When Joseph was a young boy, he received a great promise from God. God revealed to Joseph through dreams that he would become a leader with great influence. Not only that, Joseph also was favored above all his brothers by his father who gave him a coat of many colors.
A mark of immaturity still rested on Joseph at that point, however. He was rather boastful as he shared with his family the dreams he had. “Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, ‘Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.’ His brothers said to him, ‘Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?’ So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words” (Genesis 37:5-8, ESV).
Joseph still lacked understanding of the purpose of God’s power and provision. In eager anticipation of seeing God’s promise fulfilled, he neglected to realize that there would be unanticipated stops along the journey. The first stop? A pit and a place of abandonment and betrayal.
Out of jealousy, Joseph’s brothers threw him into a pit and eventually sold him off to a band of Ishmaelite merchants for twenty pieces of silver. What greater betrayal could Joseph have faced? I don’t think we can fully grasp his pain. How deeply it must have wounded his heart to know that this treachery had been done at the hand of his very own brothers. Betrayal is perhaps one of the most difficult classrooms we have to go through in life. Yet we must remember it is also the road Christ traveled, so we cannot expect to escape it.
I understand that these things can hurt very deeply. The most severe wounds inflicted by people you have grown to love and trust over the years. Perhaps, like Joseph, you shared something God had given you, only to discover that some people who were close to you did not believe in your dream or actively worked against it.
In times like this, we must cling to the knowledge that God’s provision for a vision he has given us also covers betrayal and suffering. He knows exactly what we need to grow into the vision he has given us.
Are you at the end of your rope, weary, cast down, about to give up? I challenge you to answer the following questions with a simple yes or no:
Your answer to all of these should be “Absolutely, yes!”
Now, take inventory. Ask yourself, “Do I really believe God is faithful to his promises or do I waver in my trust? How well do I know God’s Word and his assurances?”
Scripture clearly says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:5-7, NKJV).
You can lay hold of God’s wisdom, all the wisdom needed to solve life’s problems, if you cast your very life and future on this promise and believe with no wavering.
God gives wisdom liberally to all of his children.
God does not accept grudging service from anyone. “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23, NKJV). ‘Heartily’ means with all your heart, all your strength, all that is within you.
Paul writes, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity [unwillingly]; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The apostle makes a dual application of this matter of giving; it has to do with our financial offerings and the giving of our very lives to God’s work.
Paul wrote that the church in Macedonia literally begged him to let them take up a collection for the poor, suffering saints in Jerusalem. These Macedonians were so wholly given to the Lord, they gave out of their poverty.
If you give only because you believe it is commanded or if you’re always wondering, “Is tithing a New Testament concept or just Old Testament?”, your heart-attitude is all wrong. If you give 10 percent because the pastor asks it of you, that is wrong also. None of this gets to the issue to the heart of what it means to give!
I am sorely convicted by this verse because so often I go about my life and ministry without the joy of the Lord. Has serving the Lord become a bore, a drag to you? Is it just a burden, leaving you mostly sad and weary? God doesn’t want you complaining about your burden; he wants you to chase those things out of your life by laying hold of his Word, which is your checkbook to his resources in faith! He is saying, “I have already made provision for you. What need in your life is so great that I cannot supply more than is required?”
The word for cheerful in Greek means merry, glad, having a light heart, willingness, gladness, being full of hilarity. God is saying, “Whatever you do in your labors for me, whether it’s interceding, worshipping me in my house, or seeking me in your secret closet, do it cheerfully! Be joyful and generous with everything: your money, your service, your time and your life.” In order to give oneself to pleasing God, it must spring from a cheerful spirit that is available to us all by simple, childlike faith.
A very important passage of the Bible that often confuses readers is “Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and his disciples came up to show him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.’ Now as he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?’
“And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many.’” (Matthew 24:1-5, NKJV).
The center of religion, the priesthood and the law was found in that temple, and the idea that it would be destroyed was deeply disturbing to the disciples. When they asked ‘What’ and ‘When’ and ‘How,’ Jesus’ response had nothing to do with the temple or the specifics of what was coming.
In our vernacular, Jesus said, “Look, first and foremost, you guys have to pay attention and prepare because such deception is going to come that many — many — who call on the name of Christ, many who are found in our religious centers, many who fill our churches will not listen nor be prepared, and they will be deceived.”
Most deception starts with things that are said in contradiction to the Word of God.
Many will come and say, “Follow me. I’m a pastor or prophet of God. I have the answers!” What they say will not line up with scripture, but many of us will not heed what Christ said.
When deception is dealt with elsewhere in the New Testament, it’s dealt with in the church and regarding doctrine. It doesn’t take much for us to picture modern times when people have said things that led a multitude astray. The real question is “Why?” The answer is that people were not listening to Christ.
How do we hear from God? Do we need to run to the mountains or attend a conference? My friends, God has already given us his Word. It’s the scriptures. We need to be men and women who don’t just read the Bible, but we ought to study and meditate on it. We don’t live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
When God calls us to any specific work, he has already made provision for everything we need to accomplish it. “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8, NKJV).
This verse is not just a hope; it is a promise! It begins with the words, “God is able!” God is not interested in just meeting your needs. He always wants to give you more than you need. That is what ‘abound’ means, an ever-increasing, super-abundant supply.
“Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). Think of what is being promised here. When you are down and tired and don’t think you can go any farther, God is able to so invigorate you that you will have all you need in every possible situation at all times.
It is as if the Lord is saying, “Listen, all you shepherds! Listen, all you who faithfully attend my house and labor in prayer, praise and intercession. I want to give you an abundance of strength, hope, joy, peace, rest, finances, encouragement and wisdom. In fact, I want you to have an overabundance of all you need.”
God never intended for us to be spiritual paupers, poor in the things of the Lord. On the contrary, the mature believer is the one who enjoys a revelation of all the great provisions God has prepared for him, and he goes after this revelation by faith.
Indeed, the Bible says we are to seek him for this revelation. Paul wrote, “Now we have received…the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:12–13).
I believe most Christians have not honestly faced the power of these promises of God. We’ve read them many times, but they remain as dead letters to us.
We must lay hold of them and say, “Lord, reveal to me what you have prepared! Open my mind and my spirit to your resources. Your Word says I must know all these things that are freely given to me so that I can claim them for your glory!”
You have to learn to fight your own battles if you want to become a mature believer. You can’t always depend on someone else for your deliverance. Perhaps you have a prayer warrior friend you can call and say, “I’ve got a battle before me. Will you pray for me? I know you have power with God!”
Now that is scriptural, but it is not God’s complete will for you. God wants you to become a warrior. He wants you to be able to stand up against the devil.
When Israel was being oppressed by their enemies, God promised Gideon, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man” (Judges 6:16, NKJV). God told him, “I have sent you; I will be with you.”
When the people of the city came looking for the one who tore down their idols (see Judges 6:28–32). Where was Gideon? He was hiding, still unsure of God’s promises, still wondering if God was with him. Gideon said, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his miracles which our fathers told us about…?” (Judges 6:13).
So it is with many of us! Jesus has promised us, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).Despite that, we have not learned to stand on his Word and fight!
Things will begin to change the moment you are fully persuaded that God is with you. He speaks to you, and he will show you all you need to know. You are stronger than you think! Like Gideon, you may wonder, “How can I fight? I’m so weak, so inexperienced.”
God told Gideon, “Go in this might of yours” (Judges 6:14). “What might?” you ask. Gideon’s might was bound up in God’s word to him: “Surely I will be with you.” Beloved, that same word — “I am with you” — is your strength! You will receive strength by believing this word is true and acting on it!
With all the talk going on in the church about spiritual warfare, Christians still have not learned how to stand up to the enemy. We are pushovers for the devil!
I don’t believe every misfortune that befalls a Christian comes from the devil. We wrongly blame him for a lot of our own carelessness, disobedience and laziness. It’s easy to blame the devil for our foolishness. That way, we don’t have to deal with it. There is a real devil present in the world today, though, and he is busy at work.
Let me tell you something of Satan’s strategy. If he cannot pull the Lord Almighty off of his throne, he will try to tear God’s image out of you. He wants to turn worshippers into murmurers and blasphemers, but Satan cannot attack you at will. God has put a wall of fire around each of his children, and Satan cannot go beyond that wall without God’s permission. Some people are afraid to pray because they think the devil eavesdrops on them. Others think the devil can read their every thought. Not so! Satan cannot read a Christian’s mind. Only God is omnipresent and omniscient.
Scripture commands us to stand up, be strong and do battle against the flesh and the devil: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14, NKJV), and “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11).
You have to become fed up with being held down by the devil, living low, depressed, joyless, empty, harassed! We need to say what God is waiting to hear: “This has gone far enough! We serve a mighty, victorious God. Why do we go on, day after day, taking this abuse?”
God will not do anything until you are thoroughly disgusted, until you are sick and tired of being sick and tired. You must cry out to the Lord! We serve the same God that Israel did. If he heard Israel’s cry in their idolatry, he will hear you in your sincerity.
Let me give you one of the most powerful verses in all of scripture. Proverbs give us these prophetic words of Christ: “Then I was beside him as a master craftsman; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him, rejoicing in his inhabited world, and my delight was with the sons of men” (Proverbs 8:30-31, NKJV).
Beloved, we are the sons being mentioned here. From the very foundations of the earth, God foresaw a body of believers joined to his Son. Even then the Father delighted and rejoiced in these sons. Jesus testifies, “I was my Father’s delight, the joy of his being, and now all who turn to me in faith are his delight as well!”
So how do we love Jesus in return? John answers, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2-3).
What are his commandments? The gospel says, “Then one of them, a lawyer, asked him [Christ] a question, testing him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’” (Matthew 22:35-40).
The first and most important command is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind. We’re to hold nothing back from him. The second is that we love our neighbor as ourselves. These two simple, non-grievous commands sum up all of God’s law.
Jesus is saying here that we cannot be in communion with God or walk in his glory if we bear a grudge against anyone. Therefore, loving God means loving every brother and sister in the same way we’ve been loved by the Father.
Many Christians talk about intimacy with the Lord, walking with him, knowing him, having fellowship with him; but we can’t have true communion with God unless we receive into our hearts the full revelation of his love, grace and mercy.
Communion with God consists of two things:
1. Receiving the love of the Father
2. Loving him in return
You can spend hours each day in prayer, telling the Lord how much you love him, but that isn’t communion. If you haven’t received his love, you haven’t had communion with him. You simply can’t share intimacy with the Lord unless you’re secure in his love for you.
I know when I come to my Lord, I’m not coming to a hard, fierce, demanding Father. He doesn’t wait for me with an angry countenance. He doesn’t trail me, waiting for me to fail so he can say, “I caught you!”
No, I’m coming to a Father who has revealed himself to me as pure, unconditional love. He’s kind and tenderhearted, full of grace and mercy, anxious to lift all my cares and burdens. I know he’ll never turn me down when I call on him.
The prophet Zephaniah says something incredible about God’s love for us. He writes, “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17, NKJV).
God rests in his love for his people. In Hebrew, the phrase “He will rest in his love” reads, “He shall be silent because of His love.” God is saying, in essence, “I’ve found my true love, and I’m satisfied. I don’t need to look elsewhere because I have no complaint, and I won’t take my love back. My love is a settled matter!”
He cares about everything concerning me (see Psalm 100). Can you receive his word that he loved you before the world was created, before humankind existed, before you were born? Can you accept that he loved you even after you fell into Adam’s sinful ways and became an enemy to him? That’s why I come into his courts with praise and thanksgiving because I’m thankful for who my God is.
Whenever opposition arises, God’s grace thrives in us. Think about what happens to a tree when a great storm beats violently against it. The wind threatens to uproot the tree and carry it away. It breaks off branches and blows away its leaves. It loosens its roots and blows off its buds. When the storm is over, things look hopeless.
Yet, look closer; the same storm that opened crevices in the earth around the trunk of the tree has helped the roots go deeper. The tree has access to new, deeper sources of nutrition and water. It has been purged of all its dead branches. The buds may be gone, but others will grow back more fully. That tree is now stronger, growing in unseen ways. Just wait till harvest because it’s going to bear much fruit.
Maybe you’re in a storm right now. The wind is blowing hard, shaking you violently, and you think you’re going down. Beloved, don’t panic! You’ve got to know that in the midst of the tempest, you are putting down deep spiritual roots. God is developing in you a deepening humility, a greater mourning and sorrow for sin, a heightened hunger for his righteousness.
Paul says, “Not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance” (Romans 5:3, NKJV).
In 2 Corinthians 4:16-17, we read, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” The word ‘working’ in this verse is the same as ‘produces’ in Romans 5:3.
God is making you a seasoned soldier of the cross, battle-scarred but battle-smart and courageous. You may get down on yourself at times, but the Lord never does. The fact is that he could have acted sovereignly at any time to pluck you out of your struggle, but he didn’t because he is using to produce strength and new life in us.