Be Anxious for Nothing

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

Yesterday we began looking at Paul’s words in Philippians 4 concerning maintaining a thankful heart. We have seen that thanksgiving for Christian is much more than just a response to something good. Thanksgiving is a positive force that draws good things to the believer. Philippians 4:4-9 gives us some keys to cultivating and maintaining a thankful heart. Yesterday we studied the first of these keys, rejoicing in the Lord.

Rejoice means to celebrate or express joy. Rejoicing in the Lord is to celebrate our relationship with him. Paul says we should do this always. That does not mean that we must sing and shout all day every day. It does mean that we should keep a consciousness and rejoicing in our hearts concerning the wonderful things God has done for us. In order to do this, I believe we need to spend time in physical rejoicing or praising God.

In our church, we spend time in every service singing, clapping, shouting and even dancing before the Lord. This brings our flesh under the control of our spirit. When we are exuberant in our physical praise to God, we are doing what David did in Psalm 103. We are telling our soul that we will not serve it but that our soul, emotions, will serve us by praising God. We bring our bodies under subjection and cause them to praise the Lord. It is impossible to be unthankful when we are celebrating the goodness of God.

The second, third and fourth keys are in verse 6. First, Paul says to be anxious for nothing. The KJV says be careful for nothing. In Matthew chapter 6 Jesus tells us we cannot add an inch to our height by worrying. These are all saying the same thing. If we want to have a thankful heart, we cannot give in to worry.

Worry is meditation in fear. It is taking upon ourselves the care for our future and the responsibility to solve all our problems. There is a responsibility that we should carry, however we cannot handle the full weight. 1 Peter 5 tells us what we should do.

1 Peter 5:6-7(NKJV) 6Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

When we give into the temptation to think about all the bad things that can happen to us, we are giving in to the cares and worries of life. Bad things are always out there. They can happen to us at any time. The ones we know about are probably far fewer than the ones we do not know about. However, the ones we know are the ones that get our attention and cause us to worry. The problem with worry is that it simply does no good.

The solution is to cast the worry, or care, about a situation on the Lord. To do that we must realize the truth that he really does care for us. When I give in to worry, I will always find myself unthankful. When I cast my care upon the Lord, I must begin to thank him for what he has done in the past. I remember that God is able to deal with any problem. Soon I find myself telling the devil, “My Father has this situation under control. I am not going to think about it except to hear what he has to say about it. If you want to talk about it, you will have to talk to my Father.”

Casting our care on the Lord requires that we do something that can be difficult for some of us. We must humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. To some people this means declaring that we are nothing and that we can do nothing. That is not true humility. True humility knows that I can do nothing without the Lord, but it also is willing to receive the help that God gives. I humble myself by letting the Lord take the care of the situation off my shoulders. He is well able to carry that burden.

The second key in this verse is that in everything we are to make our requests to God. This seems rather obvious at first, but if we examine ourselves, I think we will find that we do not do this. We try our best to solve the problem. We ask people for help or we lean on some natural institution. When all of that fails, we finally go to God in prayer. When we finally go to prayer, we have already taken the care of the situation on ourselves and we are already unthankful.

Paul tells us to take everything to God all the time. No request is too small or too large to take to the Lord. We should make requests of him first not after we try everything else. He can then direct us to whatever solution will best suit our situation. We may still get counsel from people or use some natural resource. We may find that the Lord will direct us as to how to handle the situation ourselves. He also may simply answer the request with a miracle. In any case, if we do not make the request he can do nothing.

Finally, Paul says we must make these requests “with thanksgiving.” It will do us no good to pray if we do not believe that God can and will meet the need. As we have studied in the past, if we believe God will meet the need, we should thank him for it even before we see the manifestation. God is not a man. He does not lie and he has no lack of ability no matter what our need may be. Since we know God can meet the need and, if we pray according to the promises in the Word, we know he wants to meet the need, we thank for the need met.

So let us summarize what Paul is saying in this verse. I need to be thankful to God. To cultivate this thankfulness, I must stop taking the burden of the care for the problem on my own shoulders. I must realize that God cares for me and be humble enough to trust him with my problems. I must also bring those problems to him through prayer and supplication, or asking.

Once I have done so, I must begin to thank him for the answer. In order to maintain a thankful heart, I must give thanks. I must practice thankfulness. As I practice thankfulness, I will release more and more of the care of the situation to God. As I release more of the care to God, I will be more thankful. I will also be more confident in bringing my requests to God, which will result in more practice of thanksgiving, which then will lead to more casting of my care on God, which will make me more thankful. Do you begin to see a pattern?

What is the result of this process? The peace of God begins to our hearts and minds. In this context, these words mean our thoughts and feelings. One interpretation of mind here is our disposition. I like that thought. The mind is the battleground of faith. As we put this process in place, there is something that begins to happen to our minds and emotions.

The Amplified Bible says the peace of God mounts garrison around our hearts and minds. This process produces peace, which becomes a fortress of God around my thoughts and my emotions. My disposition begins to change because I know that God is in control. The more I thank him the more peace rises and the stronger the walls become against the attack of the enemy. With this “garrison” in place, I can do anything necessary to see the full manifestation of God’s promise in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Maintaining a Thankful Heart

Philippians 4:4-7(NKJV) 4Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

This week we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and the beginning of the Christmas season. I believe this is more than a coincidence of timing. The Christmas season is a stressful time for many people. At best, it is exceedingly busy. If we choose to take seriously the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday, it will change the whole complexion of the season. Start by truly giving thanks to God for what he has done and what he promises to do. Keep that attitude in your heart through the New Year and see what a difference it will make.

Yesterday we warned against the cancer of being unthankful. When we focus more on disappointment and what we do not have than on the many things God has done in our lives we are giving in to an unthankful heart. Romans 1 tells us that this can lead to confusion, darkness of mind and mood and ultimately a wrong idea of who God is and what he is doing in our lives.

We must combat being unthankful by offering up the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips giving thanks to God. Even when we do not feel the emotion of thanksgiving, we must recognize that God is for us and not against us. We must choose to thank him in spite of our feelings or circumstances. When we do that, our emotions will change and the power of God will go into effect to change the circumstances.

Today I want to look at a section of scripture we touched on earlier in the week. In Philippians 4, Paul gives us some keys to maintaining thankfulness even in the face of trials and disappointments. In the sixth verse, we read that we should make our requests know to God with thanksgiving. This ties prayer and the promises of God to the idea of giving thanks. It is what we must do while we wait for the manifestation of the promise upon which we base our prayer.

I believe we can tie a number of the verses in this chapter to the same thought. In verse 4, Paul gives us the first step to developing and maintaining a thankful heart. He tells us to “rejoice in the Lord always.” This thought is so important that Paul repeats it by saying, “again I say rejoice.” If we are going to maintain a thankful heart, we must be willing to rejoice in the Lord. What does it mean to rejoice?

To rejoice means to celebrate or show joy. When Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord, he is telling us to celebrate in the Lord. We all know what a celebration is. I am a sports fan. When a team wins a championship, there is a celebration. The people rejoice in the victory. The typical celebration in a locker room is to shake bottles of champagne and pop the corks spraying the champagne on everyone in the room. This is not a mild display. It is exuberant and extreme. When there is real rejoicing, everyone knows.

Thankfulness and rejoicing go hand in hand. There is no way that we can be unthankful and rejoice in the Lord at the same time. We generally associate rejoicing with a spontaneous reaction to an event. We rejoice at a championship, a marriage or a birth. However, just as thanksgiving is something a Christian does to produce an effect, so is rejoicing. When Paul exhorts us to rejoice in the Lord, he is not saying that we should wait for something good to happen. He is telling us to rejoice in the Lord. Our relationship with the Lord is the “something good” we are to rejoice about.

Paul tells us that this is something we should do “always.” Paul is not just suggesting that we rejoice. This verse is an exhortation bordering on a command. This implies that we must choose to rejoice in the Lord. We cannot wait for feelings of rejoicing to erupt. We must rejoice, or celebrate, whether we feel it or not. As we have already said, rejoicing is so important that Paul repeats the command a second time.

The implication is that we should actively celebrate our relationship with the Lord on a continual basis. I know that we cannot run around shouting all the time. However, I believe we must have this rejoicing in our hearts at all times. This is necessary if we are going to maintain thankfulness. I also believe that we will not have rejoicing in our hearts if we never practice rejoicing outwardly.

I do not agree with the current sentiment in many circles that would say we should have only moderate behavior in our church services. The thinking is that we do not want to offend anyone or make anyone uncomfortable. When I started my third church 25 years ago, this thinking was just coming into vogue. As I prayed about what Living Word Christian Center’s character would be, the Lord spoke to my heart. He said, “I don’t want you to make this church acceptable to the young or the old. I don’t want you to make it acceptable to the rich or the poor. I want you to make it acceptable to me.”

I have allowed this to guide me as we built the church. The word of God says, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.” In our church, we spend time at every service obeying this command. We sing. We shout. We dance before the Lord. We celebrate his goodness and we thank him for his blessing. Some people do not like this kind of behavior in church. That is not my problem. Jesus likes it and that is all I care about. I find that if our people are comfortable with rejoicing, eventually the visitors warm up to it. If they do not, there are plenty of churches for them to go to. As for us, we will rejoice in the Lord!

For those who participate in this rejoicing, thankfulness rises the more we rejoice. How can you be unthankful if you are shouting about the goodness of God? How can you be unthankful when you dance around the sanctuary, celebrating his blessings in your life? You cannot. I find it interesting that no one seems to think spraying a room full of people with champagne is strange, but to shout, sing and dance in church because we are rejoicing in the Lord is strange.

I realize that rejoicing can mean different things to different people and at different times. I also know that God gives us some guidelines for rejoicing in the psalms. It is there we find shouting, clapping, loud cymbals and dancing. I believe that this pattern is pleasing to the Lord and therefore appropriate for church. I believe that the time we spend rejoicing in our church is exactly what David commanded himself to do in the psalms.

Psalms 103:1-2(NKJV) 1 Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:

David is speaking to his own soul. His soul did not want to rejoice. His soul was discouraged and disappointed. However, David knew the secret of rejoicing. He knew that a rejoicing heart is a thankful heart. It was David who danced before the Lord with all his might. David would not allow his emotions to rule him. He took hold of his emotions and commanded them to rejoice in the Lord.

However you choose to do it, I exhort you with the apostle Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say rejoice.” Rejoice this thanksgiving. Continue to rejoice through the holiday season. Do not rejoice in the gifts or the giving. Do not rejoice in the fun or the food. Rejoice in the Lord. Let the celebration continue through the year. Rejoice by faith because God is good no matter what may be happening our how we feel. Rejoice on purpose and in the midst of trial and disappointment. You will find that being unthankful will not stand up to the rejoicing heart. You will be thankful and your thankfulness will bring good things to you and yours.

The Affects of Being Unthankful

Romans 1:20-23(NKJV) 20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

Yesterday we looked at the power of thankfulness. In the natural, thankfulness produces a positive outlook on life. It helps us remember what is good in life and takes our focus off what may be lacking. For a Christian it is even more important. Thankfulness when connected to the promises of God becomes a force that produces good things and not just a response to good things that may happen.

I also want to remind you that this week we begin the Christmas season in the USA with the holiday we call Thanksgiving. I believe we can use this timing to make the Christmas season something other than commercialism and pressure. If we will begin with giving thanks for the blessings of God through the year, and continue by thanking God for what he is going to do according to his promises, we can have a wonderful holiday experience. Of course, central to our theme of giving thanks throughout the Christmas season is being thankful for the birth of the incarnate son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

Today I want to take a few moments and look at the other side of the thankfulness coin. Today’s scripture is a scathing condemnation of those who do not believe in God. It begins with the accusation that no one has any excuse. Paul points out that God’s existence is evident throughout nature. I know that this argument would be vigorously challenged in today’s world. There are those who insist that modern science leaves no room for a belief in God. I respectfully disagree.

Science tells us that life cannot spring from nothing. However, if you follow secular thinking to its logical conclusion, life must have come from nothing. There was a “big bang” and somehow this formed the universe. (Of course, we know that this “big bang” was the voice of the creator God saying, “Let there be light.”) Over the course of eons of time proteins which came from somewhere and came together in just the right proportions to form the beginning of life as we know it. No explanation is given for where these proteins came from.

We are then told to believe that this chance encounter of proteins formed a chain reaction that finally became the complex, self aware creature we call man. Science has never been able to duplicate even the most basic part of this process. They can bring the elements together, but unless life is already present in the mixture, there will be no life produced. There is some ingredient, some catalyst missing. We are told to ignore that and just believe in the almighty wisdom of science. Moreover, they would say we are foolish to have faith in an invisible, intelligent God that gave the spark called life.

We do not yet fully understand many things about the relation between science and the bible. Some questions do arise, but just as often as the facts of science seem to dispute the biblical accounts, they also tend to support them. I suspect that when we get to heaven it will all make sense. In the mean time, I choose to have faith in the creator God and not almighty science.

I realize that I have digressed a bit, but it is important that we understand Paul’s perspective if we are going to understand fully what he is trying to say. Look at these verses in the New Living Translation.

Romans 1:21-23(NLT) 21Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

Paul tells us that the people he is talking about have had their minds darkened and confused. He says they have stopped worshiping the glorious God and have begun worshiping idols made to look like what they themselves could not create. They come up with foolish ideas about what God is like. To me this sounds familiar. In our day we do not worship statues and call them God, but we worship our own intellectual power even though we still cannot create life.

What is at the heart of all this? What causes people to ignore what is right in front of their eyes? Could Christians find themselves in some form of this darkness even though they do believe in God? Yes, they can. The reason people come to this place is twofold. They refuse to worship God as God and they are unthankful.

We can understand the first part of this. Even when the evidence is irrefutable, people in their pride refuse to acknowledge God as God. Man has wanted to be greater than God since the fall in Eden. That is the nature of Satan. However, what of us who do believe? We acknowledge God as God. We even worship him as God. Nevertheless, when we are not thankful, we allow this process access to our thinking. We may not become all that Paul describes here, but we will see its influence in our lives.

For a Christian being unthankful is an unacceptable, cancerous lifestyle. Just as cancer eats away at a healthy body, being unthankful will eat away at our faith and spiritual life. It will weaken us until we have no hope. Being unthankful will lead us to give up before we see the promise manifest in our lives. It is a dangerous thing and we must not indulge it.

Look at the elements that Paul points to in these verses. He speaks of darkness in the mind and confusion. An unthankful Christian is a confused Christian. The more the devil causes us to focus on what God has not done, on our disappointments and on the things that we wish were different in life, the more confused we become. We do not see that God has helped us before and we cannot see how God will help us now. When we are unthankful, we begin to believe things about God that are not true.

When we choose to cultivate a lifestyle of thankfulness, we will constantly be reminded of all the ways God has met our needs in the past. God often told Israel to erect alters that would remind them of God’s deliverance. Every time they passed one of these alters, it said to them, “God did it then and he can do it now!” As we thank God for his hand in the past, we will also begin to thank him for what he will do in the future. Thankfulness is contagious. It will reinforce our faith in the promises of God.

Do not allow yourself become unthankful. It will lead you to places that you do not want to go. Instead, choose to be thankful in all things. You may say, “If I choose to give thanks when I do not feel thankful, I am a hypocrite.” That is natural wisdom and not true. Look at this verse.

Hebrews 13:15(NKJV) 15Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

If you do not feel thankful right now, choose to offer the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of your lips giving thanks to God. Do it by faith in this promise. When you choose to offer this wonderful sacrifice, you will eventually feel the power of thankfulness rising in your heart and faith in the promises of God will bring about wonderful changes in your life.

With Thanksgiving

Philippians 4:6(NKJV) 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

We are about to begin the 2012 holiday season here in the United States. This is either the “most wonderful time of the year”, as one of our popular holiday songs says, or a most difficult time of the year. Although holiday and family traditions make for warm feelings and joy, there are also more suicides during the holidays than at another other time of year.

There is tremendous pressure to buy things that we cannot afford and do things that we do not have the time for. There are parties and get-togethers in abundance. We have to decorate, bake, make candy, wrap presents and myriad other things that can cause this season to overwhelm even the most “Christmassy” of us. What can we do as Christians to make the holidays joyous and blessed instead of tedious and pressure packed? I believe this section of scripture can help us.

Let me point out something that I find very interesting. In our country, we celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving. The most famous historical Thanksgiving celebration was that of the pilgrims of the Massachusetts Bay colony in the 1630’s however, setting aside a day to give thanks to God for his blessing and provision was a practice throughout the colonies. In 1863 during the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln established a national holiday on the fourth Thursday of November and that continues until today.

Thanksgiving Thursday marks the official beginning of the holiday season. I know that it is simply a coincidence of timing that the holidays officially begin with Thanksgiving, but I cannot help but think the Lord had something to do with it. I believe we can change our whole outlook on the holidays if we will really take to heart the idea of giving thanks. This is especially true if we call ourselves Christians.

This year we have been looking at a number of things related to the idea that God wants us to possess our land of promises, drive out the enemies that keep us from those promises and occupy that land until Jesus comes. I choose as one focus this thought from 2 Peter chapter 1.

2 Peter 1:2-4(NKJV) 2Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

God has given us exceedingly great and precious promises that enable us to partake of his divine nature. That divine nature is expressed in what we call his characteristics. God is all powerful, unchanging, all knowing and everywhere present. We must add to those characteristics things like absolutely loving, righteous and holy. If we take hold of the promises provided in the word of God, we can partake of these characteristics and their power in our lives. The key is understanding that the bible is a book of promises not theology or doctrine.

A promise is a personal word given to an individual by another individual. The promises in the bible were given to all who will read and believe them. We must realize that God the Father in his infinite wisdom and ability, somehow makes them personal statements to every person who chooses to receive them. The promise that God will meet my needs from Philippians 4:19 is not some general statement in an ancient book. It is my Father promising me that he will take care of me. It is a personal promise. It is neither doctrine nor theology. When I see it that way, faith rises in my heart because I know that my Father will not lie. He will not fail me because he has whatever power is needed to provide for my needs. I know he will do what he said and he will do it in a way that will bring the greatest blessing to my life. That may mean he will not do it the way I think he should, but I know he will do it. I have his personal promise.

In our study, we have looked at a number of things we must do in relation to the promise. When we believe the promise, we gain access to the power of the promise. When we speak in line with the promise, we activate them in our lives. This means speaking “to the mountain” we may be facing as well as speaking them to God in prayer. When we act on the promise, we release its power in our lives. (Mark 11:22-24) However, there is one more thing we must do in order to see the promise fulfilled. We must make our requests known to God with thanksgiving.

Mark 11:24 tells us that when we pray we must believe we receive what we ask for. In the world, we tend to think along the lines of “I will believe it when I see it.” When we are dealing with the world this is often a wise approach. When we are dealing with God, we must adjust our thinking. God cannot lie. When we approach the promises of God, we cannot do so based on “I will believe it when I see it.” We must approach he promises of God based on “When I believe it I will eventually see it.”

When I pray, I believe that God hears the request and since I base my prayer on his promise to me, I believe it is mine already. At some point, I will see the promise manifested in my life. The problem is that there is always an amount of time between when I pray and when I see the manifestation in the natural. It may be a few seconds or it may be years. What do I do while I am waiting? Philippians 4:6 tells us. We make our request with thanksgiving. We continue to thank God for the answer until we see it in the natural. Giving thanks to God for the answer is a key component in receiving it.

How does all this tie in with the holiday season? I believe we need to understand thanksgiving, the action not the holiday, in a new light. We see it as a response. Something good happens and we give thanks. It certainly is that. However, it is more than that for a Christian. If we understand thanksgiving properly, we see that it is not just a response to good things but also part of what causes good things to come to us.

There is no doubt that a thankful person is more enjoyable to be around than an unthankful person is. In the natural, thankfulness will give you a better disposition and a more positive outlook on life. This is something that makes developing thankfulness worthwhile. In the spirit, thankfulness does much more.

First, when we thank God for what he has done it reminds us of who God is and what he can do in our lives. Our hearts will be filled with joy and confidence when we remember how much God has really done for us. When we begin to thank God for what he will do according to the promise we prayed, our thanksgiving produces a draw in the spirit that will bring those good things to us. The more we thank God for his promise, the more real it becomes to us. There is less and less the devil can do to discourage us because we are conscious of God’s willingness to do what he said he would do. Doubt and unbelief cannot stand in the face of active thanksgiving.

I want to encourage you to make this holiday season a season that begins with the Thanksgiving holiday and continues to be a time of thanksgiving through the new year. Thank God for what he has done in your life this year. Thank him for family and friends. Thank him for all you have instead of thinking about what you do not have. Add to this equation thanking God for what he promises to do in your life. Make some requests to him this season and pledge to continue to thank him for the answer until you see it in the natural. If you will do that, I know you will see an increase in your faith and in your joy. You might even find that the Christmas season really is the most wonderful, blessed and thankful time of the year.

Preparation to Promotion to Greatness

Preparation to Promotion to Greatness
November 21, 2014

Deuteronomy 34:9 (NKJV) 9 Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Yesterday we looked at another Old Testament character that walked in greatness. His name is Joshua. As Moses successor, he had one of the most difficult tasks in history. As the one who would lead Israel into the possession of their Promised Land, he lived in one of the most important times in history. What was the key to greatness in the life of Joshua? I believe it was that he was prepared.

We have followed him through his initial victory over the Amalekites. Joshua led the battle against the them but it was won because Moses held up his hands over the battlefield. It was Moses anointing that won the day for Israel. This battle did identify something that was in Joshua’s life. He had the potential to lead the people in military campaigns. This was an important ability when it came to driving out the enemies of Israel who lived in Canaan.

As important as this skill was, winning one battle did not mean Joshua was ready to be Moses’ successor. Just a few of the things he learned in his years with Moses were discernment, the importance of prayer, the presence of God and the value God placed on all the people not just the leaders. These were all things that he would need to lead Israel politically as well as on the battlefield.

It is so interesting to me that Joshua does not go from leading Israel in battle to the position of general. He becomes Moses’ assistant. He was not assisting Moses in ruling but was his personal servant. This seems to be a demotion but nothing could be farther from the truth.

I have had similar experiences. I began in ministry at the age of 24. As I look back, I realize I did not know very much. After one year of mentoring I became the Pastor of the church my friend and I had started. By age 33, I was starting my third church. Until that time, I had no fathers in the faith. I had an older brother in the faith but I had been saved longer than he had. He had been in the ministry for a few years though and asked me to work with him.

Our fathers were books and tapes. He taught me what he could, but by the time I was in this third church, he was doing something else and I needed more preparation. I took some courses to continue my education, but that really did not help much. To make a long story short, I came into relationship with some very powerful older ministers of the Gospel who took me under their wing and helped me.

One in particular is a man who is one of the best teachers and greatest prophets in the world. He asked me to begin traveling with him to help in a form of prophetic ministry that requires a team. As the junior member, I was there to minister prophetically and to help this senior man in any way I could. I had been preaching quite a few years and most people seemed to think I had some skill in this area, but when I traveled with Doc, no one wanted to hear me. It was many years before I preached in front of him.

Although I was the pastor of my third church and I knew how to preach I was not the boss on these trips. I carried his bags. I did what I was asked and I did things he did not want to do. In some ways, I was his “assistant” in the same way Joshua was Moses’ assistant.

In those years, I learned more about flowing in the prophetic and teaching the Word of God than I could have learned from many years in Seminary. It is not that Doc taught me per se. He certainly taught me in our times of conversation. He taught me by the example he displayed in his ministry and personal life. Just being with him on the field brought an impartation to my life that I do not believe anything else could have. Today, God is moving me into part of the fulfillment of my calling that would not be impossible without my time with him. I certainly do not believe I would enjoy the respect I have been given. Nothing has been more important than my time serving a senior man of God. So it was with Joshua.

In the book of numbers, we see a maturing that has occurred in Joshua. We all know this story from Numbers 14. Moses sends out twelve spies. Ten of them return with what the Lord calls an evil report. They said, “The land is all God said it would be but we cannot take it. The opposition is just too great.”

Joshua and Caleb had a different report.

Numbers 14:7-9 (NKJV) 7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.”

What caused these two men to be able to see past the difficulties so they could walk in faith toward God? In the case of Caleb, he is an older man. He seems to be a man of exceptional faith. We do not know much more about him and the next time we see him is in Canaan where he asks for permission to take the Mountain Moses promised him.

In Joshua’s case, I think the explanation is somewhat different. Joshua obviously had faith as well. I believe that his ability to stand in the face of contradictory evidence was enhanced by something else. Joshua had been prepared for this by his time as Moses’ servant.

Caleb was also great in the Kingdom of God. I am sure he was prepared for his role in God’s plan. He was to be an example to the people. In that way, he would help lead them. He was called to take a mountain for the Lord. However, Joshua was called to replace Moses and lead the nation. His preparation was different from Caleb’s preparation. For him to become great he had to follow his own path.

Each of us has a calling to fulfill. Greatness in the Kingdom of God is measured on a very personal level. We must do what God asks us to do. We do not have to do more and we cannot do less. Each of us will go through our own personal preparation plan. However, if we do not allow God to prepare us we will never reach true greatness in the kingdom. We do that by cooperation with God. We do it by taking the time in each phase of life that God requires. We do it by not complaining but by praising God through all the things we face. In the end, we will see greatness emerge as we walk through his chosen path for our lives.

That is what we see in the life of Joshua. In today’s scripture, we see the fulfillment of Joshua’s preparation as it manifests in a promotion. That promotion did not really come at the hands of Moses. Even though it seemed that Joshua was the logical choice to succeed Moses he could not be confirmed until the Lord said he was ready. Moses laid his hands upon Joshua because God told him to do so.

God is the one who is training you. God is the one who will promote you. God will use people in your preparation. God will use circumstances in your preparation. God will use the experience gained living life in your preparation. I worked five years in a factory. At the time, I did not understand how that related to my future ministry. However, when I had to deal with people who worked all day and had a hard time coming to church or getting into the word, I could understand them in a way I would not have been able to without those years.

Let God do in you what he needs to. When the time for promotion comes, he will bring it and no one, not even the devil will be able to stop it.

The Wilderness

Exodus 3:1 (NKJV) 1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

This week we have been looking at the defining characteristic that enabled Moses to be great in the Kingdom of God. That characteristic is meekness. According to numbers 12:3 in the King James Version, Moses was the meekest man on the face of the earth.

We also found that the way God worked this meekness in Moses’ life was through a process called “brokenness.” This term does not mean broken down. That implies the breaking of the person’s spirit until they believe they can do nothing. Brokenness before God looks very similar. The man who walks in Godly brokenness also believes he can do nothing in himself. He does not believe this as a matter of religion or philosophy. He believes it as a matter of experience. He comes to know that he needs God to do anything of value.

When we left Moses, he was sitting by a well having fled Egypt after failing in his attempt to be their deliver. He was once the epitome if a storybook deliverer. He had unlimited resources and power. He had influence and position. He as old enough to have some wisdom and yet young enough to kill a man. (Remember, there were no guns in those days so however he did the deed it must have taken some strength.)

All of his natural ability to deliver Israel was gone. He had no ability in himself at all. For the next 40 years, he took care of his father-in-law’s sheep. He lived on the backside of the desert in obscurity. Nevertheless, those 40 years were not wasted. God was working in his life to change him from a deliverer who was capable in the natural to one who was qualified in the spirit.

All of us have periods in our lives when we are “on the backside of the desert.” We feel that nothing is happening. We may feel that we have failed. We feel that there is nothing we can do. I find that one of the traps in these times is that we will also feel that we do not fit in. Some will leave the church they are attending looking for something else. Those who give in to those feelings will often fall away from the Lord at least for a time.

If we understand the “wilderness” times in our Christian walk, they can become the most important and productive times in our lives. All that Moses did flowed from his experience in those 40 years. It was during this time that God worked meekness in his life. It was in that time that he became the deliverer of Israel who would be capable of defeating the greatest nation on earth.

God does many things in us during the times in the wilderness. The process of breaking is to bring us to complete dependence on him. That is part of the purpose of the wilderness. He also uses this “down time” to teach us the things we need to go forward. He molds us into the person that he created us to be so that when we come out of the wilderness we are the best version of ourselves we can be.

Some very powerful people went through “back of the desert experiences. In the Old Testament, I think of Joseph who had to endure a pit, slavery and prison before he was ready to be the savior of his family. Joseph began as an immature dreamer but became an interpreter of dreams and a man of uncommon wisdom. I wonder how he would have reacted when his brothers came to him for food if he had not gone through his wilderness.

In the New Testament, the names are even more significant. Jesus and Paul both went through wilderness times in their lives. Jesus’ had two. Neither was very long but then Jesus was the perfect son of God. If he needed these times can I really believe I do not?

Upon his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist he was immediately lead by the spirit into the wilderness. He came back in the power of the Holy Spirit. (Luke 4:1-14) The second wilderness lasted just a few hours but it was so intense that Jesus sweat drops of blood. It was in the garden of Gethsemane the night before his resurrection. The result of that wilderness was the great statement out of the mouth of the Son of Man, “Not my will but thine be done!”

In Galatians, we find that Paul spent 3 years in a desert place where Jesus taught him. We do not know exactly what that means. Paul gives us no indication how Jesus taught him. I do not know if he appeared to Paul or simply lead him through the Word inwardly as he does us today. I do know that Paul was not staying in the “Holiday Inn Express” while he was there. It was a time of harsh separation. When Paul came out of that time, he was a new man. (Galatians 1:11-24)

I do not know what your wilderness is like. You may be in one right now. You may have come through one and are now on the other side. I can assure you that there will be many wildernesses in your life. How you respond and react will determine how long you stay and whether or not God is able to accomplish what is needed in your life at that time.

God does not give us much information about Moses 40 years on the backside of the desert. We can learn some things by what happened at the end of his wilderness time. However, I can assure you that it was not easy. We know that he kept doing what he could do. We know that he married and had at least one son. I believe that it was in this time that he found out who the Hebrew God really was.

We know that the arrogance and self-reliance that he displayed while he was in Egypt was gone. We know that the meekness that God says was his strength was fully developed by the time he came back to Egypt as God’s deliverer.

The wilderness is never easy. How we respond to it can make it both harder and longer. What should you do if you find yourself in such a time? You should remain faithful. You should do what you can do. You should thank God for his love and care for you even though you may feel abandoned. You are not abandoned. He said he would never leave you nor forsake you.

Let God work in you. You may never know exactly what he is doing until you are on the other side. That is the way it was with Moses and that is the way it has been with me. The hardest times in my life, as I look back on them, have been the defining times in my life.

If we choose to praise and trust God in the wilderness, it will be both easier and shorter. If we give in to grumbling, complaining and the lie that God has abandoned us, it will be a very difficult time indeed. If we let God do what needs to be done, we will move on. If not we will find ourselves in the same wilderness again and again until we do.

Let this verse from James help you through the wilderness. When you come out the other side, you will be ready for more.

James 1:2-4 (NKJV) 2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

The Power in Brokenness

Exodus 3:11 (NKJV) 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

Our study of great people in the bible has taken us to the life of Moses. Few Bible characters can match the impact of Moses upon the world. His life continues to shape the world even in our day. What was the defining characteristic that made Moses great? We found from Numbers 12:3 that Moses was the meekest man in the earth. The New King James uses the word humble. I like the word meek better.

A meek person is not a weak person. A meek person is one who does not need to display himself as strong because he knows where his strength lies. A meek person does not have to be boastful or arrogant. A meek person does not have to defend himself. He will say or do whatever needs to be done, but not to justify or identify self. A biblically meek person knows that God is for him so no one can succeed against him as long as he is walking in the will of God.

This story in numbers is about a rebellion against Moses by his own brother and sister. God judged them while Moses never said a word against them. After the fact, Moses showed another side of bible meekness. He forgave them and interceded with God for them resulting in God’s mercy for Miriam. A person walking in true bible meekness is a powerful person and will be great in the Kingdom of God.

How did Moses become the meekest man in the earth? There is a process that he went through to work this in his life. It is not a topic that is very popular today. We like to hear about how we can “tap into the success within us.” There is nothing wrong with that if it is in the proper context. Jesus does live within us and he will give us victory. Paul said, “I am more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus.” He also said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

We must understand that we cannot access the things Paul is talking about unless we understand that we are not strong in ourselves. It is not about whom I am or what I can do. It is about who Jesus is and what he can do. Moses did not start out that way. Something had to happen to him before he was fit to be the deliverer of Israel. He had to come to a place of brokenness before the Lord.

The word “brokenness” can be difficult for most of us. So many people have been broken down by life that it can be a problem to understand the difference between broken down and brokenness. The devil seeks to break people down. Abuse, failure and ridicule have that affect on many. To be broken down means our spirit is broken. We have no sense of value. We are convinced that we are worthless. That is not what happened to Moses. What he went through may seem the same but it is not.

People who are broken down by other people, the devil or life itself have lost the ability to access the great one who lives in them. What happened to Moses actually enabled him to become what God needed him to be. Let us look at the process in his life.

We do not know much about Moses early years. What we do know is extraordinary. We know that God saved him when most of his generation was destroyed by the Pharaoh’s decree that all the male babies of the Israelites had to die. We know that Pharaoh’s daughter raised him. This made him special both spiritually and physically.

As a child in Pharaoh’s extended family, he would have had the best education. He would have been trained in war and government. He had the best connections possible. He had unlimited resources. In chapter two, we find that he killed an Egyptian. To me this indicates that he was an imposing specimen physically. He was everything you would want a deliverer to be. He had all the right natural equipment.

In Chapter 2 beginning in verse 11 and ending in verse 14 we find Moses trying to be just that by using his natural ability. He defends an Israelite by killing the Egyptian who was abusing him. However, saw Moses kill the man. When he attempts to solve a dispute between two other Israelites one of them says, “Who do you think you are? You are not a judge over us. Are you going to kill me like you killed the Egyptian?”

In a moment’s time, all of Moses’ physical qualifications to be a deliverer are stripped away. Pharaoh knows about the murder and vows to kill Moses. Moses must flee Egypt for his life. All his connections are gone. His wealth is gone. He has no resources at all. He tried to deliver a few Israelites from his lofty position and he failed miserably! How is he going to deliver the whole nation when he has nothing?

I find verse 15 to be very descriptive.

Exodus 2:15 (NKJV) 15 When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well.

We find this great leader stripped of everything he could trust in. Even his great education could not help him now. He is in a foreign alone. He has nowhere to go and nothing to do. He sits down by a well. To me, I see a picture of dejection, failure, loneliness and probably despair. He is not a deliverer. All his strengths are gone. He is a lonely man by a well.

For the next 40 years, he is the shepherd of his father-in-law’s sheep. There is no indication that he even had his own herd. He lives the life of a simple man convinced that he can do nothing. He is broken.

Tomorrow we will look at what God does with a person who is broken before him. God did not leave Moses that way. However, let me ask you where you are today. Maybe you feel that you have been a failure. Maybe life and the devil have broken you down. That is not God’s will for you. Life had broken Moses down but in the midst of that, God was doing something as well.

If you are at a low point in life, do not give up. Part of what is happening to you is that you are coming to a place of brokenness before the Lord. You can choose to see yourself as broken down or you can go to the Lord and admit, “I am at the end of myself.” When a person gets to that point, the Lord’s response is always the same. “I’m glad you finally figured that out so I can begin to take over!”

Paul had an experience similar to Moses’. He was a “Pharisee of the Pharisees.” He was someone in his community. Like Moses, he was well connected and well educated. He was doing what he understood was his duty in God. He was using all of his natural ability and resources to stop this heresy called Christianity. Jesus met him on the road to Damascus. He knocked him off his “high horse” and took away his sight. What could be more humiliating?

Paul ended up blind in a strange city. The one he was trying to persecute had turned out to be the God that he was trying to serve. He had no assignment. He had no future. He could not even leave the house where he was staying. God spoke to a common disciple to go and pray for Paul. The scales fell from his eyes and God gave him a new assignment telling him “how much he must suffer for the Lord.”

Paul was broken before God. He once cared about wealth and position. He no longer cared about anything but “Christ and him crucified.” In brokenness, meekness is released. In meekness, we leave reliance on self and come face to face with the reality that without God our natural strength means nothing. It is one thing know that theologically. It is quite another to be convinced of it in our heart. That is the purpose of brokenness and without it, there is not greatness in the Kingdom of God.