Have you ever been so overwhelmed by circumstances that you cried out to God, “Lord, help me! I don’t know how to pray just now, so hear the cry of my heart. Deliver me from this situation!”
At times we can only stand still and know that the Lord is our Deliverer. I believe this is exactly what David went through when he was captured by the Philistines. The psalmist wrote: “My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear of it and be glad” (Psalm 34:2).
David is saying here, in essence, “I have something to tell all of God’s humble people on earth, now and in ages to come. As long as this world exists, the Lord will deliver everyone who calls out to him and trusts him. In his incredible mercy and love, he delivered me, even though I made a very foolish move.”
God will send an angel, if he chooses, or even a host of them, to surround you and keep you from danger. Even if you acted foolishly or had a terrible failure of faith, you only need to get back to calling on your Deliverer. He is faithful to hear your cry and to act.
We see many accounts of miracle throughout the Bible. God miraculously delivered Noah, Lot, David, Hezekiah, Daniel, the three Hebrew children, Moses, Joshua, Israel, Joseph and multitudes more. As for God’s people today, Christ’s blood has delivered us from sin, destruction and much more: “[He] gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4).
Ever since the cross, God’s people have had even better promises than any of those listed above. Believers today stand not just on a promise but also on the shed blood of Jesus Christ. And in that blood we have victory over every sin, temptation and battle we will ever face.
Do you believe God has the foreknowledge to anticipate your every trial? Your every foolish move? Your every doubt and fear? If so, you have the example of David before you, who prayed, “This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him” (Psalm 34:6).
Don’t hesitate to cry out to your loving heavenly Father at any time. He longs to hear from you and meet your need.
Imagine that you have witnessed healing after healing, miracle after miracle, one incredible wonder after another. You would be on your knees praising God, wouldn’t you? You would probably say to yourself, “I’ll never again doubt the healing and miracle-working power of Christ. From now on, I’m going to practice unwavering faith in my life, no matter what comes.”
The disciples had witnessed Jesus feed five thousand men, plus women and children, by multiplying five loaves and two fish. As they participated in the distribution of the food and witnessed the supply continuing to increase, one would think their faith would increase, as well. But in truth, Jesus had been reading their thoughts and he knew they were not understanding what was happening. The message of the miracles had not yet registered in their hearts and minds, and doubts still plagued them.
Later, after the day’s remarkable event, we see Jesus “constraining” his disciples to quietly get into a boat. “And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away” (Matthew 14:22, KJV).
The Greek word for “constrained” here means “to compel by entreaty, force or persuasion.” Jesus was urging his disciples in the strongest terms, “Brethren, just get in the boat. Go now.” Jesus was going to stay to dismiss the multitudes and meet the disciples later.
As they pushed off from shore, I wonder if Jesus shook his head in amazement, wounded by their wavering faith after all they had seen. At that moment, Jesus must have considered what he would have to do to bring his disciples into unshakable faith. What he did was dramatic. He walked on the sea toward them in the middle of a storm. When they saw him, “they were troubled, saying, ‘It is a ghost.’ And they cried out for fear” (Matthew 14:26). But Jesus said, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid” (14:27).
The disciples didn’t doubt that Jesus could heal multitudes with a touch or a word. But when they got away from the crowds, they grew worried about their own needs and those of their families. But when Jesus stepped into the boat, a semblance of faith began to rise up in their hearts. “They … worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God’” (14:33). Finally, they were beginning to get it, and a foundation of faith was being built in them.
Everyone wants to feel special. The world knows this, and businesses capitalize on it. They offer us different levels of “specialness” for doing business with them. Hotels, airlines and other services tout gold, silver and bronze levels for its participating members. The more you patronize their service, the higher level you achieve in their membership, with all sorts of discounts and rewards. They make you feel special for choosing their business.
Paul introduced the Philippians to a type of favor that God offers his people: “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart” (Philippians 1:6-7, NLT).
You might say, “Sign me up! I want the best of everything God has for me.” Yet the Lord’s favor is a lot different from the world’s, as Paul points out: “You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News” (1:7).
Paul was sent to jail — shackled and silenced. How does that make sense? He had preached to thousands and seen crowds fall to their knees crying out for salvation. He had appeared before kings and judges and received a personal revelation of Jesus. That’s what favor sounds like. So how does descending from all that to a prison cell become special favor?
Well, what Paul describes here has to be translated through a spiritual heart. He is showing us that God is likely to bring us into unlikely places when he wants to accomplish a special kingdom work in our lives.
People’s hurts are real and when their trials get worse instead of better, it can be very confusing. But God is always with his children, walking beside each one. He doesn’t look to take things away from us; he looks for ways to bless us. He is out for our good, even to restore what’s been taken away.
Paul wrote to a young pastor named Timothy about the promise of a bold, fearless Christianity through the indwelling Spirit. Timothy came from a family of believers. Both his grandmother and his mother were Christians before him: “When I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice” (2 Timothy 1:5).
So Timothy came from a faith-filled background. He was the spiritual son of the apostle Paul and eventually entered the ministry. Obviously, Timothy enjoyed great spiritual privileges from the very day of his conversion. But despite all those early advantages and godly examples, something was amiss with Timothy’s ministry. Thus, Paul challenged him, “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).
Paul reminds Timothy, and all of us, that we can be sincere in our faith and yet drift back into fear and timidity. Even Christians who love the Lord and study the Bible can be fearful and self-conscious when opportunities to speak for Christ arise. Sadly, in some situations, we seemingly can speak about anything but our Savior.
So, what did Paul tell Timothy to do? Did he tell him to try harder, to reach down for something deeper within? No. Paul told Timothy that the Holy Spirit was the only antidote to the virus of fear in his life. The Spirit’s fire had to be stirred up — nurtured and given attention to — for when God’s Spirit was ablaze, there would be boldness to replace Timothy’s seemingly natural inclination to timidity.
Two thousand years later, church history has clearly shown that when God’s Spirit moves, when believers and churches meet God in a new way, people become bold and radical for Jesus Christ. It is not something taught by a Christian minister. Spiritual courage only comes directly from the Holy Spirit.
Do not let a fear of failure stop you from doing what God lays on your heart. Be bold in the Spirit and don’t hold back!
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.
Do you ever feel as though you haven’t accomplished much in life, and many promises are unfulfilled? If so, you’re in good company; in fact, you are standing among spiritual giants.
Many great servants of God throughout history ended up feeling that they failed in their calling. The prophet Elijah looked at his life and cried, “Lord, take me home! I’m no better than my fathers, and all of them failed you. Please, take my life! Everything has been in vain” (see 1 Kings 19:4).
David Livingstone, one of the world’s most useful missionaries, opened up the African continent to the gospel, sowing much seed and being used by God to awaken England for missions. Yet, during his twenty-third year on the mission field, Livingstone expressed the same awful doubts as other great servants. His biographer quotes him in his despondency: “All my work seems to be in vain.”
George Bowen’s book, Love Revealed, is one of the greatest books on Christ ever written. A single man, Bowen turned away from wealth and fame to become a missionary in Bombay, India, in the mid-1800s. He chose to live among the very poorest, preaching on the streets in sweltering weather, distributing gospel literature and weeping over the lost.
This amazingly devoted man had gone to India with high hopes for the ministry of the gospel. Yet, in his forty-plus years of ministry, Bowen had not one convert. It was only after his death that mission societies discovered he was one of the most beloved missionaries in the nation.
Like so many before him, Bowen endured a terrible sense of failure. He wrote, “I am the most useless being in the church … I would like to sit with Job, and I sympathize with Elijah. My labor has all been in vain.”
It is no sin to endure such thoughts, or to be cast down with a sense of failure. But it is dangerous to allow these hellish lies to fester and enflame your soul. Jesus showed us the way out of such despondency with this statement: “I have labored in vain … yet surely my just reward is with the Lord, and my work with my God” (Isaiah 49:4). Christ is saying, in effect, “The Father alone passes judgment on all that we’ve done and how effective we’ve been.”
The Lord wants you to leave all that “failure thinking” behind and get back to work. Nothing has been in vain! He is going to do abundantly more than you could think or ask!