"Whatever you ask for in My name, I will do it so that the Father will get glory from the Son." John 14:13 (The Voice, emphasis added)
A few years ago, I received the best birthday present ever. At first, it seemed liked the gift was a weekend with my friend. But God knew I needed something more, something deeper, something that would heal an ache in my heart and change me forever.
Lendy and I had been friends since college. We even worked together after graduation. So when my husband suggested a weekend getaway with her for my birthday, I was thrilled.
Through the years, I had admired Lendy's relationship with God, longing for the faith she had. Lendy graciously mentored me as I grew in my faith until I moved away. So, being reunited with her sounded like just what I needed.
While on a walk, Lendy asked if she could pray over me. What a gift! Of course, I jumped at the chance.
Lendy had no idea how desperately I needed prayer. I hadn't told her about the anxiety churning inside me. I'd been teaching Bible study for years, but recently feelings of unworthiness invaded my soul. Why did God call me? What qualifications did I have? I had no seminary degree. No formal Bible training at all. I was an attorney, for heaven's sake!
Yet every week I stood and taught, sharing my concerns with no one, not even my husband. I feared the women in my class would lose confidence in me as their teacher if they knew the feelings of unworthiness harbored in my heart.
But God knew. He had heard the cry of my heart and responded in a most gracious and loving way.
After our walk, Lendy took me to a quiet spot and placed her hands on my shoulders and prayed. She prayed for my marriage and family. As she spoke of me as a teacher, she moved her hands from my shoulders to my head and anointed me with a fragrant oil she had brought. Her words poured over me like a healing balm:
"Wendy, you are worthy."
Tears fell. She repeated the words again and again.
"You are worthy."
She cupped my face in her hands, looked intently in my eyes and declared one last time:
"You are worthy."
God knew the ache in my heart, my desperate need to know I was worthy ... and called by Him to teach His Word. God orchestrated that weekend so that someone I loved and trusted breathed life back into my ministry.
God brought His Word alive to me: Wendy, "whatever you ask for in My name, I will do it so that the Father will get glory from the Son" (John 14:13, The Voice, emphasis added).
Since that day, I've been teaching and writing with greater confidence ... trusting God with every message. God answered my prayer and breathed life back into my ministry so that as I study and teach His written Word, and share the hope found in Jesus, He receives glory.
Friend, you're reading this devotional because God has heard the cry of your heart. He is speaking to you so that His Word will encourage you and speak into your life as it did mine.
God hears our cries, and He answers our prayers so that He will receive all the glory as we grow together in His Word and journey toward living "so that" lives.
Heavenly Father, thank You for hearing the cry of my heart. Thank You for answering that cry because You are faithful to Your Word. Help me hear and obey so that You will receive all glory and honor and praise. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond: What is the cry of your heart? Have you asked God to answer that cry? If not, will you do that today? Write a prayer inviting Him to be at work in a longing, insecure or doubting place in your heart.
Power Verse: Hebrews 4:16, "Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (NIV, emphasis added)
© 2014 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org
The vision of Obadiah. This is what the Sovereign LORD says about Edom—We have heard a message from the LORD: an envoy was sent to the nations to say, “Rise up and let us go against her for battle.” Obadiah 1:1
The vision God has placed in your heart cannot be ignored because it is His vision for you. Indeed, your God-given vision can be daunting, for it requires extraordinary faith that at times feels uncomfortable and overwhelming. Your leadership is challenged and stretched. You become assertive in ways that seem unnatural for your personality and temperament, but this is God’s way of growing you and implementing His vision simultaneously.
A big vision accompanied by a large Lord, led by a leader of humble faith, is fun to watch. Some days you pinch yourself, wondering why God chose you to carry out this creative assignment on His behalf. Other days you tremble with feelings of anxiety, unsure of how the next few phases of the vision can become a reality. Money and time are both short, but your provision flows from the Lord (1 Timothy 6:17).
Yes, God is at His best when you feel overwhelmed with responsibilities and worry. He has prepared you and others for this vision of Kingdom significance. Do not oversell or understate the vision He has placed in your heart. Trust that the Holy Spirit will reveal its significance over time. A vision starts with an acorn of an idea, but then grows into an oak tree of influence. This takes time and outside resources that you cannot control. The more patient you are, the more vital the vision becomes; so do not present a half-baked vision. You know you want to be a mom, build a business, or serve overseas. This is good, but let your concept for Christ mature. Like an infant in the womb, the vision needs time to grow so it can be birthed in good health.
Lastly, the vision God has lodged in your life requires all of you to be fully focused. There are two focuses: the focus of the vision and your focus on the vision. Start by crystallizing the idea Christ has placed on your heart. If you cannot clearly articulate the vision in a sentence, it is not focused. Clear communication of the vision is concise and compelling. If others see it, they can conceive it.
Secondly, focus on the vision in prayer and do not be distracted by other good opportunities. Furthermore, the vision is top of mind for you, but it takes time to register in the hearts and minds of others. Your part is to cast the vision; their part is to catch the vision. So present the vision in a relevant way to your audience, and seek to align with those of like-minded passions. Communication of vision takes repetition. What is familiar to you may be foreign to your followers. However, in the process, the vision becomes better focused, you are more focused, and it comes into focus for others. This is the vision God has given you, so be true to the Almighty, the author of the vision. Your vision of God determines the quality and quantity of your vision. So stay fixated by faith on your heavenly Father, for the vision flows from Him.
Taken from the March 7th reading in Boyd’s 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God vol. 1”
Post/Tweet today: A vision may start with an acorn of an idea, but then grow into an oak tree of influence. #thevision
© 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry firstname.lastname@example.org /www.wisdomhunters.com
When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:2–3).
Doubt seeks to destroy our faith. It is in our discouragement—even despair—that we begin to question God. “What did I do wrong?” “Lord, did you call me to this place of confusion?” “Where is my joy and hope?” “Are you even real or just a figment of my imagination?” Left to its natural conclusion, doubt crushes our faith in Christ.
Fortunately, faith does not have to take a furlough when we are frustrated and fatigued. It is in your confinement that Christ wants to remind you of His great power. So cry out to Him in your confused circumstances, and He will earnestly listen in love. “In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God. From His temple He heard my voice; my cry came to His ears” (2 Samuel 22:7). He does not leave His loved ones alone and in doubt.
It is okay to be in doubt, but it is not okay to remain in doubt. What doubt challenges your faith in God? Is it His provision, His promises, His presence, His character, or His care? When these questions assault your confidence in Christ, take a step back and review His track record. The reality of your salvation sets you on the productive path of peace and forgiveness. Answered prayer over the years is proof enough of His love and concern.
Furthermore, use this temporary time of distrust to go deeper with Jesus. The pressure you feel on all sides is your Savior’s way of soliciting your attention. When in doubt, seek out the Lord, learn to love Him completely, and discern more fully His profound promises. Use doubt to dig deeper into the truth of Scripture; marinate your mind. “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).
When in doubt, stay steadfast in seeking out your Savior. Wait on Him, especially when you wonder what is next. Where there is true faith there may be a mixture of unbelief; so remain faithful, even when questions manipulate your faith. Perseverance will one day free you as a stronger and more-committed follower of Christ. See Jesus for who He is. Doubt dissolves in His reassuring presence. Doubt starves to death when it is not fed.
“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—the Lord, who remains faithful forever” (Psalm 146:5–6).
Prayer: What doubts do I need to acknowledge and release to God? Is Christ trustworthy?
Related Readings: 2 Chronicles 33:12; Job 36:16–19; John 20:27; Jude 1:22
Taken from the March 8th reading in Boyd’s 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God vol. 2”
Post/Tweet today: Faith does not have to take a furlough when we are frustrated and fatigued. #Whenindoubt
© 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry email@example.com /www.wisdomhunters.com
The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. John 1:41-42
Those who experience the abiding joy of Jesus cannot sit still with their new discovery. Lost souls who have seen the love of the Lord forgive their sin, are compelled to love their friends to the Lord. People who once panicked in fear, but now have peace with their heavenly Father, must share with others their hope in Christ. The fullness of the Spirit in a saved soul bids believers to bring people to Jesus. We who know Jesus are called by God to introduce others to Jesus.
You may say, “I am not a great debater,” or “I have limited experience following Christ,” or God forbid, “I am not a professional Christian.” See these statements as assets not liabilities. A knowledge of apologetics is helpful, but not necessary to explain the depth of God’s love in John 3:16. Yes, you have the opportunity to grow your faith with life’s ups and downs. But, from the start of salvation you can tell your story, “Once I was spirally blind, but now I see.” Lastly, those in vocational ministry are paid to serve, but you can serve as a grateful and generous volunteer.
“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did” (John 4:39).
Once we introduce people to our best friend Jesus, He will invite them unto Himself. The Holy Spirit will reveal the needy heart of the seeker and the holy heart of their Savior Christ Jesus. He initiates irresistible intimacy their soul longs to enjoy. We make the introductions, but the Spirit draws hungry hearts to know Him in a loving relationship for a lifetime. We plant a seed of Scripture, the Spirit waters the Word with conviction, and God harvests the heart for Himself.
Therefore, be creative with your invitations to Jesus. Invite your family to Easter Sunday and lunch after the church service. Invite a co-worker to a men or women’s weekend retreat with you. Scholarship their registration fee so there are fewer obstacles to their attendance. Host a Bible study on the life of Jesus, with a few friends who are interested in learning Christ’s claims. Invite a neighbor to a prayer breakfast to hear the story of how a respected leader came to the Lord. Most of all, prayerfully ask individuals who trust you, if they would like to trust Jesus.
“They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world’” (John 4:42).
Related Readings: Matthew 11:9; Mark 5:19; Luke 2:11; 2 Corinthians 6:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:2
Prayer: Heavenly Father give me the courage, love and grace to speak boldly salvation through faith in Jesus.
Post/Tweet today: We who know Jesus are called by God to introduce others to Jesus. #goandtell
© 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry firstname.lastname@example.org /www.wisdomhunters.com
Locking Eyes with Your Lion
You are responsible forever for what you have tamed. --Antoinede Saint-Exubery
There is an obscure passage in Scripture that I doubt any Sunday school teacher has ever assigned as a memory verse. It wasn’t exegeted in any of the systematic theology classes I took in seminary. It has absolutely no bearing on any major biblical doctrines. You may have read it a few times in a one-year Bible, but it probably didn’t even make a blip on your radar screen.
Buried in the Old Testament book of 2 Samuel, the twenty-third chapter, the twentieth and twenty-first verses, is one of the most inconceivable and inspirational passages in Scripture:
There was also Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant warrior from Kabzeel. He did many heroic deeds, which included killing two of Moab’s mightiest warriors. Another time he chased a lion down into a pit. Then, despite the snow and slippery ground, he caught the lion and killed it. Another time, armed only with a club, he killed a great Egyptian warrior who was armed with a spear. Benaiah wrenched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with it.
It’s easy to read verses like this in the comfortable confines of your home or office and totally miss the monumental acts of courage displayed by Benaiah. Have you ever met anyone or heard of anyone chasing a lion? Sure, Barnum & Bailey have lion tamers. But lion chasers? Benaiah didn’t have a hunting rifle or Land Rover. And this was no game-park safari.
Scripture doesn’t tell us what Benaiah was doing or where he was going when he encountered this lion. We don’t know the time of day or Benaiah’s frame of mind. But Scripture does reveal his gut reaction. And it was gutsy. It ranks as one of the most improbable reactions recorded in Scripture. Usually, when the image of a man-eating beast travels through the optical nerve and registers in the visual cortex, the brain has one over-arching message: Run away.
Normal people run away from lions. They run as far and as fast as they possibly can. But lion chasers are wired differently.
For the vast majority of us, the only lions we’ve ever encountered were stuffed or caged. And few of us have experienced hand-to-hand combat that forced us to fight for our lives. But try to put yourself in Benaiah’s snow shoes.
Out of the corner of his eye, Benaiah sees something crawling. I don’t know how far away the lion is—and their vision is probably obscured by falling snow and frozen breath—but there is a moment when Benaiah and the lion lock eyes. Pupils dilate. Muscles tense. Adrenaline rushes.
What a Hollywood moment.
Imagine watching it on the movie screen with THX surround sound. Your knuckles turn white as you grip the theater seat. Blood pressure escalates. And the entire audience anticipates what will happen next. Lion encounters tend to script the same way. Man runs away like a scaredy-cat. Lion gives chase. And king of the beasts eats manwich for lunch.
But not this time! Almost as improbable as falling up or the second hand on your watch moving counterclockwise, the lion turns tail and Benaiah gives chase.
The camera films the chase at ground level.
Lions can run up to thirty-five miles per hour and leap thirty feet in a single bound. Benaiah doesn’t stand a chance, but that doesn’t keep him from giving chase. Then the lion makes one critical misstep. The ground gives away beneath his five-hundred-pound frame, and he falls down a steep embankment into a snow-laden pit. For what it’s worth, I’m sure the lion landed on his feet. Lions are part of the cat genus, after all.
No one is eating popcorn at this point. Eyes are fixed on the screen. It’s the moment of truth as Benaiah approaches the pit. Almost like walking on thin ice, Benaiah measures every step. He inches up to the edge and peers into the pit. Menacing yellow eyes stare back. The entire audience is thinking the same thing: Don’t even think about it.
Have you ever had one of those moments where you do something crazy and ask yourself in retrospect: What was I thinking? This had to be one of those moments for Benaiah. Who in their right mind chases lions? But Benaiah now has a moment to collect his thoughts, regain his sanity, and get a grip on reality. And the reality is this: Normal people don’t chase lions.
So Benaiah turns around and walks away. The audience breathes a collective sigh of relief. But Benaiah isn’t walking away. He’s getting a running start. There is an audible gasp from the audience as Benaiah runs at the pit and takes a flying leap of faith.
The camera pans out.
You see two sets of tracks leading up to the pit’s edge. One set of foot prints. One set of paw prints. Benaiah and the lion disappear into the recesses of the pit. The view is obscured to keep it PG-13. And for a few critical moments, the audience is left with just the THX sound track. A deafening roar echoes in the cavernous pit. A bloodcurdling battle cry pierces the soul.
Then dead silence.
Everybody in the theater expects to see a lion shake its mane and strut out of the pit. But after a few agonizing moments of suspense, the shadow of a human form appears as Benaiah climbs out of the pit. The blood from his wounds drips on the freshly fallen snow. Claw marks crisscross his face and spear arm. But Benaiah wins one of the most improbable victories recorded in the pages of Scripture.
A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Right at the outset, let me share one of my core convictions: God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time. A sense of destiny is our birthright as followers of Christ. God is awfully good at getting us where He wants us to go. But here’s the catch: The right place often seems like the wrong place, and the right time often seems like the wrong time.
Can I understate the obvious?
Encountering a lion in the wild is typically a bad thing. A really bad thing! Finding yourself in a pit with a lion on a snowy day generally qualifies as a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. That combination of circumstances usually spells one thing: death. I don't think anyone would have bet on Benaiah winning this fight—probably not even the riskiest of gamblers. He had to be at least a one-hundred-to-one underdog. And the snowy conditions on game day didn’t help his chances.
Scripture doesn’t give us a blow-by-blow description of what happened in that pit. All we know is that when the snow settled, the lion was dead and Benaiah was alive. There was one set of paw prints and two sets of footprints.
Now fast-forward two verses and look at what happens in the next scene.
2 Samuel 23:23 says: “And David put [Benaiah] in charge of his bodyguard.”
I can’t think of too many places I’d rather not be than in a pit with a lion on a snowy day. Can you? Getting stuck in a pit with a lion on a snowy day isn’t on anybody’s wish list. It’s a death wish. But you’ve got to admit something: “I killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day” looks pretty impressive on your résumé if you’re applying for a bodyguard position with the King of Israel!
You know what I’m saying?
I can picture David flipping through a stack of résumés. “I majored in security at the University of Jerusalem.” Nope. “I did an internship with the Palace Guard.” Nada. “I worked for Brinks Armored Chariots.” Thanks but no thanks.
Then David comes to the next résumé in the stack. “I killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day.” David didn’t even check his references. That is the kind of person you want in charge of your bodyguard. Lion chasers make great bouncers.
Now zoom out and look at the story through a wide-angled lens. Most people would have seen the lion as a five-hundred-pound problem, but not Benaiah. For most people, finding yourself in a pit with a lion on a snowy day would qualify as bad luck. But can you see how God turned what could have been considered a bad break into a big break? Benaiah lands a job interview with the King of Israel.
I’m sure the bodyguard position was the last thing on his mind when he encountered the lion, but Benaiah wasn’t just chasing a lion. Benaiah was chasing a position in David’s administration.
Here’s the point: God is in the résumé-building business. He is always using past experiences to prepare us for future opportunities. But those God-given opportunities often come disguised as maneating lions. And how we react when we encounter those lions will determine our destiny. We can cower in fear and run away from our greatest challenges. Or we can chase our God-ordained destiny by seizing the God-ordained opportunity.
As I look back on my own life, I recognize this simple truth: The greatest opportunities were the scariest lions. Part of me has wanted to play it safe, but I’ve learned that taking no risks is the greatest risk of all.
Giving up a full-ride scholarship at the University of Chicago to transfer to a small Bible college was a huge risk. Asking my wife, Lora, to marry me was a huge risk. (Of course, not as big a risk as Lora saying yes!) Packing all of our earthly belongings into a fifteen-foot U-haul and moving to Washington DC with no place to live and no guaranteed salary was a huge risk. Each of our three children was a huge risk. Jumping into a church plant with zero pastoral experience was a huge risk, both for me and for the church.
But when I look in the rearview mirror, I realize that the biggest risks were the greatest opportunities. Some of those life-altering decisions caused sleepless nights. The steps of faith were accompanied by acute fear that caused nausea. We experienced some financial hardships that required miraculous provision. And we had to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off after falling flat on our faces a few times.
But those were the moments that I came alive. Those were the moments when God set the stage. Those were the moments that changed the trajectory of my life.
Excerpted from In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson Copyright © 2006 by Mark Batterson. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
"Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself." 1 Samuel 18:1b (NIV)
Growing up, my best friend knew everything about me. She knew which boy I liked, my favorite song and all my dreams. She knew my secrets too, like who kissed me at the skating rink. Friendships like that are rare, and these days I find myself longing for a friend like that.
Making good friends in our constantly-moving society is getting harder. It's not that we don't want close relationships, but people come and go so fast it's difficult to establish long-lasting friendships.
But it's more than that. Some of us have been hurt and betrayed so often we keep others at arm's length. Perhaps you had a close friend once who proved to have looser lips than you thought. Behind your back she spilled your secrets to others. You felt betrayed and rightly so. Now, you suffer from hurt, unforgiveness and distrust.
While it's tempting to wish God would bring me a good friend, more often than not, He asks me to be a good friend to someone else first. That's when I need to go to Scripture for a reminder of what true friendship looks like.
God knows the agony of broken relationships and our need for godly role models. That's why we're allowed to look into the lives of two biblical characters who succeeded at a long, intimate friendship. Their names are David and Jonathan.
We find their story in 1 Samuel 18 and 19. Jonathan, son of King Saul, was David's closest friend. The king despised David because he was growing in popularity and because God had anointed David to be king — instead of Saul's own son. These facts enraged King Saul, and he commanded his aids and Jonathan to assassinate David. But because of Jonathan's love for his friend, he refused to betray David.
Love isn't the only fruit of true friendship. It consists of sacrifice too.
Jonathan is a picture of sacrifice. He removed his robe and gave it to David, along with his armor, sword, bow and belt. Jonathan was the potential heir to his father's throne, but we see him sacrificing his future as he gives David his place as king. We learn from Jonathan's action that true friendship means a willingness to sacrifice for each other. It's the choice to put another's needs, desires and wishes above our own.
Loyalty is also a mark of true friendship.
We're told that Jonathan went to his father and spoke well of David. He reminded the king that David had done nothing wrong. In fact, David had been loyal to Saul.
Jonathan impresses me. It's tough to do the right thing and stand up to authority. We learn by his actions that a true friend is a loyal defense before others, and one who won't talk badly about you when you're not around. True friends stick up for each other and are ready to defend when others attack.
Finally, true friends trust each enough to be themselves.
When Jonathan told David that his father was out to kill him, the two were forced to say goodbye. The text in 1 Samuel 20:41 tells us that they "wept together." I love that.
When your heart is broken, you can fall apart and a good friend understands. She won't try to correct you in your misery or tell you to straighten up. True friends let each other hurt. They weep together. They listen to fears. They don't bail; they stay. They allow you to be yourself — no matter what "self" looks like.
God challenges me to be a better friend with the story of Jonathan and David. I check my heart to see if I'm loyal, loving, selfless and trustworthy, then I ask God to help me be that kind of friend and bless me with the same.
A good friendship takes time. If things get rocky, don't walk out. Work it out. Give your relationship time to grow because a true friend is a rare and precious gift.
Dear Lord, help me be a friend like Jonathan. And bless me with the same. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond: What kind of friend am I?
What can I do this week to show loyalty, love, sacrifice and trust to a friend?
Power Verse: Proverbs 17:17, "A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need." (NLT)
© 2014 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org
“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. John 1:39
Disciples are made, not born. God makes them. God makes them for His glory. He makes them so they in turn will make disciples. The Lord makes disciples who serve the needy, feed the poor, and reach out to the rich. Disciples are trained by the Holy Spirit to follow the Spirit’s leading. They learn to make much of their master Jesus and make less of themselves. Disciples schooled by the Spirit bear the fruit of the Spirit. They are made to invite others to meet their Savior Jesus.
Disciples begin as followers of Jesus at their new birth, but they quickly learn that to grow in Christ requires time with Christ. Unhurriedly they seek to be still at the feet of Jesus in prayer. They listen and learn from their Lord. Moreover, disciples of Jesus are not infatuated by gifted men and women of the faith. They respect and learn from these seasoned leaders, but only for the purpose of growing in their devotion to Jesus Christ. Disciples are made to follow God, not man. Like John the Baptist, humble and wise Christian leaders point people away from themselves to Jesus.
“He [Jesus] must increase, but I [John] must decrease” (John 3:30, NKJV).
Are you engaged in discipleship training? Are you intentional in your intimacy with Jesus? Start today to be a stronger disciple tomorrow. Aging is meant to mature a heart to become more like Christ. Similar to a good wine aging well, so a disciple’s faith grows robust in intentional intimacy with the Lord. Just as these two early disciples accepted Jesus’ invitation to come and see Him, Jesus invites us to come and see. Spend a day seeing your Savior’s heart and hearing His voice.
Furthermore, invest time in those around you to grow in their faith. God makes disciples, but you can be a facilitator in their faith development. Perhaps you start a monthly book club with three or four like-minded friends. Read Christian classics like, A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God. Sign up for iDisciple: https://www.idisciple.org. Most of all, do life with a few equally committed individuals who love God and love people. Search the Scriptures together for God’s answers to life’s questions. Disciples are made by their Maker to grow with each other and remain faithful.
“Strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith” (Acts 14:22).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, make me into a dedicated and loving disciple of Jesus so I can disciple others for You.
Related Readings: Mathew 28:19; John 13:5, 35; Acts 6:7, 19:9, 20:1
Post/Tweet today: God makes disciples, but we can be a facilitator in their faith development. #disciplesaremade
© 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
The God I Never Knew, Chapter 1
The knock at the door startled Irene Adkins. The seventy-nine-year-old great-grandmother wasn’t expecting any visitors. A cautious peek through the peephole revealed a well-dressed silver-haired gentleman with a kind face that struck her as vaguely familiar. It was something about the eyes and nose. As she opened the door, her certainty grew—the stranger definitely reminded her of someone. But who?
It would take her a while to realize that the man’s face indeed bore an uncanny resemblance to one she knew better than any other—her own. Irene’s seventy-three-year-old brother, Terry, had come for a surprise visit. It was quite surprising because Irene never knew she had a brother. Back in 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, a desperate and confused young English couple unhitched their tattered camper trailer on the side of the road and drove away. Police later found three small, hungry children inside. Irene, at ten months of age, was the youngest. The three were placed in separate foster homes and grew up unaware of the others’ existence. Meanwhile, the young couple eventually achieved some stability a few years later and had another child—their son, Terry.
When Terry was fourteen, his parents revealed their shameful secret. They told him of the desperate straits in which they’d found themselves and of the wrenching decision to abandon the trio of hungry mouths they could not feed. Shortly thereafter Terry began a lifelong quest to find his siblings, especially the sister his parents had named Irene. He searched in vain for almost sixty years. Then came a breakthrough. He learned the name of the agency that had placed Irene and her siblings in foster homes.
Not long thereafter came the day—April 3, 2010—when Irene Adkins discovered the wonderful brother she never knew. In the discovery the rootless orphan found a source of answers to questions she had carried around in her heart all her life.
I believe I know how Irene felt. Several decades ago, after many years of struggling to live the Christian life and even working “successfully” in fulltime ministry, I finally discovered the God I never knew. And in the discovery I found not only the source of answers to every question I’ve ever had but a dear friend as well. One who has made my life richer, fuller, and more exciting than I ever dreamed possible. I am referring, of course, to God—the Holy Spirit.
An Amazing Relationship
I grew up in church. However, this church was part of a denomination that avoided mentioning the Holy Spirit whenever possible. Our denominational leaders treated Him a bit like the crazy uncle who shows up at Thanksgiving once every few years and horrifies everyone with his inappropriate behavior. You can’t help being related to this uncle, but you hope that if you don’t mention his name or send him a Christmas card, he will stay away.
In fact, many years ago when I prepared to leave home to attend Bible college, my pastor had just one parting word of counsel for me. I had recently given my life to Christ, and I was burning with desire to serve Him. So I eagerly waited to hear what encouragement my pastor would deliver as I entered this season of learning and preparation for ministry. His only advice to me was, “Watch out for people who talk about the Holy Spirit.”
At the time I didn’t know any better. So I simply nodded and filed his warning away in my mind. Now—after twenty-five years of discovering what a wonderful, kind, helpful, gentle, and wise person the Holy Spirit is; after developing an intimate friendship with Him that has made my life better and more fulfilling in countless ways; after watching the Holy Spirit help and bless people—I am grieved to think back on my pastor’s advice. To be honest, it offends me. Of course, most of us feel offended when someone thinks badly of a person we love and respect, especially when the opinion is based on lies or misunderstandings. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of hearing bad things about someone through a third party and forming a negative impression, only to meet that individual later and discover that he isn’t the bad person you envisioned at all. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably been misinformed about the Holy Spirit to some degree. After more than twenty-five years of experience in ministry, I’ve seen firsthand that most Christians hold a distorted, inaccurate, or incomplete view of the third member of the Trinity. In fact, many frustrated believers are just as Irene Adkins was for most of her life—utterly unaware that a loving and amazing person desires to know them and to fill their empty lives with good things. Too many have resigned themselves to perpetual defeat in their battles with temptation or to stumbling through life, making decisions with nothing more than their own flawed reason to guide them. Others live a dull, powerless brand of Christianity, completely at odds with the picture of the vibrant, overcoming, advancing church of the book of Acts.
The dynamic, full life Jesus promised to believers is a natural outgrowth of intimate friendship with God, the Holy Spirit. Today I have an amazing relationship with the Holy Spirit, though that wasn’t always true. By the time we’re finished exploring this topic, you’ll realize what an amazing relationship you can have with Him too.
Chapter 2: Who Is This Person?
Like a lot of newly married couples, Debbie and I didn’t have much at first. Even the possessions we could call our own were mostly hand-me-downs from our parents. Our financial situation improved after a couple of years of marriage, and one day Debbie asked if I was okay with her buying a new comforter. Our current bedcover was so faded and threadbare that you could practically read the newspaper through it. Being a typical guy, I thought we’d buy a plain bedspread. So when we went shopping, I was shocked to learn that the comforter Debbie had in mind might require taking out a second mortgage on the house. Of course, I’m exaggerating. But the big and soft and puffy and colorful comforter we purchased was much fancier and more beautiful than I could have imagined.
Despite its cost, I was excited about our new acquisition. On the day we bought it, several times I caught myself imagining what it would feel like to slip beneath that soft comforter and be all toasty warm. At bedtime I walked into our room and, to my horror, the beautiful new comforter was gone. With my best exasperated yet perplexed voice, I asked Debbie, “Sweetie, where’s the new comforter?” She gave me that look. You know the one—the “you can’t seriously be that dense” look. The truth is, yes, we husbands really can be that dense!
Realizing the level of my denseness in this moment, Debbie explained, “That new comforter isn’t for use. It’s for looks.” In the years since that night, we’ve accumulated many household items that I’ve discovered are for looks, not use. We have plates I’m not allowed to eat on and fancy goblets I can’t drink from. We have beautiful towels that you can use if you stay at our house, but I can’t. In fact, there are towels hanging in my bathroom right now that I’m not allowed to use.
In the same way, millions of Christians have been given a comforter, but they treat Him as if He’s just for looks. If we think that way, we’re wrong. The wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit is meant to be so much more than an ornamental feature in our lives.
Introducing a Helper
Just who is the Holy Spirit? That’s a big question—one as big as God Himself. When you want to get to know someone new, often the first step is to be introduced by someone who already knows that person well. During His years of ministry on earth, Jesus knew the Holy Spirit better than any human ever had or has since. So perhaps the best place to learn about the Holy Spirit begins with Jesus and the words He used to introduce the Spirit to the disciples, as recorded in John 14.
It’s helpful to know chapters 14–16 of John’s gospel contain a record of Jesus’s conversation with His disciples at the Last Supper. Jesus isn’t publicly teaching a large crowd of casual followers and curious gawkers on a Galilean hillside. He’s not debating the Pharisees or speaking cryptically in parables to the Sadducees. Instead, Jesus is in a small room, having dinner with His closest friends. He knows that in just twelve short hours, He will be put to death on the cross. In this unbelievably serious moment, a leader who knows He is about to be killed gives vital instructions and information to His followers.
Jesus begins with words of comfort: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. I’m going away, but I will come back” (paraphrased). Then, in John 14:16–17, Jesus gets to the core of what He wants these men to understand: And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. Don’t get hung up on the fact that Jesus says, “I will pray the Father.” Using the word pray this way sounds a little odd to our modern ears. But the Greek word translated “pray” here is translated “ask” in many other parts of the New Testament. Jesus is simply saying, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper.” Note the word “Helper.” The person the Father will send sounds mysterious, but Jesus tells the disciples that the role and nature of this person is to “help.” Jesus also assures them that the Helper won’t be a complete stranger. “But you know Him,” Jesus says.
How could they already know this coming helper? Jesus explains by saying, “For He dwells with you and will be in you.” The verb “dwells” is in the present tense, while the phrase “will be in you” is clearly future tense. At the moment Jesus was speaking, the disciples had experienced the Helper dwelling “with” them to a certain extent. But the Helper was about to be sent in a way that would make Him not only “with” them but “in” them.
Although Jesus spoke these words to a small group of His closest friends and followers, they are also meant for us. The truth of the Holy Spirit’s living with and in us assures us that we never have to feel alone.
How the Holy Spirit Helps
What kind of “help” will the Holy Spirit provide? Jesus gives part of the answer in John 14:25–26: These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. This is the second time Jesus chooses the word “Helper” to describe the One the Father is sending. Here Jesus lists two of the many ways this person will be of help.
First, “He will teach you all things.” What an incredible promise. There’s no subject in which God isn’t an expert. He has all the answers. The second way the Holy Spirit helps is by bringing “to your remembrance all things that I [Jesus] said to you.” This is one reason the Gospels are so detailed and in such agreement about the words of Jesus. The Holy Spirit helped the disciples remember everything Jesus said to them.
Jesus Must Leave
A little later in this conversation with the disciples, Jesus gives the third mention of the coming Helper being sent from the Father: But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. ( John 15:26)
Notice that Jesus calls Him “the Spirit of truth.” Jesus presents the Holy Spirit to us as the ultimate answer to overcoming and undoing the work of Satan, the great Deceiver and “the father of lies” ( John 8:44, NIV). For thousands of years, since the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind had stumbled in the darkness of the devil’s lies. Then Jesus, who declared Himself to be “the way, the truth, and the life” ( John 14:6), announced He would soon be sending a helper who would make it possible to live a life free from deception.
In John 16, Jesus gives the disciples His most thorough introduction to the Holy Spirit. “So wonderful is this One who will be sent,” Jesus tells them, “that it is a much better thing for you if I go away. Because if I don’t go, He can’t come!” That’s how I like to paraphrase it—here’s the actual translation: Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. ( John 16:7)
The first thing that always strikes me when I read this passage is that Jesus feels compelled to say, “Now, I’m telling you the truth here.” He knows that the next words He speaks will truly seem unbelievable to the disciples. The disciples were grief stricken at the idea that Jesus would be going away from them. They loved Him. They depended on Him. He was their miracle working leader. How could it possibly be good that He is about to leave them? Jesus immediately explains that only if He goes to the Father can the Helper be sent.
Jesus continues by explaining some more ways the Holy Spirit will provide help, and we’ll look at those in a moment. Right now, notice John 16:12–14. There, Jesus says, I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.
These verses contain an amazing promise. Jesus wants to tell the disciples the whole amazing story of what lies ahead, but He knows that the truths He wants to deliver would just overwhelm and confuse them at this moment. But He has good news for them. Who better to deliver important truths than the Spirit of truth? “When He…has come, He will guide you into all truth,” Jesus says. “All truth.” That’s quite a benefit of friendship with the Holy Spirit. No wonder Jesus refers to Him as the Helper. But Jesus mentions yet another form of help the Spirit will provide: “He will tell you things to come.” Let me put it a little differently. Jesus is saying, “The Holy Spirit will tell you the future.” Would it occasionally be helpful to know what’s around the corner? Have you ever been blindsided by some event and thought to yourself, If only I’d known this was coming, I’d have been better prepared?
One of the elders at the church I pastor is a wonderful model for allowing the Holy Spirit to show us things to come. Steve built a large and successful business in the ultracompetitive construction industry, largely by regularly getting alone with God and allowing His Spirit to direct him where his business is concerned.
In addition to having daily quiet times of Bible study, private worship, and prayer, Steve makes it a point to go away two or three times each year for several days at a time. He rents a cabin or lake house and takes little more than his Bible and a notebook. His testimony is that he invariably receives instruction from the Holy Spirit in these sessions of private communion about what lies ahead and how to lead his business accordingly. Steve can share instance after instance in which a seemingly counter intuitive instruction from the Holy Spirit resulted in a profitable breakthrough. Or in which a warning enabled him to avoid unnecessary losses or bad hiring decisions. Yes, a key role of the Holy Spirit is to lead us supernaturally into truth and reveal what lies ahead. No wonder Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Helper four times in three consecutive chapters! The promises in these passages are absolutely incredible. In each of these four instances, the Greek word translated “helper” is parakletos. The Greek word appears only five times in the entire New Testament, and we’ve just looked at four of them.
When the typical first-century Greek speaker or writer used this word, he was talking about a person who pleads your case like a lawyer before a judge, or someone who goes before you to intercede with someone on your behalf. What an amazing way to think of who the Holy Spirit is and how He is our helper!
The Bottom Line
The key message about the Holy Spirit’s role is very simple: He helps me. He helps me know what to say when I’m speechless. He helps me know when to speak and when to keep my mouth closed. I’m sure you can think of situations where both kinds of help would be welcome. For example, a friend shares a serious problem and you have no idea what to say that will help or encourage her. Then a thought suddenly comes to mind, you speak it aloud, and the person says, “Wow, that’s exactly what I needed to hear!” That’s what the Holy Spirit can do—giving you the very words you need to say.
Sometimes He tells you what not to say. Have you ever had that happen? Maybe you’ve been involved in a conversation with someone who got a little emotional. Just as you are about to throw out a really clever comeback, you have a little cautionary thought: I shouldn’t say that. Of course, the problem is that most of us say what we’re thinking anyway. Invariably, we end up concluding, I shouldn’t have said that! This happens a lot in marriage. Maybe you come home from work, and although you don’t know it at that moment, your spouse has had a tough day. You start to say something, and the Holy Spirit nudges you and whispers, I wouldn’t go there if I were you, My friend. Sometimes He adds, As a matter of fact, if I were you, I’d take her out to dinner. If you’re smart, you’ll listen and choose wisely in that moment. If you’re not so smart—like me sometimes—you’ll ignore that advice and speak your mind. I’ve learned to listen to that voice. I’ve discovered how wonderful it is to have a helper.
You might be wondering if the Holy Spirit really speaks to us in such clear ways. The simple answer is yes. The truth is that most of us don’t have any trouble believing that God speaks to us. We just get frustrated because we don’t know exactly what He’s saying. Almost every one of us has a desire, even a desperation, to hear with confidence the voice of God. Who wants to stumble through life without the benefit of the clear direction and inward peace that comes from hearing God’s voice? The great news is that God doesn’t want that for us either.
Hearing God’s voice is vital to breaking out of old comfort zones and into exciting new levels of effectiveness. Hearing God and responding to Him can take us to new places of intimacy and purpose in Him. Hearing God’s voice begins by recognizing which member of the Trinity is tasked with speaking to us in this season of history. It is, of course, the Holy Spirit. The Father is on His throne. Jesus has been seated at His right hand and, according to Hebrews 10:12–13, will remain there “waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.” The Holy Spirit, however, is active and present and commissioned to interact with us on the earth today. As we’ve just seen, Jesus went away so the Spirit could come to us and live in us. He leads us into all truth, shows us things to come, reveals heavenly mysteries, and imparts vital direction.
The main reason many people aren’t sure if they can really hear the voice of God is because they have refused to engage and embrace the member of the Trinity whose job it is to speak to them.
Other Ways the Spirit Helps
Let’s look at John 16:8–11. In these four verses Jesus gives additional detail about how the Holy Spirit helps us. In fact, He mentions three more key aspects to the Helper’s ministry. Let’s look at the whole passage and then analyze it one piece at a time:
And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
Jesus names three areas in which the Holy Spirit will “convict” the world: sin, righteousness, and judgment. What does Jesus mean by the word convict ? To our modern ears this word conjures up thoughts of a criminal prosecution. However, Jesus is talking about conviction in the sense of “belief ” or “persuasion.” Simply put, to convict means to convince. And in this role of helping, the Holy Spirit will convince the world of God’s truths concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. He will persuade people that certain things are true.
In verse 9, Jesus says the Holy Spirit will convict the world “of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” We need to understand that when the Holy Spirit convicts lost people of sin—in other words, convinces them that sin is ruling their lives—that’s a good thing! This conviction is the only way people become aware that they need the Savior. The truth is that no one ever comes to believe in Jesus as Savior without first coming to the conviction that he or she needs the Savior. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job.
I was saved in a shabby little motel room. Of course, you don’t have to be in church to be saved. After all, you’re probably not going to die in a funeral home. It’s convenient if you do, but it probably won’t happen. More than anything else, during that lifechanging moment in a run-down motel, I remember the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I’d been in church my whole life, but in that encounter I was completely and thoroughly convinced—to the very core of my being— that I was a sinner and needed Jesus. That conviction was the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and I am more grateful than words can express that He brought it to my life. Think about the hour you were saved. Do you remember the conviction, your overwhelming sense of need? That was the Holy Spirit leading you to Jesus! In fact, 1 Corinthians 12:3 says that “no one can declare that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit also convicts us of righteousness. Before we explore this particular ministry of the Holy Spirit, we need to have a clear understanding of what the word righteousness means. Contrary to common belief, righteousness doesn’t mean “right behavior.” Perhaps you’ve even heard someone with high moral standards referred to as “a righteous person.” Of course, it’s good to have high moral standards, but that’s not righteousness. Instead, righteousness means having a “right standing” with God. Please note that this verse doesn’t say the Holy Spirit will convict us of the need for righteous living. While a right standing with God will indeed lead to righteous living, that’s not the message in John 16:8–11. Rather, Jesus says the Holy Spirit will convict the world of righteousness because, “I go to My Father.” The reason we can have a “right standing” before God is because Jesus ascended to the Father and sits at His right hand as an eternal reminder that our sins have been paid for (see Hebrews 10:8–14).
When Jesus says the Holy Spirit will convict us of righteousness, He is referring to the fact that we all need to be convinced that righteousness exists—that it’s even possible to have a right standing with God. In addition, once we’re born again, the Holy Spirit’s role is to convince us that we have been made righteous through the blood of Jesus Christ. He helps by providing an inner confidence of the wonderful reality of 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For [God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Understanding that you have been made righteous is a wonderful gift. The Holy Spirit helps you become fully convinced that you have a right standing with God, and you can come to His throne with confidence and the full assurance that you are received, welcomed, and embraced by Him.
Finally, the Holy Spirit was sent to convince the world of “judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” ( John 16:11). To understand this aspect of the Holy Spirit’s activity, we need to know who Jesus refers to as the “ruler of this world.” A number of Bible passages establish that He is talking about Satan. For example, in John 12:31, Jesus says, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” In John 14:30, Jesus says, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.”
This is clearly the enemy Jesus is talking about. Satan was the ruler of the world, but he was judged two thousand years ago through Jesus’s sacrifice and subsequent victory over death, hell, and the grave. The Holy Spirit convicts us of this truth by convincing us that the former ruler of this world, Satan, has been judged and kicked out. He no longer has any authority in our lives. He’s an outlaw.
A Proper Understanding
It can be easy to misread and misunderstand the Holy Spirit’s role. We’ve just looked at how the Holy Spirit comes to convince us of sin, righteousness, and judgment. But many people interpret these verses to mean the Holy Spirit’s basic message is, “You’re a horrible person. God is mad at you. And He’s going to get you.” That’s not the Holy Spirit’s ministry at all! In fact, that is Satan’s role. The Bible calls him “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10). If you allow him, Satan will keep you feeling unworthy of God’s acceptance and unwelcome in His presence by reminding you of every time you’ve blown it. The Holy Spirit was sent to make us aware that we’re lost and in need of Jesus; to lead us to Him; then to persuade us that we are in right standing with God through Him; and, finally, to fill us with the conviction that Satan is a defeated enemy who no longer has any authority over us.
When you open yourself to this ministry of the Holy Spirit, you’ll find that He helps you in every area of your Christian life. That makes sense, because the Holy Spirit is our helper. But that’s not all He is. He is also our friend, which we will explore next.
From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from The God I Never Knew by Robert Morris Copyright © 2011 by Robert Morris. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.