 2 Chronicles 2o:15, 17

When King Jehoshaphat and Judah were surrounded by a great multitude of enemies from Ammon and Moab and others with them in what seemed to be certain defeat, Jehoshaphat “set himself to seek the Lord and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” and all the people “came to seek the Lord” (20:3-4). As Jehoshaphat turned to the Lord in prayer, he focused on the supremacy and ability of God to meet them and deliver them in the midst of their national crisis (20:6-12). He confessed his and Judah’s inability to overcome these great odds against them, yet he said to the Lord, “but our eyes are upon You” (20:12b).

The Lord told the king and all of Judah not to “be afraid” because “the battle is not yours, but God’s” (20:15). God assured them that they would “not need to fight in this battle” (20:17a) because it was His. Their responsibility was to “position themselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you” (20:17b). God’s responsibility was to do the fighting in this battle.

Has God ever lost a battle? No, of course not! He never loses. He has a 100% success rate. He bats a 1000. He always wins when He fights against an enemy. The question is, “Will we let Him fight for us?” Will we turn the battle we are facing over to Him?

How did Jehoshaphat position the people to watch God fight for them? Instead of taking up military weapons, he put the choir in front of his army to “sing to the Lord, and … praise the beauty of holiness, …saying: ‘Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever’ ” (20:21). As they sang praises to the Lord, “the LORD set ambushes against the people” who came against them and “they were defeated” (20:22). When God heard their praise in the midst of this crisis, He responded to their circumstances and brought them victory.

What battles are you facing right now that seem hopeless? Is the battle in your marriage or family? Your job or school? Your finances? Your health? Your witness for Christ? A habitual sin? God says it is now His battle in your marriage or family. It is His battle at your job or school. It is His battle with your finances or your witness for Christ. It is His battle with your habitual sin.

The Lord says to lay down your weapons (e.g. your anger, clever words, manipulation, obsessing, running, worrying, etc.) and trust Him to fight this battle for you. Put yourself in a position to see God work. Instead of trying harder, be still and trust Him to work on your behalf. Instead of working harder, watch Him fight for you. He is already at work to bring victory.

Then praise Him for what He will do. You may say,“I will praise God after He answers my prayer.” If you wait to praise God until after He answers, is that faith? No. Anyone can thank God after the fact. Faith is thanking God in advance, praising Him in advance that the odds will be overcome, that the solution will arrive, that the miracle will take place. When we start to thank God in advance for what He is going to do, we are going to see some very amazing things happen.

Prayer: Almighty God, I want to acknowledge that the battles I am facing right now are far beyond my ability to overcome them. Right now I want to tune into You, Lord, and see these battles from Your point of view. I know that nothing is impossible with You. You have helped me so much in the past and now I am trusting You to help me now. I am handing these battles over to You to fight. They are now Yours, not mine. I am laying down my weapons and trusting You to win this battle for me. Much of the battle is within me. I am my biggest problem. Please change me wherever You need to. Lord Jesus, I want to thank You in advance for the victory You are going to win. Thank You that I can trust You to do what I never could. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can we have more peace during this Christmas season?

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8

Christmas time can be a less than peaceful experience for many people. Even though we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace who came to bring peace on earth, our experience is anything but peaceful. How can we have more peace during this Christmas season?

It begins with what we think about. The Bible tells us, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). Our thoughts determine our feelings. If we think about confusing things, we will feel confused. If we focus on peaceful things, we will experience more peace. For example, if my focus is on nothing but a growing list of gifts and a shrinking bank account, I am going to have more anxiety. If I am preoccupied with a busy schedule trying to find a way to go to all the Christmas parties and programs, I am going to be more distressed. If I give more attention to painful childhood memories during the Christmas season, I am going to have more discouragement at this time. I am not suggesting we ignore our financial difficulties, busy schedules, or painful memories, but that we limit how much time we concentrate on these things.

If we want to have more peace during this time of year, it would behoove us to listen to God’s advice through the apostle Paul to the Christians at Philippi. After talking about overcoming anxiety through prayer (4:6-7), Paul gives a final instruction about what to think about as we  pray (4:8). He writes, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

God is advising us to “meditate” or concentrate on “these things” addressed in this one verse as we pray. Let’s take a look at each individual quality. He says to focus on “whatever things are…”

  • “true” (alēthēs) refers to that which is authentic, valid, or undeniable reality. In an age of “fake news,” this object of our focus is so important to finding peace. Instead of focusing on lies which are probably the primary source of our anxiety and fear, we are to focus on what is true.  
  • noble” (semnos) means that which is honorable, dignified, deeply respected, or majestic. If we are focusing on dishonorable or disrespectful things, we will feel worse about ourselves. This is easy to do when we are bombarded by the media with that which is dishonoring to God.
  • “just” (dikaios) denotes what is correct, righteous, upright, or thinking, feeling, and acting wholly conformed to God’s standards or will. So much of what we hear or see on TV this time of year promotes the opposite of what is “just.” The world exalts that which is wrong as being right. And that which is right as being wrong. If our primary focus is on the world’s values, we will have a guilty conscience which robs us of peace.
  • “pure ” (hagnos) refers to that which is clean, holy, sacred, uncontaminated, undefiled, or sinless to the core. If we are giving attention to that which is impure, we will be plagued with guilt and shame.
  • “lovely” (prosphilēs) denotes what is agreeable, dearly prized, pleasing to God. Literally this compound Greek word means “friendly (philēo) towards (pros).” When we are pondering that which is pleasing to God, our hearts will be filled with His peace.
  • “of good report” (euphēmos) conveys the idea of something admirable, reputable,or things spoken in a kindly spirit with good-will toward others. With there being so much bad news  reported daily today, is it any wonder that people lack peace!?!
  • “virtue” (aretē) refers to the perfections of God, moral goodness or excellence which is displayed to enrich one’s life. Need we see any more?
  • praiseworthy” (epainos) means commendable, deserving of commendation and exaltation.

As you read through this list of virtues, what comes to your mind? Is there anything or anyone who fits all these descriptions? As I read this verse over and over again this morning, I could not stop thinking about the Lord Jesus. Only Jesus fits these descriptions perfectly!

Christ alone is… “true” (John 14:6; 15:1; Rev. 19:11), “noble” or honorable (John 5:23; Phil. 2:9-11), “just” (Matt. 27:19, 24; Luke 23:47; I Pet. 3:18; Rev. 15:3; 19:11), “pure” (John 8:12; 18:38; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; I John 1:5; Rev. 15:4), “lovely” (Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; I Tim. 6:14-15a), “of good report” (Matt. 4:24; 9:31; Mark 1:28; Luke 4:37; 5:15; Rev. 4:11-5:14; 7:9-12), a Person of “virtue” or moral excellence (John 1:1, 14-17; Phil. 2:6; Isaiah 9:6), and “praiseworthy” (Rev 4:11-5:14; 7:9-12). If we want to experience God’s peace that surpasses human understanding, we are to “meditate” on the Lord Jesus Christ as we pray. This word “meditate” (logizomai) is where we get our English word “logic” or “logical” from. God wants us to give our left brain (prefrontal cortex) some ammunition to deal with the lies Satan inserts into our right brain (limbic system).

The more we think about the Person of Jesus Christ, the more He will set you free from the lies that rob you of peace this Christmas season. May I suggest you take one of these qualities each day for the next eight days and pray them back to the Lord? Praying these attributes back to the Lord will help to download them into your right brain. The more you focus on these attributes of Jesus, the more your brain will create neurological pathways containing these promoters of God’s peace.

For example, pray to Jesus who is “true.” You might pray, “Dear Lord Jesus, because You are true, I can trust what You say. You are faithful to keep Your promises. When Satan came against You tempting You by perverting the Word of God just a little (Matthew 4:1-11), You responded, “It is written in God’s Word. Here’s the truth.” You always countered falsehood with truth and I now ask You to help me do the same. When Satan tempts me to believe his lies, I pray Your truth Lord Jesus will dismiss his lies and renew my mind to what is true. Every word that You spoke on earth was true. Every action and every thought were true. This is why You could die for the sins of the world because You were the perfect Sacrifice. Thank You for paying the penalty for all of my sins. Please help me focus on what is true about You, myself, and the world in which I live. In Your name. Amen.”

God’s remedy for worry

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

When we are “anxious” or worried about something, God instructs us to talk to Him about it through “prayer.” He wants us to worry about “nothing” and pray about “everything.” The word “supplication” means to tell Him what you need. Few people ever identify what they need because they are so busy worrying. The word “request” refers to asking God for what you want or desire (Psalm 37:4).

For example, if I am worried about what people think of me, I can talk to the Lord about this and as I do, He may show me that my underlying need is for acceptance. I can then ask the Lord to meet this need for acceptance. He accepts me in Christ no matter what others think of me (Ephesians 1:6). As I meditate on this truth, I can express my desire (“request”) for God’s peace to rule over my heart and mind when I feel alone and insecure.

As I talk to God about my anxiety, needs, and desires, He promises to guard my heart and mind with His peace that surpasses human understanding. The “peace of God” is like a deep calmness in the midst of life’s storms. For example, the water underneath the surface of the ocean remains calm during a storm. The phrase “will guard” pictures an armed soldier walking back and forth in front of the city gate, protecting the occupants inside the city from intruders. God’s peace constantly protects those who choose to talk to Him about their worries, and ask Him for what they need and want.

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!

What can we do with the angry thoughts we have toward those who have wounded us?

“In return for my love they are my accusers, but I give myself to prayer.” Psalm 109:4

In return for his love for them, a group of people caused great pain to King David by falsely accusing him (109:2-5, 20-25). Instead of seeking revenge, David sought the Lord in “prayer” (109:4b). The phrase “give myself to” in verse 4b is in italics which means this phrase is not in the original Hebrew language. So the verse literally reads, “but I am prayer.” David’s life was so filled with prayer he could say his life is prayer. When the apostle Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21), David would probably have said, “For to me, to live is prayer.” We would say he lived, ate, and slept prayer. The centrality of prayer in his life reflected his great dependence upon the Lord.

David asked God to severely judge his accusers (109:6-29). He pleaded with God to return what his enemies were doing to him back on themselves. For example, He asked God to “set a wicked man” over his enemy to oppose and accuse him (109:6). He wanted God to judge him “guilty” and put him to death (109:7-8). He also prayed the Lord would punish his enemy’s “children” and “wife” for his evil doings (109:9-10) so that no one would remember him and so that he would have no descendants (109:11-15). The reason David prayed this way was because his enemy had practiced these things David asked God to do to him (109:16-20, 28-29). David was confident that God would save him from his enemies, so he promised to “greatly praise the Lord” (109:30-31).

Do you ever find yourself at a loss for words when you have been deeply hurt by those whom you have loved? You have these angry thoughts toward them, but you have been taught that anger is sin, so you stuff your feelings down or condemn yourself for having them? If that describes you, follow David’s example and express your anger to God in prayer. God already knows they are there, but He wants you to release them to Him, so He can heal you and work in your life and in the lives of those who have wronged you.

Harboring angry thoughts will hurt you more than your offenders. Instead of trying to get even, get honest with the Lord so He can lift your burdens and deal with those who have mistreated you. It is not wrong to pray for God to punish evil doers because He has promised to do so either in this life or in the future (cf. Acts 17:30-31; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; Revelation 6:9-10; 16:4-6; 19:2, 11-21). But it is also important to pray for their salvation lest they perish without Christ (John 17:20; Romans 10:1; I Timothy 2:1-7).

Have you asked God to bless you?

“And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed.’ ” I Chronicles 4:10a

In Hebrew, the name Jabez (יַ֠עְבֵּץ) means “Pain” or “Painful.” Why did his mother name him Jabez? Perhaps it was a difficult pregnancy or delivery; or due to emotional pain – maybe his father left during the pregnancy or died. Whatever her reason, this was not a good start for this boy. 

We don’t have to let our past determine the present or even our future. Maybe your parents told you you’d never amount to anything, you can’t do anything right, you’re nothing but a pain. Don’t listen to those lies. Jabez did not. He turned his pain into gain. How?

He handled his problems by handing them over to God. He chose to live a life that was honorable to God in spite of his painful beginning. He prayed to the God of the universe. It’s as if he was saying, “God you know me, you know my mom called me a pain, and at times I have been. But now I want to break out of that rut and I know the only way I can do that is if You will bless me. I want to live a life, God, that is more honorable to You.” 

To ask for God’s blessing means to ask for His supernatural favor, His kindness to be poured out into our lives. “Oh, God pour out Your goodness into my life.”  

The word “indeed” (תְּבָרֲכֵ֜נִי) is like adding five exclamation points. “Bless me not just a little, but a whole lot! Pour it on, God!!” He does not tell God how to bless him. He doesn’t ask for money or popularity or a new house. He lets God determine how to bless him. While all his friends were content with being average and mediocre, Jabez said, “God I want you to bless the sandals off of me! I want you to do something big with my life!” Jabez did not want to be average or ordinary. He deeply wanted God’s blessing on his life. 

A lot of Christians just drift through life today. They have no goals and no ambition. As a result, they never accomplish much for the Lord. They are merely existing. Every one of us needs a dream from God. If we are not dreaming, we are drifting. When we stop dreaming, we start dying. When we stop setting goals, we stop growing. God made you for growth. He wants you to stretch and develop. God never created you to go through life with a halfhearted attitude, wondering what you are doing and where you are going. God wants you to have great ambition. He dares you to ask for big requests. 

“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). Paul says that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). This means you cannot out-ask God. You cannot out-dream God. If you could stretch your imagination to the greatest limits of what you think could possibly happen, God can go far beyond even that. He can go beyond your imagination. God says, “Trust Me. Ask for things. Get a big dream.”

Prayer In Evangelism

“Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the Lord. So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live.” Joshua 9:14-15

After Israel had learned that obedience was necessary to experience victory at Jericho (6:1-27), they had another important lesson to learn. Not all of Israel’s enemies wanted to fight them. The Gibeonites were certain they could not defeat Israel, so they pursued peace with them. They approached Israel’s leaders pretending to come from far away to make a peace treaty with them (9:3-13). How did Israel’s leaders respond? “Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the Lord. So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live” (9:14-15). Their failure to seek God’s guidance in prayer led them to compromise God’s will. 

If we do not pray as individual believers and as a church, we will become more vulnerable to Satan’s attacks (cf. Ephes. 6:10-13, 18). Prayer protects us from the deception and bondage of the devil.

However, when we do pray to God, nothing is impossible with God. We see this in the next chapter of Joshua. When Joshua needed more light to defeat the Amorites, he remembered God’s promise to deliver the Amorites into his hand (10:8) and prayed for the sun and moon to stand still: “Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel: ‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon’” (10:12). God supernaturally stopped the rotation of the earth so Israel could defeat its enemies: “So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies” (10:13). 

Never underestimate what God can do through one person who prays (cf. James 5:17-18). As we preach the gospel to a lost world, keep this in mind when you need God to overcome your circumstances (cf. Acts 12:3-12; 13:4-12; Philippians 1:12-19), give you boldness in a fearful situation (cf. Acts 4:29, 31; Ephes. 6:18-20), or grant you favor with others (cf. Acts 1:14; 2:1, 41, 47; Col. 4:3). He still answers the prayer of faith.