Learn how to develop an active listening ear to the voice of the Spirit.
If we are going to learn how to develop active listening to the voice of the Spirit, there are a few characteristics that we need.
The first characteristic required for active listening is an open mind. That means, a mind closed to nothing that coheres with holiness. Paul says about this, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure . . ." (Phil. 4:8, KJV).
Every day in our world, in our society and in our individual communities, somebody is treated unfairly. Someone is hurt, even though he or she didn’t deserve it. Someone is lied to or lied about. Someone is ignored or attacked. Someone is singled out or discriminated against. Many of us don’t have to look far to find such mistreatment—because we’re the ones who experience it!
If you’ve been the object of slanderous gossip at church, or passed over for a promised promotion on the job, or harassed because of someone else’s prejudice and fear, join the club. We all feel the pain of unfair treatment at some point in our lives.
When I ask the people in any audience, “Do you worry?” the response is a nearly unanimous, “Yes!” Many admit to having a master’s degree in worry. They have perfected the art of worrying with a lifetime of practice. And in all the worry, nothing of real value is gained.
Worry will never change an outcome, solve a problem or invite a miracle. Creativity will. Persistence will. Action will. Prayer will. But worry cannot. In fact, worry will keep you from doing all the things that will make a difference.
Psalm 97:1-98:9 God loves silence, but He also loves songs of praise and joyful sounds. He created each bird with a special song. I love to be awakened by the song of a red bird, and this happens often since we live in woods that are swarming with red birds. When God created the heavens and the earth, He created them to declare His glory. Even the trees clap their hands in joy. The heavens rejoice and declare His glory. Every time I hear a clap of thunder, I am reminded of the awesome and glorious power of God.
Colossians 3:18-4:18 One of the major problems with youth in our culture today is their lack of respect for parents and teachers. Our son Ron wanted to be a teacher of chemistry in high school. He finished his degree at Georgia Tech and then began his practice teaching at a high school in an exclusive neighborhood. He experienced such a great lack of respect from his students that he decided not to finish his practice teaching. Later Ron had the opportunity to teach in China, and the students respected and honored him. He loved teaching in China, and he plans to return.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. —1 Corinthians 6:19-20
So many people allow negative experiences and broken dreams to stop them. Yet God has the power to propel you beyond your disappointments.
Have you ever heard the statement, “Experience is the best teacher”? It’s true. The problem is that experience can teach you the wrong things as well as the right ones.
A person who is severely bitten by a dog, for example, generally has a lifelong dislike—and often fear—of dogs. People can have all sorts of fears and phobias because of one bad dream, accident or tragic event in their lives.
Fear and fear of failure extinguish the fires of success in our lives.
Remember when your friends in grade school would dare you or double-dare you to do something? You had a lot of courage back then and you weren’t afraid to accept a dare, no matter how difficult the challenge. But it seems the older we get and the more experiences we have, the more real our fears become.
Fear is one of the most crippling forces plaguing believers today. Like a thief, it robs us of our courage and desire to excel in life. I’ve heard many speakers say the word “fear” is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real, and it is. But more importantly, fear is the absence of faith and a tactic used to stifle our progress and cause us to give up on our dreams and aspirations.
God affords us many opportunities to fulfill our purpose and destiny, but the mere presence of fear and fear of failure extinguish the fires of success in our lives. However, failure can be beneficial if we learn how to fail forward. In other words, if we use temporary setbacks and obvious failures as opportunities to learn and grow—and avoid making the same mistakes over and over again—we will be successful.
Here are four lessons I’ve learned:
• Failure should never get a chance to take root and flourish in our lives.
• Failure is never final when we learn from past mistakes and correct them.
• Failure is simply a stepping stone to success when we fail forward and get up.
• Life’s failures become the best teachers because they help us gain invaluable experience.
There are many types of fear, but the end result is the same: a future robbed of its potential and an individual haunted by the mystery of what might have been.
So how do we overcome fear? By daring to do. Dare to do what you as an individual have been called to do. Dare to be successful. Dare to dream big and accomplish your goals. Dare to act on your faith. Dare to make a positive difference. By daring to do, we can dramatically diminish our level of fear.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture is “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23: 4-5, NKJV). Can you imagine what it feels like to “fear no evil”? This is exactly the provision we have been given to protect and set us free from the bondage of fear.
How would you live your life without the presence of fear? How would you act if you knew you could not fail? What would you do differently if you had nothing to fear? What goals would you aspire to achieve if you knew failure was not a possibility?
Consider this: What if Mother Teresa had refused to dedicate her life to service and altruism because she feared living in poverty? What if Nelson Mandela had refused to oppose apartheid in South Africa because he feared imprisonment? What if Martin Luther King Jr. had refused to promote civil rights and preach a message of peace and nonviolence because he feared assassination?
What if Jesus had refused to accept the sins of the world and redeem mankind because He feared dying on the cross? Where would we be if some of the world’s most notable heroes had succumbed to fear?
The best way to overcome fear is to face it. Don’t allow fear of failure or fear of the unknown prevent you from pursuing your goals and fulfilling your God-given destiny in life. Go after your dreams with fervor and passion. Ask for help when you need it, and don’t stop until you receive it!
Start today. Determine in your heart and mind to leave a legacy of greatness and a life characterized by faith, not fear.
KINGSLEY FLETCHER is an international minister, educator, humanitarian and the author of Who Says You Can’t? (Charisma House), from which this column is adapted.
The book of Nehemiah says that "the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh. 8:10, NIV). Do you wonder how that can be true when you find it hard to maintain your joy for five full minutes? Do you think this is a biblical truth that applies to everyone but you? Think again.
The joy of the Lord is our strength. It is God's will for our lives. And what He wills, He is able to accomplish in us—even in the midst of a bustling holiday season when we feel pulled in every direction.
If the joy of the Lord is our strength, then it stands to reason that joy would be a major focus of attack by the enemy. He wants to weaken us in whatever way he can. In order to fend off his attack, we have to be aware of the joybusters and strength-zappers he uses against us. Here are seven of them:
I love nice clothes, so I noticed her right away. Her clothes were casual but beautiful: crisply ironed khaki slacks, a print shirt and a light sweater. Everything, even her belt and shoes, was perfectly coordinated—just right for watching an afternoon soccer game.
At that moment, our sons were racing down the field in mad pursuit of the ball, trying to score a goal for Faith Christian School. As they neared the goal, the other team sent the ball back up the field.
"Oh, Ben!" I heard her sigh in disgust. I turned to look at her. Were we watching the same game? I hadn't seen her son do anything wrong.
From what I could see, he was a great soccer player, but every few minutes she let out a disappointed sigh. Even when her son scored a goal, she never called out any words of praise.
Uh oh! Another perfectionist, I thought, feeling sorry for her son. No matter what he did, it was never good enough. Then I remembered. I used to be just like that.
Suddenly, I was overcome with compassion for this woman I had never met. It had taken me years to climb out of the pit of perfectionism.
Perfectionism is a world view—a way of looking at life—that is hard to overcome because our society values people who look and act perfect. "Perfectionism is contagious in a society that emphasizes what you do more than who you are," says Kelly Boyle, assistant director of the Student Development and Counseling Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts.
I believe that perfectionism is a natural outcome of the fall. The garden of Eden was perfect until Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.
Neil T. Anderson, in his book, Victory Over the Darkness, talks about the dramatic change that occurred when Adam and Eve sinned against God: "Innocence was replaced by guilt and shame. Therefore, we have a need for self-worth to be restored. Authority was replaced by weakness and helplessness; therefore we have a need for strength and self-control."
It is true. We all crave self-worth, strength and self-control. It is how we meet those needs that makes a difference.
When our lives are yielded to God, He gives us value, because He loved us enough to die for us. Then we can exchange our weakness for His strength and surrender our need for self-control to the power of His Spirit.
Or, we can try to meet those needs in our own strength by trying to perfect and control ourselves, our children and our environment.
Perfectionism is a poor substitute for holiness. It is striving in the flesh to make yourself and others faultless, whereas holiness is something that God does as He covers our sins by the blood of Jesus and makes us into new creatures.
We all struggle with this tendency to some degree, but true perfectionists set impossibly high standards for themselves. They feel they must perform because their self-worth is tied to their accomplishments. When you are a perfectionist, it isn't enough to do a great job—it must be flawless.
Underneath the extreme drive to succeed is a deep-seated fear of failure. This stems from the terrible shame a perfectionist feels whenever he does anything wrong.
The perfectionist is likely to procrastinate due to the overwhelming fear of failure. He is afraid to start something that may not be perfect.
He also tends to become obsessive about the details of life because the little things are much easier to control. "It's a lot easier," says syndicated columnist Mike Bellah, "to maintain an immaculate house than to maintain warm and nurturing relationships with those who live in the house."
Steps to Freedom
At one time, I could identify with Bellah's assessment. The good news is, God set me free! Here are the steps I had to take for the Lord to bring me out of the pit of perfectionism:
I had to want to be free. For many years I thought my perfectionism was an asset. I was proud of the way I did everything right. I was hard-working, conscientious, dependable—and incredibly annoying!
Once, while arguing with me, my husband told me, "You think everything should be done a certain way—your way. You think your way is right with a capital 'R.' But it isn't like that. There isn't only one way to do things."
My perfectionism was eating away at my marriage and making it hard for my children to accept themselves. But it wasn't until I saw how my demands were affecting my oldest daughter, Anna, that I realized that perfectionism was a trap, not an asset.
By the time Anna was in second grade she was incredibly hard on herself. She was never satisfied with anything less than an "A" and never able to accept her own mistakes or her friends' flaws. It was a joyless existence—and I felt responsible for it.
I realized that we are precious to God despite our weaknesses. I used to think that God was standing over me waiting for me to fail so He could say, "See, I knew you'd blow it!" But God is not like that.
One day He showed me that He is like the proud parent watching his toddler learn to walk. When she stumbles, He doesn't say, "Well, you've really blown it this time! I'm never letting you walk again!" Of course not! He gently scoops up His little girl, wipes away her tears and says, "It's OK, you'll learn. I know you will."
I stopped blaming others for my pain. Perfectionists "feel a tremendous amount of shame when they are wrong," says Carol Golz, a clinical therapist in Littleton, Colorado. Often the shame is so intense "they find someone else to blame." I had to learn to bring my mistakes to God and let Him cover my shame.
At times, when someone criticizes me, I am still tempted to lash back, to blame someone else. During those moments, I cry out to God and ask Him to give me the courage to face my mistakes and to take away the burning shame.
When you struggle with guilt and shame, remind yourself that the blood of Jesus covers your sins and takes away your shame. Let God forgive and cleanse you.
I ceased striving. I thought that I was the only one who could do the job right. I saw life as a series of tasks to be conquered. I was pushing myself so hard that I rarely enjoyed what I was doing and didn't know how to stop.
Keeping the Sabbath became crucial. I had to learn to stop striving and rest. Those times of quiet rest helped me gain perspective on my life and helped me see that I am not the only one who can do the job.
Rather than seeing each day as a list of tasks to be tackled, I am learning to enjoy what I am doing—even the interruptions—as He and I journey through life together.
I refrained from taking responsibility for problems that were not mine. Not only was I wearing myself out, but I was judging others because I thought they should pitch in and help.
I am still concerned when a friend or loved one is in pain, but I now ask God, "Do you want me to do something, Lord? Or have you shown me this problem so I can pray about it?" More often than not, God is calling me to pray fervently, then stay out of His way!
I had to learn to be honest with people about my struggles and my pain. My perfectionistic ways made me very competitive and judgmental and were a barrier to friendship with other women. God had to teach me to let go of my pride, stop hiding behind my accomplishments and be the person He made me to be.
I believed that I would find happiness and fulfillment through status and success. I was deceived. God has so much more for us—a deep lasting relationship with the King of kings that brings true fulfillment and hope.
I still long for perfection. I think I always will until the day I see Jesus face to face.
But I have learned to give my longings to God. I have learned to ask Him to change the things He wants to change and give me the grace to die to my agenda. It is a sweet surrender.
Elizabeth Moll Stalcup is a free-lance writer based in Fairfax, Virginia. She and her husband are home group pastors at Church of the Apostles.
More than once during your spiritual journey, particularly when you were facing difficult circumstances, you have undoubtedly asked yourself, “How can I know God’s presence in my life?” This is the type of question that often draws a cliché and leaves the inquirer feeling somewhat guilty for having asked it. Among those clichés may be the quoting of various Scriptures such as Matthew18:20: “‘For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them’” (NKJV) or Psalm 22:3: “But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel.”
The inference is that one need only gather with others to pray or sing praises to the Lord to be assured of His presence. Add Psalm100 to these verses and you will be given the key to entering His presence: Begin with thanksgiving, progress to praise and ultimately be swept through the veil, standing before Him with singing.
So many times I have given this “formula” in sermons. I since have learned that formulas do not work with God. But because I had personally discovered that I could walk into God-consciousness by applying this strategy in faith, I believed others would do the same. Most of those attending the meetings I led did so as we corporately took each step.
However, I soon learned that few sustained the awareness of God’s presence when the meetings ended and they returned to “business as usual” at home, in the workplace, and tragically even in church services. This realization left me wondering why and sent me to God for answers.
Here are the answers the Lord gave me to my query about why some believers do not walk in God-consciousness on a regular basis.
They are afraid they cannot meet the requirements for His presence. In Psalm 15:1 David asks: “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” Then he gives the answer: “He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart; he who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the Lord; he who swears to his own hurt and does not change; he who does not put out his money at usury, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved” (vv. 2-5).
The promise of never being moved, or dismissed from His presence, should be enough stimulus for us all to claim it. Yet often we don’t because of our fear that the requirements are impossible to meet.
Harboring such a fear proves that we do not intimately know our God. He repeatedly tells us in His Word that He has provided for all our needs by Christ Jesus. God never asks us for anything He has not already made provision for.
Our confusion comes from yielding to fleshly desires and lusts rather than relying on the Spirit within, whom Jesus sent to be our teacher-enabler. The apostle Paul explains this conflict in his letter to the Galatians: “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (5:17).
Look again at Psalm 15 and note that we need the fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23 to meet each of the requirements. To the one who has love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and temperance (self-control) active in his life, the requirements for a constant awareness of the presence of the Lord are easily met.
Galatians 5:25 says, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” This verse infers that we who have the Spirit should progress in the life He enables us to live.
They are not obedient. Too many sort through God’s Word for the Scriptures they choose to live by. Promises of wealth, health, favor and blessing are especially popular. The cry to be shown His glory and the plea for an open heaven and latter rain are being sung in many circles.
What is wrong with claiming these promises? Absolutely nothing, unless we are choosing to bypass the conditions for such blessings. In fact, we are encouraged to believe the Scriptures, to rehearse them from morning through night, to hide them in our hearts, and to testify of and with them. But the power of the tongue is limited by the believing in the heart that these things are true. It is not the rote that moves God but the obedience to His Word and faith in Himself that assures us of His abiding presence.
Our society is one that is driven by a rapid pace, quick results and immediate solutions. It is little wonder that Christians have fallen into the trap of believing they can manipulate God by demanding something, even the sense of His presence, in their time frame by simply quoting Scripture. “In Jesus’ name” has become a slogan of demand rather than an awareness of divine authority given to believers by an omnipotent God through Jesus Christ.
I am amazed at how few Christians spend quality time reading and meditating on God’s Word. Their lack of faith is directly related to that neglect. A Sunday sermon, even if complemented by a mid-week message, is not sufficient to bring us into an intimate relationship with our Beloved, and to an increasing knowledge of Him, His love, His care, His compassion and His desires. The Bible makes it clear that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
Is it any wonder that prayer, thanksgiving and praise seem so difficult for us to exercise continually? If, due to a lack of study of the Word, we are not convinced (that is, do not have faith) that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think (see Eph. 3:20), or that His plans for us are plans to prosper and not to harm us, to bring us to a good end and give us a hope and a future, as Jeremiah 29:11 promises, then we have little motivation to sing His praise. Not only that, but we have forgotten His care of us through the years so that we are not thankful either. Therefore we have no confidence—we have cast it away—and are an open target for the enemy to shoot the bullets of discouragement, disappointment, despair and defeat right to our spirits. Instead of a celebration of Jesus, we have a pity party for self.
Enjoying God’s Presence
In contrast, the recognition of God’s presence comes to the one who expects and looks for God in all situations and places:
In himself. “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16).
In troubled situations. We have these promises from Hebrews 13:5: “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” and Psalm 138:3,7: “In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul. ... Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me.”
In his past, present and future. Hebrews 13:8 tells us: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” And before the Israelites took possession of the promised land, Moses exhorted them to always remember all the way the Lord had led them through the wilderness, protected them from their enemies and other dangers, fed them, given them the power to get wealth and supplied their every need (see Deut. 8). He has been there for all of us in similar ways.
The response to God’s presence is often singing and dancing, clapping one’s hands and raising one’s arms. There are times for victory shouts and playing of instruments. But there are also times of silence when it would seem a violation of reverence even to stir. Bowing, kneeling and prostrating oneself are appropriate expressions of adoration at such times. Giving an offering is an expression of worship, too.
The methods are less important than the motives. We are instructed to seek the kingdom (the rule) of God first—and to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and also our neighbor as ourselves. Considering these commandments, it becomes obvious that worship must be an acknowledgement of His presence, and His presence is brought about by worship when it is offered in spirit and truth. Whatever form of expression we use can be acceptable to Him only when given by one who is walking humbly with his God.
How can we be sure His presence is real and that He is in our lives? His Word assures us of it, and God honors His Word, as Psalm 138:2 declares: “You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” Other proofs include:
God’s Spirit: confirming, convicting, convincing, conceiving and conquering
Prophecy: God’s Word to us personally
Revelation: the understanding of the Word. The apostle Paul wrote: “How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Eph.3:3-5).
Inspiration: insight from the Holy Spirit. “And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6); “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52).
Intercession: God Himself enters into our praying (Rom. 8: 28).
Believing: “The genuineness of your faith ... may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet. 1:7-9).
Are you discouraged by unfulfilled prophecies or answers to prayers that have been delayed or denied? Do you lack the joy you are promised or once had and lost? Has doubt crept into your thoughts because of the pressures of life and the hurts of situations? Are you in pain or facing the threat of death despite the many prayers of others and yourself? Have you lost faith in people due to betrayal and abuse? Does it seem that love has no place in your life and that possessions have been stolen?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, know that there are many people today who can identify with you—but there is One who will not leave you there. Lift up your head and focus on your unfailing God. Every prophecy remains a promise, and every delay has a purpose.
God’s joy is in you: Call it forth and demand its expression. He will restore both your soul and your losses, and He will arise with healing in His wings. God’s love sent Jesus to the cross, Christ’s love became your salvation and your eternal victory. “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24) because He dwells in His temple, which temple we are (see 1 Cor. 3:16-17).
The Bible tells us that God is always with us. You can experience and enjoy the reality of His presence by coming to know Him intimately through prayer, worship and the study of His Word, by being obedient to His commands, by walking in the Spirit and by exercising your faith to believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (see Heb. 11:6). 3
Iverna Tompkins has been ministering nationally and internationally through Iverna Tompkins Ministries (iverna.org) for more than 45 years. She is the author of several books and is currently the chief of staff at Church for the Nations in Phoenix.
Download a free copy of Worship Him by Fuchsia Pickett and find practical teachings on tapping into the presence of God here.
Envy is a sin that will cause even physical consequences. It will cause our bones to rot. The death in our lives that is caused by envy is experienced right away. Envy causes a death to our relationships. The first murder in the Bible was caused by envy. Cain envied Abel because God favored Abel's sacrifice over his own. Envy will also bring death to peace in our lives. Envy always causes strife. James tells us, "But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthy, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there" (James 3:14-16).
When envy is present, strife will soon occur; this then opens the door to confusion and every evil work. The spirit of jealousy is what caused the first murder, so whenever we are jealous of another, in a sense we may wish that person dead. Envy occurs when we feel we have not been treated fairly. The way we can kill envy instead of allowing it to kill us is to humble ourselves.
We need to esteem others higher than ourselves. If we do, we will never be envious. Pride is the root of envy, and we destroy pride when we gladly take upon ourselves the form of a servant just as Jesus did. Life is not fair. Some people have more than others in intelligence, wealth, meaningful relationships, etc. God is just and merciful, however, and if you determine to humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, He promises to lift you up.
At the foot of the cross, we are all at the same level. We need to remain at the foot of the cross daily, and envy will never invade our lives to destroy it.
Some of the greatest challenges to our faith are those moments when we must endure the cold blight of a disappointment. The greater the anticipation, the greater the disappointment when we fail to receive what we have anticipated.
There is no shield that can keep away the days that come to teach our hearts submission to God's will and purpose for us. There are no roses so fragrant that they dismiss for us the tingling sensations of brokenness that come upon us when we see our expectations cave in.
It comes as if it will not leave, but you can be sure that is not so. It will go, and the sun will come again and rebuke the clouds that have hidden the light of God's purpose from shining through to you.
As much as it pleases God to bless you, there will be moments when everything you try goes up in smoke. There will be moments when the one you counted on most walks away and leaves you groping through blinding tears and wailing questions of why. Plans and goals can be circumvented by the most disappointing of times, leaving you learning the art of patience and the acceptance of a denied request.
Nevertheless, there is within the human capacity a tenacious instinct of survival that kicks in when we are at our lowest. It enables us to succeed through the storms of life. They will not overthrow you if you learn to trust God even when you can't trace Him.
You may not know why you have had to face the chilling winds of despair, but trust God to renew you. Just live on.
He is so wise. He knows the greater truths that can only be realized by beholding both today and tomorrow in one glance. He must, as a good father, deny requests that would insult the greater destiny He has prepared for those who are His.
"Submission" is a word many hearts resist even when they read it in the Word. But submission can be a friend to the struggling heart of a victim that has been chained to the will of God. Rather than burn your hands and hearts by wrestling to break free from the grip that holds you, just submit.
Why would you resist the One to whom you have entrusted your future? It is safe to trust Him. He will not fail you.
He watches out for you, and His eyes are keen! When He says no, you ought to say yes! He would never interrupt or embarrass you if He didn't see something ahead that necessitated the answer He gave.
The real issue is a matter of trust-trusting the Father to know what is best for any of us. He will not withhold any good thing from you. If it were good, He would have said yes.
That thing that is not coming to you may seem good. But either the timing is wrong, or from His position He can see that the future of it is bleak. I have always believed that people who thank God only for delivering them from what happened are just scraping the surface of praise. The real praise comes when you start thanking Him for what could have happened but didn't because of His swift grace!
Celebration should be leaping out of your heart. Trusting God transforms calamity into testimony. Knowing He cares too much for you to abuse you and is too wise to be wrong causes a wounded heart to serenade the heavens. When we begin to know Him rather than just serve Him, we can trust His vision, His wisdom and His insight, even when He does not explain what we thought we needed to know.
Many people rejoice about the opening of doors. I can understand why the heart sings when the hand of God moves the obstacle out of the way. The eye can see the way made, and the feet begin to dance toward a brighter future.
But I want to challenge you to go a step further into the deeper sovereign truth of a closed door. We can readily accept His authority when it is used to perform what we know to be a favor. The real challenge of submission is to submit when the human will would have chosen another way. This is the graduation exercise of faith and the commencement service of a trust for those whose dependency and reliance is upon the manifold wisdom of God.
It is significant to understand that the shut door is just as much a move of God as the open one (see Rev. 3:7). It is an action predetermined by the wisdom of a Father who knows what is best. He does emphatically shut doors. There is no purpose in any of us trying to pray open, work open or pry open what God has shut.
If the door is closed by the enemy, and he is trying to get you to give up on your dream, prayer and praise will unlock it. But if the door is closed by a sovereign decision of an all-wise God, and prayer and praise do not open it, then you must accept His decision.
That doesn't mean the door cannot be opened. It just means that "no man" can open it. If God doesn't open the door, it cannot be opened. If He doesn't do it, you don't want it to be done. There is a difference between a door Satan has jammed and a door God has locked from you.
It may not be a permanent lock. God may be saying, Not at this time. If it is a timed no, it may be God's way of bringing you to a place of submission. Only a praying heart that turns to Him can determine the answer. Prayer does work. If you pray, He does have the key, and He can open the door (see 2 Chron. 7:13-15).
If in prayer the hinges do not move and the latch does not unclasp, then we must conclude that God has for our betterment shut the door. Do not pout like a child who has become accustomed to getting his or her way. That response says you have not accepted discipline.
Perhaps the need for discipline is what has shut the door in the first place. The spoiled child may be getting weaned from the tantrums and sulking that accompany the untrained. This is hard, but it is also right!
I want you to learn the art of rejoicing when He says no. Rejoice, because if Satan is at work, your attitude will make his efforts futile. The enemy will get discouraged if you don't encourage him with your depression!
But I also want you to learn the ability to thank God when the answer is irrevocably, unalterably and emphatically no. It may sound insane, but trust me on this. It is all good! You see, He is working on your behalf.
Some of my greatest moments with God have come when I said yes to His corrections and decisions. Satan was defeated, and God was worshiped by my trust in His sovereign will for my life.
Doesn't that hurt? At first, but when I remind myself of God's love for me and rest in the knowledge that He would never hurt me, disappointment dissipates and love emanates from the comfort of His embrace. I am His child. I relax and say thank you.
Our problem is that we have never been loved by anyone in the way that God loves us. We have nothing with which we can compare His love. If we could ever fathom it—His love alone would heal the aching of our broken hearts. He absolutely adores each one of us.
Recognize that He has been speaking to you through all your circumstances. He is the One you need when life has wounded you and you have fallen from your nesting place like a bird. It is His hand that catches the falling soul. Then He casts it to the wind and commands it to fly again.
You have been called out and separated by God. You were not created to be popular. You were not called to cliques or clubs. You were chosen to fit in the hands of God who has already accepted you.
How I want you to know the height and the depth of His unfathomable love for you!
You would not be so critical of yourself or so worried about public opinion if you were to know the opinion of God. His thoughts toward you are good and not evil.
Some of you have never been secure in the love of your natural father, and it affects how you view your heavenly Father. But He made the ultimate sacrifice just to prove to you the authenticity of His love.
You may not see it or understand it, but He absolutely loves you. Not just when you are right. He loves you even when you are wrong. That is what gives you the power to right the wrongs you've made.
You are special and vibrant, full of potential and possibilities. You are the daughter of a King, who spared no expense to pay the ransom that delivered you from the things that held you hostage.
A no from Him is as sweet as a yes. Your life is about to crescendo into a symphony of praise. When His plan unfolds, you will be glad you didn't settle for your own way.
Go quickly into His presence; climb upon His knee; lay your head on His breast. Cry if you must, but talk to Him. Let Him cleanse you of sin and purge you of pride. He loves you just as much when He says no as He does when He says yes.
T.D. Jakesis the author of several best-selling books, including Woman, Thou Art Loosed!, Help, I'm Raising My Children Alone and The Lady, Her Lover, and Her Lord. He is the founder and pastor of The Potter's House in Dallas, Texas, one of the fastest-growing churches in the nation.
I had just spent three hours in the emergency room, yet could not sleep the entire night because I was so filled with God's joy. A few hours before, life had been as good as it could get. I was on stage speaking to about 13,000 people, and then just like that, I was being rushed to the hospital. I had just walked off the stage, sat on a stool and lost my balance. I fell backward, tried to catch myself, but it was too late. My shoulder had ripped away and my body went into shock. I couldn't move, and the pain was literally the worst I had ever known.
When your body goes into shock, you lose your sight and your heartbeat gets weak—or at least that was my experience. As we waited for the ambulance to arrive, a woman put her hand on my face and said, "Just rest right here." It was the most gentle touch I have known in the midst of physical pain. It was the only thing that brought me comfort.
The next few hours were filled with pain, until they got my arm back into place. But something happened that is so hard to explain. It was like the wind. I can't explain it, but I feel it and know it was there. I felt the joy of the Lord. I can't explain the situation and don't want to rationalize it, but God got my attention. I was humbled, but in the moment, I felt His amazing strength.
The other day, on Chicago Talk Radio, I was asked, "Sam, how does prayer play a role for someone who is going through all these hard times?"
My response was: "Here is what I know. God is not so much in the business of changing the circumstance as He is in the business of changing us for the circumstance. When my body wants me to pray, 'Lord, take this away,' I have learned to pray, 'God, make me bigger and stronger to overcome this.'"
Whether you have a great attitude or one that is idle and can't get above the bar of average, we all need something to add fuel to our outlook. At the end of the day, I have to recharge my cell phone for it to be effective and do what it was meant to do. The same goes for us. As a Christ follower, our attitude needs to be fueled to get through the adversity that we face daily. Every day our attitude will be tested. That is a given, so here are some points to remember to keep your attitude fueled by faith:
1. "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom. 12:2). Renewing your mind involves resting. It requires feeding on God's Word. God's Word is living and active, and it can empower your attitude to be joyful no matter what you are going through.
2. You are not a victim; you are just on a journey called "life." Nobody wants adversity, but God is greater than whatever you go through. "For Scripture says to Pharaoh, 'I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth'" (Rom. 9:17).
3. "Do not dwell on the past" (Is. 40:18). You cannot change the picture behind you, but you can determine the picture you walk toward in front of you.
4. Change what you think about, and you change what comes about. Create a positive anchor for your attitude. "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Phil. 4:8).
Attitude drives our actions and creates results. The question is, what is fueling your attitude?
Sam Glenn, "The Authority on Attitude," is a sought-after motivational speaker, author and workplace consultant. He is also the founder of Attitude Digest magazine, a quarterly print publication and online community aimed at inspiring those in the workplace and beyond (see www.attitudedigest.com and www.samglenn.com). Sam got his start speaking for the Billy Graham Evangelical Association more than a decade ago.
We grieve the Spirit by saying what comes to mind that is not honoring to God.
Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. —Proverbs 26:20
Gossip. What an ugly word. I hate the word. It is what sells millions of cheap and tawdry magazines at the checkout line in a supermarket. I so despise them that I like to think I am above this stuff.
I may not read these magazines, but I am just as guilty as those who do read them when I myself hear with glee that a person I don't like has been found out—and I pass it on; or I repeat news of something unflattering about an enemy or a person who has wanted to hurt me in some way; or I make a person feel good that I know would relish news of their enemy's difficulty. James says the tongue is a fire (James 3:6), and when I enter into conversations like this, I grieve the Holy Spirit.
Gossip is a defense mechanism to preserve our self-esteem. It arises out of an inferiority complex; we build ourselves up by tearing others down—or enjoying hearing that they are in trouble of some kind. It is a poisonous habit that betrays our insecurity and lack of spirituality. If gossip makes us feel better, we are self-deceived.
We may claim to be Spirit-filled, sound in our theology, faithful in our commitment to the church, zealous in worship, and have devotional lives that are highly admirable. But when we grieve the Spirit by saying what comes to mind that is not honoring to God, we become the very examples James laments: we praise the Lord and curse men.
James asks, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?”(James 3:11). If the well in us—the Holy Spirit (John 7:38–39)—overflows, one expects the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23). But when the Spirit begins to speak through us, and instead of love, joy, and peace, suddenly there emerges anger, vengeance, and envy, something has gone terribly wrong.
The Holy Spirit will not produce gossip, anger, revenge, or any other fleshly reaction any more than a fig tree can bear an olive or a grapevine bear a fig (James 3:12–16). It is impossible for the Holy Spirit to produce other than the fruit such as love, joy, peace, and self-control. If we say we are Spirit-filled, then let us display the fruit of the Spirit.
Excerpted from Controlling the Tongue (Charisma House, 2007).
Many of God's people are not schooled in the art of moving on. We spend a lot of our time stuck, not able to move beyond what happened yesterday.
Now the Lord said to Samuel, ‘You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem.’ ” —1 Samuel 16:1, NLT
This passage from the Bible indicates that Samuel had reached a place in his life from which he needed to move on. Ever been there? Like it or not, we all hit this type of place periodically in our journey of faith.
Unfortunately, many of God’s people are not schooled in the art of moving on. We spend a lot of our time stuck, living in the past, never able to move beyond what happened yesterday. We’re unskilled at navigating new beginnings.
The Bible shows us that life is a succession of closures and new beginnings. God said to Abraham, “‘Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you’ ”(Gen. 12:1, NLT). We see this pattern demonstrated time and again in the lives of God’s choice servants.They are required to let go of the old and step out in faith toward the new.
Closure is one of the great keys to moving forward in life. When we don’t understand its importance, we often get stuck in our yesterdays or simply grow comfortable with the way things are.
It is foolish on our part to believe that nothing in life will ever change. Everything changes! Our characters develop, our personalities blossom, our attitudes change, and unfortunately, our bodies grow older.
The definition of the word “closure” is “to bring something to a close; to bring to an end, to resolve and finalize it in your thinking, to move beyond.” It’s the act of resolving to let something go. Most often, closure is a decision; it’s an act of the human will. Sometimes it is easy, at other times grueling. More often than not, it is purely an act of faith; feelings catch up with you later.
Many who are struggling with a decision to move on in life will battle incessantly with ambivalence. Ambivalence is the emotional turmoil one feels when weighing the pros and cons of life’s decisions. As uncomfortable as it is, ambivalence is actually a part of the process and forces us to fully examine our decisions in light of good judgment. Ambivalence must be endured as we process life.
Is it possible the Lord is saying to you, “You have mourned long enough”? Could it be that you need closure in an area of your life? Undoubtedly, God wants to take you into something new. Are you ready for it?
Learn how to fight discouragement in times of adversity.
Last year was not an easy year. On the national front we endured a divisive presidential campaign, a mortgage crisis, soaring gas prices, low consumer confidence, renewed tensions with Russia, bank failures, layoffs, selloffs, buyouts, bailouts and meltdowns—plus a storm that almost wiped Galveston off the map.
It was also a tough year spiritually. Moral failures and divorces among Christian leaders have left many disillusioned. Politics has bitterly divided the church. Ministries have had to cut back because of the economic downturn. Some of my friends are joking about buying “I SURVIVED 2008” T-shirts.
I first got excited about the word years ago when I read what my husband's mother had written in the front of a Bible she gave Ken for his birthday: “Ken, precious, seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these other things will be added unto you. Matthew 6:33.”
I had never heard anything like that. And we needed a lot of “things,” so that Scripture got my attention. I started studying the Bible to learn more.
What I found changed my life. I discovered that the Bible is a treasure house. I found that God's Word would meet every need. That was such good news to me that I got excited about it!
The Bible tells us that the Word is life to us. It will quicken us in our spirits. Psalm 119:25 says, “Quicken thou me according to thy word” (KJV). E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible says that passage means “Give me life” or “Keep me alive according to Thy word.”
When our spirits are quickened, our flesh is also quickened. As I study the Word, something happens on the inside that I can almost feel physically.
The more I give myself to time in the Word and prayer, the more revelation I receive and the more accurately I live my life.
When we receive revelation from God's Word we become like the man described in Matthew 13 who found the pearl of great price. He recognized that what he had found was worth everything he had.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (vv. 45-46, NKJV).
The manifestation of the kingdom of heaven-heaven taking over our aff airs, making our bodies well, saving our children, causing us to prosper and so on-is worth everything we have. It's worth every effort we make to experience it. We must get into the Word if we desire to learn about the kingdom of God and understand how it operates. To obtain victory in any area, we must find out what God has said about the matter in His Word. After that our part is to believe-to trust and know that His Word is true. Then we must set our words and life in agreement with the Scripture.
It's important to decide that the Word of God is the ultimate truth in every situation (see John 17:17). Jesus said, “'And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free'” (John 8:32).
When you find out what the Scripture says about a particular situation, faith can be established in your heart, which will influence your soul (your mind, will and emotions). Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
You can't stand effectively on “blind” faith. You must have a “knowing” faith, and that comes from believing wholeheartedly what the Word promises. You know God has spoken it and declared it to be so, and you know you can depend on that.
Keep the truth of the Word going in your eyes and ears until it comes out in faith-filled words and is manifest in your life. God has provided you with a lifetime of benefits.
Remember: It is God “who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children's children” (Ps. 103:3-5,17-18).
Considering the blessings the Lord has in store, isn't it time for you to dig into the Scriptures and begin to believe what they say about you?
Get excited about the Word-and your life will be blessed!
GLORIA COPELAND is co-founder and vice president of Kenneth Copeland Ministries in Fort Worth, Texas. She and her husband, Kenneth, are known for their teachings on faith, healing and victorious Christian living. Their daily TV broadcast, Believer's Voice of Victory, airs globally on more than 300 stations. Gloria is also an internationally known author whose works include To Know Him and Blessed Beyond Measure (Harrison House).