Several years ago, I suffered a devastating injury to my back in a car wreck and, as a result, my family and I needed a special kind of care. Because I was completely incapacitated for a time, our household experienced hardships that were new. Normal household duties that seemed minor when I was able to do them now felt overwhelming.
God showed a special favor on our family when he provided a young couple to step in and go the extra mile for us. They even moved into our home for a while to make our lives easier. Grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundering — mundane duties were performed for us during a difficult season in our lives. What a blessing!
One Israelite who obviously knew God’s favor was the amazing young man anointed to be Israel’s king. From a young age David had everything going for him: he was a mighty warrior whom King Saul wanted by his side in battle. And he was charismatic! When Saul’s armies returned in victory, the crowds cheered David more than they did their king. Not only was he handsome, but he was talented, a musician who wrote songs that God’s people still sing today. Everything he touched seemed blessed by God’s favor.
And then things went wrong in David’s life. At one time he found himself hiding in a cave after fleeing from the king, who had turned against him (see 1 Samuel 22:1-10). And later David and his men returned to their hometown of Ziklag after fighting a hard battle. Exhausted and longing to be with their loved ones, they came upon their hometown filled with smoke arising from ashes. Beside themselves with grief, “David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep” (1 Samuel 30:4).
Predictably, even the other men turned on David and blamed him for what had happened to them. While they were talking of stoning David, he made a crucial decision; instead of giving in to discouragement, he kept his faith and began to seek the Lord. “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (30:6).
Beloved, character is formed when things in your life take a downturn. In the difficulties you face, don’t lose hope and give up. Take those opportunities to press into Jesus and allow yourself to be strengthened by his power.
In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus quoted the words of Isaiah 61:1, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (NIV).
Jesus stood in the synagogue, opened the Scripture, and essentially said, “The Spirit of God is upon Me for you, and you, and you, and you …” There was no other reason the Spirit was upon him except to alleviate human suffering and for the redemption of fallen humanity. Jesus’ desire was to bring a fallen people into the knowledge of God and, ultimately, back to living with God for all eternity.
I’ve always believed it is impossible to say that “Christ is mine, and I am Christ’s” yet remain self-absorbed. The apostle Paul, writing in 2 Timothy, warned that perilous times will come. “Men will be lovers of self,” he wrote (2 Timothy 3:2, NASB). That self-love would be the underpinning of everything else he was about to write. Loving ourselves and giving ourselves preeminence in life automatically means that our relationships with others are a form of religion that lacks the power of God. Paul ultimately says turn away from self-serving religion. Any faith based on the life of Jesus Christ within us must be lived for the benefit and the sake of other people.
We can know in large measure the heart of God for people. Mark 8:23-26 records the story of Jesus leading the blind man away from the village of Bethsaida in order to restore his sight, which I think represents leading people away from a culture that confines and even tries to hijack the love of God and give credit to humankind for the things that God does. It’s all about me, myself, and I, with no room left for God.
This blind man’s sight was only partially restored at first. It wasn’t until God touched him the second time that he saw clearly. That’s how it often works in our walk with God. He continues to touch our eyes and our hearts as often as needed until we see clearly and love willingly, sincerely, and genuinely.
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. In May of 2020 he transitioned into a continuing role as General Overseer of Times Square Church, Inc.
Peter preached a powerful message to the people in Jerusalem and their hearts were stirred when they heard God’s Word and recognized their sin. Peter instructed them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
What does it mean to repent? True repentance results in sorrow, remorse, and regret over sin. Only the sacrifice of Christ’s blood can forgive. But repentance is the only way to know true healing and rejoicing. There is no other way to enter the peace and rest of Christ. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the fruit that results from repentance:
“Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear” (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).
Repentance and trust in Christ’s redeeming blood result in total remission of sin, and that means pardon, forgiveness and freedom from sin’s power. Human compassion alone cannot convert anyone’s soul. It reaches only the flesh, unable to touch the deep places of the soul. This truth is at the very core of the gospel. You see, repentance leads to forgiveness — and forgiveness must lead to rest and rejoicing.
The burden of sin — the memories and hauntings of past sins — must not be carried beyond the cross. All mourning over past sins, all self-imposed humiliation, must be cast into the cleansing fountain of Christ’s blood. Ultimately, there comes a time when all who follow Jesus must hear him say, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
If you are fighting against a besetting sin, a stronghold of Satan, consider these four things:
Be sure you believe that the Lord still loves you. You are still under his grace and mercy.
Repent, asking the Lord to produce godly sorrow in you.
Receive God’s love, and rest in his promise to forgive you.
Believe his New Covenant word to you: “I will be merciful to you, and forgive all your sins. And I will work in you what is well pleasing to me.”
God has sent you the Holy Spirit, who knows how to deal with the enemy and free you from all bondage. He is the still, small voice that will guide you and empower you through all your battles.
“Concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2).
Paul described to the disciples what would take place when Christ returns: “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (4:16-18).
The ancient stoics believed the world went through fixed periods of time. In their minds, at the end of each period the world was destroyed by a great fire. Then the earth was restored precisely as it had been, so that things began all over again and resumed just as they had before.
In other words, history repeated itself over and over. The same stars followed in the same orbits, and the same lives were lived again, with the same friends, the same concerns, the same experiences. Everything was restored each time, not just once but in perpetuity. Human beings were bound to an eternal treadmill from which there was no escape.
The apostle Peter’s words cut directly against this thinking when he said that, according to God’s promise, Christians are to “look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). Moreover, he says, if we believe God’s Word, we can know that history is racing toward the day of the Lord’s coming, when “heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat” (3:12).
As followers of Christ, we should not be consumed by daily news reports or events taking place in our lives but, rather, on the coming of our Redeemer. Our world certainly is in great turmoil, but Jesus said, “They will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:27-28). He was talking about where our focus should be.
Jesus is coming soon so keep looking up!
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you” (John 14:27).
We know Christ was capable of anger and at times he was moved to tears. But mostly, he led his life on earth as a man of peace. He had peace with the Father, peace in the face of temptation, peace in times of rejection and mockery. He even had peace during storms at sea, sleeping on the deck of the boat while others trembled with terror.
The disciples had heard men call their Lord a devil and religious leaders pointed to him as a fraud. Some groups even plotted to kill him. Yet, through it all, Jesus never lost his peace. No man, no religious system, no devil could rob him of his peace.
All this must have caused discussion among the disciples: “How could he sleep in a storm? What kind of peace is that? And how could he be so calm when that crowd was about to throw him over a cliff? People mock him, insult him, spit on him, but he never fights back. Nothing disturbs him.”
When Jesus promised these men the very same peace, the disciples must have looked at each other in wonder: “You mean we’re going to have the same peace that he has? This is incredible!”
Jesus said to them, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (14:27). In this same scene, Jesus promised to give the disciples the Holy Spirit. Christ explained, “The Holy Spirit will guide you through what you’re going to face. He will be your friend and he’ll enable you to experience this peace I give to you.”
Jesus had just taught these men, “I go and prepare a place for you [and] I will come again and receive you to Myself” (14:3). But Jesus’ pledge to come again didn’t lift their spirits. I can imagine Peter saying, “Who needs a fancy place to live? I need a job. I’ve got a family to feed.”
Jesus knew the disciples needed the kind of peace that would see them through any and all situations. And he is telling us, just as he told them, “You will need my peace to endure what’s coming. Get it now, before things get worse. My Holy Spirit abides in you, so ask him for my peace. He has promised to anchor your soul in every storm.”