The Test of Time

Between the promise and the fulfillment comes the desert. This is the way it always has been and the way it is today. Why?
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance;  and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2

Painful as it is there is a connection between the production of Jesus’ Character in us and enduring suffering during a period of waiting for the fulfillment of the promise. The Greek word here translates as “perseverance”, “steadfastness”, “patient endurance”, and it means “the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances”.

The simple fact is that in order to receive the fulfillment of the promises God has made to us we need to persevere in believing those promises and continue in doing those things which he has called us to do “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Gal.6:9

Paul has to tell us this because it is in our nature to give up. The problem is we are stuck in time. God gives us a promise and our present circumstances, our present moment, denies the promise because it hasn’t happened yet. We then experience the “test of time”. We start to believe, “It hasn’t happened yet, so it’s not going to happen”. This is the lie of the enemy which he uses to dismantle our faith. It is his principle weapon – delay. Now, here is God’s truth that we must take hold of; it hasn’t happened yet because God has something for us that is more important than the fulfillment of the promise. And that something is the production of Jesus’ character in us. Why does that matter so much? Because every gift of God to us is opposed by our enemy and we must fight the good fight of faith to receive it. We are in a war of faith vs. unbelief. We need the perseverance of Jesus to endure the delay. I think most of us know this by virtue of our experience with doubt. The question is; what can we do about it? How can we survive the delay? How can we wait well?

Delay always brings difficult questions and a terrible temptation. The questions it brings are;

“where is God in this delay and why doesn’t He do something about it?”

The temptation it brings is to cease believing one of these two truths:

1] that God is all loving &

2] that God is all powerful.

Any time we experience real delay and the suffering it brings, we are tempted by the enemy to believe either God is all loving but not very powerful, or He is all powerful but not very loving. We reason; if He were both, this unfulfilled promise would not be happening, so I should quit believing. This is a lie. The Bible tells us that God is both all loving and all powerful.

What is the answer to this dilemma? We see the answer most clearly in the story of Job. Satan comes to God and says, “the only reason people worship you is because you bless them.” What Satan is really saying is, “God you are not worth loving just for who you are. The only reason anyone would marry you is for your money.”

All of the angels hear this allegation and 1/3rd of them have already rebelled against God. Much is at stake. So, God allows what is completely unjust – the torture of an innocent and righteous man. Job suffers unimaginably and he is tempted by his own wife and friends to either believe that God is not just or that he has sinned – and he knows neither of these is true. The problem is he has no answer to the question, “why is this happening to me?”

The only answer Job has is to find the presence of God. He knows that if he can just come into God’s presence his questions will be answered and he will be vindicated.

“If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would find out what he would answer me and consider what he would say.” Job 23:3-5

Asaph comes to the same conclusion in Psalm 73 where he is overcome by the success of the evil all around him.

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.” Vs 2-5

“When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.” Vs 16-18

Finally, he comes to one of the most profound truths in the Bible and the place of true peace:

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And being with you, I desire nothing on earth” Vs.25

Job and Asaph are saying the same thing: the answer to our deepest questions and doubts is not a propositional truth but a presence. In the presence of God, the question is no longer of concern; the doubt is no longer relevant. And this has been my experience. When I seek His presence, not for an answered prayer but just to find Him and be with Him, I find that I can survive the waiting. I find the peace I desperately need.

We all married Him for His money – for what He could do to change our circumstances. This is a good reason to come to Him, but our peace and joy depend on going far beyond “what have you done for me lately?”

Our greatest peace and joy will come when we begin to value Him for who He is and not just for what He gives. Unanswered prayers and promises prompt us to examine our relationship with Him and to change our hearts motive for pursuing Him.

Knowing Him really is the reward.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Wait Well

Is there a biblical pattern to promises and their fulfillment in the life of a Christian? Abraham is given a promise of fathering a great nation. More than 50 years pass before he has a child. He is 100 before the promise is fulfilled. As a young man Joseph has a dream from God of ruling his family.

The next thing that happens is he is sold into slavery and ends up in prison alone and forgotten. Years go by before the promise is fulfilled.

Moses is the promised deliverer of Israel. He spends 40 years in the desert alone before his ministry starts. He is 80 when it starts.

Israel is promised a homeland. They start out to cross the desert to the promised land. It is a trip of maybe a week or two max. They spend 40 years wandering in the desert before they receive the promised land.

Jesus waits until he is 30 years old before he starts his ministry. He receives a supernatural affirmation of His father’s love at His baptism and then immediately is led into the desert for a 40 day fast ending with warfare with Satan. After Jesus is resurrected, he is with his disciples 40 days before he ascends to heaven. They have to wait 7 days for the coming of the Holy Spirit. 40 is the number in the Bible for testing and preparation and 7 is the number of perfection. They had to wait until God’s perfect fullness of time had passed before receiving the promised H.S. There is a pattern here- what is it?

How Can I Hear God – Part 2

  1. Through the voice of the Holy Spirit “speaking” directly to your mind. [Again, we call this revelation] Again, this is a little different. In this type of speaking the Holy Spirit does not use scripture, He speaks His thoughts directly from His mind to ours. He causes a thought from Him to appear in your mind. What makes this kind of communication so helpful is that it can happen anywhere at any time. For me it usually happens during my daily quiet time with God, but it does not come through the Bible. But what He says is always consistent with what He says in His word. This is the test to apply to determine whether or not to believe what you are hearing.

When He speaks this way, it has the same power to create faith as when He speaks through scripture. For me it is more effective than going through the bible hunting for a scripture to claim. I am ashamed to say I am quite the cynic. Often when I try to claim a promise from the Old Testament for myself, I end up thinking, “That promise was made more than 3000 years ago to King David. He was a very important guy, I am not. What gives me the right to take his promise and call it my own?” This is my struggle to believe, so it is really wonderful when God speaks to me directly with a promise – mind to mind so to speak. No pun intended!

For the last 6 months I have been going through a very hard time, lots of fear and uncertainty about the future. About a month ago God told me during my daily quiet time to go back over my prayer journal from the last 18 months and write down everything He said to me. I thought I would end up with 10-12 things. I ended up with 58 and as of today there are many more. I have discovered that I am having an ongoing conversation with God! My faith for what He has promised for me is huge now! It is big enough to drive the fear and worry away [as long as I read His promises regularly]. For me this is a huge breakthrough! I have been a very fear based Christian. This is changing fast!

Here are a few of the things He has said to me that created faith in me:

  1. “You are only looking at the negative. Look at the future possibilities with the eyes of faith. Trust me with your future, I’ve got it in my hands. You are not going to make a mistake! I am guiding you, you just haven’t seen it yet”.
  2. “You have been using your imagination to analyze all the things that could go wrong in your future. Stop doing that. Use your imagination to see all the things that I have promised you”.
  3. “Persevere in faith! Not just in obedience, but in continuing to choose to believe my promises to you. Don’t lose your eternal perspective. This time of uncertainty will end soon. You are entering a new season of fruitfulness – just trust me!”
  4. “I am teaching you Trust, Patience, Faithfulness, and Perseverance. Make these your goals and continue to listen for my voice. I don’t intend for you to ever live without hearing my voice. I will continue to speak.”
  5. “Turn your fear into praise. Use your praise as a weapon!” And on and on…

Sounds like the Bible doesn’t it? That’s why I believe it is coming from Him. Because I believe it is coming from Him, my faith is growing. Because my faith is growing my trust is growing and because my trust is growing, my experience of His peace is growing… and that’s all I need!

Here is my point. To grow in faith, we need to be hearing Him. To hear Him we need to be listening. We need to make listening to Him a habit. To do this we need to create a protected time of stillness and listening. The more we practice listening for His voice the better we get at it.

Too many people start trying to hear His voice when they are in trouble. It is hard to do when you are up to your waste in alligators. If we learn to hear his voice habitually, when the alligators come, we will be ready. So, start now with a  quiet place, your bible, a pen and journal. Pour out your heart to Him and then ask Him what He wants to say to you. Wait and write down whatever comes to your mind. Don’t worry about whether its Him or not. Wait a few weeks and go back and read what you think He might have said. You will be surprised!

How Can I Hear God?

24464_artwork_12bddbb2d50a965d946bfdaaf4a1d785Hello. This is Mark’s wife Shell with an introduction to this teaching.

I have often told Mark he needs to tell people the reason he hears from God so quickly. He takes an hour each day sitting in stillness and silence with God. Sometimes he won’t hear or sense anything for days, but he still shows up.

In his message on Faith Comes From Hearing, Mark shares some of experiences. You can also watch this sermon on his Youtube channel – https://youtu.be/Ssczr8cOiIg

FAITH COMES FROM HEARING

“…faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ”. Romans 10:17

Let’s break this verse down:

“Hearing the message” means literally to perceive sound. It refers to the sense of hearing. Faith comes when we “hear” something, just like hearing a voice. This means that faith does not come from us trying to create it. Faith is the result of an experience of hearing. What we “hear” comes to us somewhat like sound. It is either in words or some other sound that means something specific to us, e.g. like the sound of an ambulance siren. And what we hear is through the word of Christ.

This tells us two things. The first is that Faith has a personal source – it comes from Christ/God/The Holy Spirit. Real faith cannot be produced from any source but God. The second thing this phrase tells us is that faith comes from the “word” of God. The Greek word used here which is translated as word, is “rhema”. It comes from a root work that means “to say” or “to speak”. It translates as follows; “that which is or has been uttered by the living voice – “an utterance”. It also means “any sound produced by the voice”, and “having a definite meaning”. This tells us that we should expect this word from God to come in words most of the time. It is like any spoken message. It is discernable.

How should we expect these faith producing messages to come?

  1. Through the Holy Spirit as we read the Bible. [we call this revelation] God speaks to us through His Holy Spirit as we read His written word. Most of us have had this experience one time or another, hopefully often. You are reading the Bible and suddenly a verse or phrase “jumps out at you”. It is like the bible is speaking directly to you in your present circumstances. It is like you are hearing that verse or phrase for the first time. It has great impact upon you. You believe it! It is producing faith to believe what it is saying to you. How many of us have had this experience? Was it helpful? Would you like it to happen more often? How do we increase these experiences? We make a habit of reading the bible every day.
  2. Through the voice of the Holy Spirit as He uses the Bible to bring the message. [again, we call this revelation] This experience is a little different. It doesn’t start with reading the bible, it starts with listening to the Holy Spirit. It works this way; you are pouring your heart out to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit because you need to hear from Him. You could go to your Bible search program and type in a word that describes your condition, e.g. fear, sickness, depression, uncertainty, hopefulness, etc. but you have not done that yet. You are just pouring out your heart to God. Suddenly, a scripture address comes to you. You look it up and it “jumps out at you”. You experience what we just described – it speaks from God to you, and it produces faith.

Some years ago, my father was suffering from dementia. He was experiencing bouts of paranoia and delusions. He believed people were out to take his money. He called me daily to phone his lawyers and have them start law suites against people that had done him no harm. Ten minutes after hanging up the phone he would call again, and we would go through it all over again.  It was a terrible number of years for all of us but especially for me because I had to manage his affairs while his dementia was undermining them.

After doing this for several years I acquired a genuine fear of putting Shelley through the same kind of experience when I get older. I was telling God how much I did not want to do this to her, and I was asking for a sudden death that did not involve some sort of slow, withering, exhausting death that would make Shell’s life miserable. He interrupted my request with a scripture address. It was not a scripture that I was familiar with. It was Psalm 16:10. I turned to it and this is what it said, “…nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” Ever since He said that, I have had faith that my death will not be a burden to Shell.

Check out Part 2 for the final point and an encouraging example