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God is not Dead

Look around you to see God’s work!

so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

I am not sure where to start so let me just say…GOD IS NOT DEAD! I was sitting alone in my office wondering what I would name this blog when Newsboys came on Pandora and God just spoke to me. Next thing you know; here I am.

I have been looking for an outlet for my thoughts for some time. I have been using Facebook but quite frankly, I am afraid that people will soon begin to click on “unfollow this person” and it will all be for nothing. All I want is for God to be able to use me in some small way to touch the life of someone, somewhere, sometime. I will probably never know whom I have touched or how it has impacted His kingdom, but impact His kingdom it will. I have faith that He will use me in some way to get His message out.

A little information about me…(my testimony will come in time) I am 51 years old and have a beautiful supportive wife named Merilee. We have been together now for 15 years and my only regret is that we did not meet earlier in life. We have five wonderful children; Jonathan who is 27, Curran is 24, Alex is 22, Lily is 19, and Faith is 10 going on 20. She has grown up in a house full of teenagers so let’s just say that she come fully equipped with attitude.

We are currently attending Grace Pointe church in Conway, AR. It is a wonderful church filled with more loving people than I could ever deserve. They never stifle the Spirit and I have seen wonderful things happen here in the short time that we have been attending. God is definitely moving there and I see a great revival on its way!!

I graduated from Nazarene Bible College in 2013 with a degree in Pastoral Ministries but have been struggling the last several years as to where and how to use it. This has been a real struggle for me since I know He called me to full-time ministry yet here I sit with no real direction as to how to use it for His kingdom. I can only continue to pray and believe that He will reveal himself to me in His time. For we all know that God is rarely early…never late…and always on-time.

Dear Father in Heaven. Thank you for this opportunity to be able to express your words through my thoughts here. I pray that you will bless these words and bless the receiver that they may find comfort in you and that Your will be done here. Amen.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,    (Ephesians 3:20)

How Do You Measure Up?

For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 2 Corinthians 10:12 (NKJV)

Have you ever had to measure something and could not find a tape measure or ruler? Have you ever measured something with the wrong tool? Would you measure a piece of paper with a yardstick? Would you measure a room with a twelve inch ruler? You have to measure your project with the appropriate tool. It is the same with our value as a human being and as a child of God.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  Romans 12:2 (NKJV)

We often times sell ourselves short and measure our self-worth by the tools of the world. We try to measure up to something that has no spiritual significance at all. We tend to measure ourselves by what the world expects us to be. We are bombarded daily by advertisements telling us how to be the perfect person. We are told that this pill will fix all that ails you. It can make you thin, bring back your hair, make you stronger, or make you more of a man. These are all tactics of the great deceiver.

When Eve was tempted by the serpent, she was told that she was not good enough but that if she ate of the apple she could be more than she was meant to be. The truth is that God created us in His image and therefore we should be measuring ourselves by His standards and nothing else. As a matter of fact, God’s tape measure is larger than you can imagine because He knows what you are capable of. He knows that we can grow in Christ and therefore have no need to measure ourselves by the world’s standards.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

I often lose sight of what is important and begin to fix my eyes on what the world wants me to be. I find myself condemning myself for the way I look or my inability to speak eloquently. I blame all the things that I cannot have on the fact that I am not good enough. However, God gently reminds me that I am not to look to the world for any confirmation of myself but rather look toward Heaven and seek the prize that awaits me at the end.

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14 (NKJV)

When you are feeling like you are not good enough, remember that God does not make mistakes. If you live your life and measure it by the only appropriate tool, you will find that you are called a Child of God and therefore are a perfect creation. You are complete in Him.

and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. Colossians 2:10 (NKJV)

You and I were not created to be approved by man by rather to be a servant of the Almighty. In that, we should be looking to Him for approval of the things we say and do. We have been given the Holy Spirit to help us on our journey by guiding us in the right direction. He has prepared a place for me in His presence and I do not need the approval of this world to get there.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10 (NIV)

Dear Jesus, I want to thank You for Your many mercies that you pour out on me. You alone are worth of all my praise. I humbly ask that each and every person that reads this today will find that they need to throw away the world’s yardstick and measure themselves only by You. I know that it is not always easy to ignore what the world throws at us daily, but you did not give me a spirit of fear but rather a spirit of sound mind that I can see that what the world offers is temporary and empty. You are my refuge and strength and to You I look in times of need and You will lay mine enemies at my feet. Please bless those that may have found even the smallest amount of truth in this and multiply it within their heart. I will continue to give you all the Glory forever. Amen.

 

Mountains Will Move

So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.  Matthew 17:20 (NKJV)

What mountains do you have in your own life? What seemingly impossible climb are you experiencing that seems to have no end? How can you be sure you will reach the other side?

I know that I have looked at my mountains and thought “there is just no way.” Or I would get half way up and then think there was a better path to go around and right back to the bottom I go looking for an easier way. I am sure that this is a common occurrence in life for many Christians. However, Jesus shows us in this verse that we have, within us, the capability to overcome anything that comes our way. That mountain was not put there by accident.

God does not want us to suffer and not prosper in life. In fact, Jeremiah tells us that He has a plan for each and every one of us. There are no exceptions. God knows what mountain you will face before you ever face it and He already has a plan for you to overcome and grow spiritually. After all, Christian growth is the journey that we all are on.

The mustard seed, is the smallest of all seeds so it is no wonder that Jesus used it as an example. Once this seed is planted, it grows into one of the largest herbs. That small little seed must endure the elements in order to grow and actually uses those elements to grow. Just like the mustard seed, we too have to have a beginning, but once properly nourished, can grow and expand into something wonderful. We too have to grow our faith and then we can overcome anything in our path.

Perhaps your mountain is pride, addiction, a struggling marriage, or even growing a ministry. Whatever the case, God has given each of us the tools necessary to overcome. But faith does not come easy or is often free. We have to endure those mountains in order for our faith to grow.

Remember that when Jesus healed, it was faith that healed them. He did not heal them and then ask for faith. No! Faith had to be applied first in order for the healing to take place. The walls of Jericho fell because of faith and Daniel did not get eaten by the lions because of faith. Here’s a huge mountain for you–the furnace that was heated seven times hotter than usual. It took a real leap of faith to walk through those doors after seeing the guards die just from the heat at the door.

Faith can move mountains in your life but, like anything else in you, it has to be exercised in order to grow strong. Those mountains you face today will one day end up behind you and then you can look back over your journey and see God’s hand in your life. My God is my guide through those mountains. He leads me on the right path to overcome them but it is ultimately my faith in God that gets me there. It is not I overcoming the mountain but rather God helping me to overcome it.

The Bible is full of examples of great faith. Do you think that is a coincidence? How are you saved? Through grace by faith. That is your beginning. What you do with it from there will ultimately determine how your journey will end. God calls each of us into a faithful relationship with Him. The Worthy Lamb paid a debt I could never pay and He did it all out of love for me. He did not do it so that I would have to suffer through life–He did it so that I could HAVE life.

Dear Jesus, I pray that You would have Your hand on each and every person that reads this today. I pray that You help them to increase their faith so that the healing may begin. I know, Jesus, that You did not do all of this for nothing. You love each and every one of us and want us to be happy and prosperous–to have hope. I ask that You continue to work in my life to overcome the huge mountains I have in front of me. I know that You will help to guide each of us through our mountains to strengthen our stamina for the journey. I love you Jesus. Thank You for paying a debt I could never have paid. May we all continue to give You all the glory in all that we accomplish. Amen.

Go climb your mountain!!

Obstacle or Opportunity

“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  James 1:12 (NKJV)

We all face stressful situations in life, but how we choose to deal with them will ultimately set us apart form the world. As human beings born into a sinful world, we are prone to “grumble.” The Israelites did it for generations. Every time you turn a page, you find the Israelites grumbling about something and God has to straighten them out. Are we not sometimes the same way? How often do you complain about traffic or the line at the grocery store? I know I do it more often than I would like to admit. So how are we to handle our stressful situations?

It is all in the way we look at them that will determine how we approach the solutions. Do you view them as an obstacle in life or an opportunity to grow? This is a key question that we have to learn to ask in every situation. If we can master this question and answer it honestly, we can be on the road to learning more about God’s character and ours as well.

Obstacle is defined as “a thing that blocks one’s way or prevents or hinders progress.” We tend to look at life’s challenges as obstacles in achieving what we believe we need in life. When we hit this point in our lives, our natural instinct is to fight to overcome or find another path. The latter is usually not an option so we continue to fight our way through the challenge as though our lives depended on it.

Now an opportunity is defined as “a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.” When we are faced with an opportunity we carefully weigh our options and make a decision based on emotion and prosperity. These are sometimes so much easier to deal with. We often experience a lot less stress and find that making a decision brings a sense of peace to our hearts. However, for those who jump at every opportunity without considering the consequences end up creating another obstacle from an intended opportunity.

Because of free will, life is full of choices so when God allows something to take place in our lives, He is giving us a chance for personal and spiritual growth and discovery. We can learn to look at them as an opportunity or an obstacle. Is this an opportunity for me to grow in my faith and prayer disciplines by turning to God for answers or will I simply grumble that yet another obstacle is in my way?

God desires for us to use these situations as opportunities to come closer to Him and in return, He will draw closer us (James 4:8). What a marvelous opportunity to come into a fuller relationship with God! In order for this to happen we have to learn to trust and have faith that He will lead us in the right direction.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

The evil one will jump on every situation if we allow him to. If we decide to look at the situation as an obstacle it only gives him opportunity to use it against us. But, if we look at it as an opportunity, he will find an obstacle in his path. Rest assured that God has a plan for your life but you have to be willing to allow it to happen as He intended.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

It is oh so easy to get caught in a trap of looking at life as an obstacle. We all have desires and dreams that are rooted in our own wants and needs. It is only when we learn to let go of the world that we can ever learn what it is to be truly free. God has promised endurance, strength, courage, and wisdom in our times of need. All we have to do is ask for it.

“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”     Isaiah 30:21 (NKJV)

Dear Father, I come before You today humbled by the fact that only You can rescue me from all that this sinful world throws my way. It is only by Your amazing grace endless mercy that I am here. I thank You for each and every person that reads this today and I ask that You will be with them as they face whatever trials and temptations are thrown their way. May they learn to turn to You for the answers they seek in their lives and may they only find those answers at the cross. You are a faithful God and only desire for us to be happy and abide in Your presence. May we all continue to give Your Son all the glory forever. Amen.

Walking the Tightrope

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)

Have you ever seen a high wire act? I always think to myself, “That must take a lot of confidence to step out onto that wire every time with nothing except a stick.” It becomes even more incredible when they perform without a safety net in place. That takes real courage.

The movie The Walk, is about a French aerialist named Philippe Petit who walked a tightrope between the twin towers. He was suspended in midair with nothing between him and the ground and in the movie; he does it all with a hurt foot. What an incredible amount of faith he must have had to take that first step.

In order to get to this point, he first had to train. So that he would gain confidence, he had to have a safety net below him because he would inevitably fall. Even when we learn to walk as children, we fall down before we learn to keep our balance and walk. Our parents walk along side of us holding our hands so that we do not fall but it is only when we do fall that we learn to stand on our own two feet.

Our lives in Christ are much like a tightrope walker. We walk through life never fearing because we have God as our safety net. We become complacent and this makes way for spiritual laziness. How can we ever expect to build our faith when we always have that net to catch us when we fall? So, in order to teach us real faith, God sometimes takes away the net and still expects us to take the first step. It is a lesson in humility meant to teach us faith.

I have been out on that tightrope and looked down only to find no net is there. I cry out to God to reveal Himself to me but my voice echoes back to me from the silence. God has withheld Himself in order that I may learn to walk with nothing more than just my faith. He may be silent but He is never absent. How can we ever really learn faith while we always know that He will be there to bail us out? We can’t.

I am not suggesting that God will abandon us, because He has promised that He never will, but rather He pulls away from us to teach us. St. John of the Cross called it a Dark Night [of the Soul]. These dark nights are necessary on any journey toward Christ. They build our character and at the same time God reveals more of His character to us through them.

At the time of creation, God decided that we were to be created in His image; therefore we work to build our character to be like His. Even in the tough times, we look to Him for strength and refuge from the storm. God has not abandoned me; He is simply allowing me to learn to trust Him more. He tests my faith and strength by allowing me to walk alone for a short time.

Perhaps you are experiencing a dark night of the soul right now. Perhaps you are struggling with many of the things that life throws at us daily. Rest assured that God has promised His continued support and love. He has demonstrated His love time and time again. He did not send His Son to the cross for no reason. He did it because He loves us so much that He wants to spend eternity with us. So the next time you feel all alone and that God is not listening, just remember to “Be still and know I am God.”

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.   Romans 5:8 (NKJV)

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19 (NKJV)

And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.                                               2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV)

Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.  Isaiah 12:2 (NKJV)

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for your great mercy and grace. I thank you for all the glorious things You have done for us. You created us in Your image and placed us amongst the rest of Your creation so that we may enjoy it. You give us grace even though we do not deserve it, and You even sent Your Son to shed His blood on Calvary for us so that we would not have to be separated from you by sin. I thank you for always being there when I need You. You may not always speak to me like I want, but I know that these are the times that You are teaching me to walk upright in faith. I pray that you bless each and every person that reads this that they may experience You the way I do. There is no greater joy than to serve You. In all things, I will give You the glory forever. Amen.

How Do You Spell God?

How many times have you turned something over to God expecting a miracle and yet nothing seems to happen? Does this frustrate you? Does it cause you worry whether God heard your cry or just has not acted upon it? Well, you can be sure that God heard your prayer and that, if properly motivated and is within His plan; He will answer your prayer in His time. But how often do we take it back and then start playing tug-of-war with God? We give it to Him only to take it back because He is not answering it fast enough for us or that we often times think we can do it better.

There is no “I” in God.

I wouldn’t normally put this out there for all to see but I cannot let my pride get in the way of making this point. I lost my job about two weeks ago. Of course, the first things that run through my mind were “How will I provide for my family?” and “How will I be able to feed them or pay rent or…?” and the list goes on and on. I became caught in a trap of “I’s.”

I was in prayer one morning when He spoke to me and told me that I cannot feed my family and I cannot provide shelter for them and I cannot be the provider but only HE can do that. He provides for my family…HE provides us shelter…only HE is the Provider. I broke down and cried and turned it over to him and have not waivered in my faith since.

Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.  Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.  Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?  And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?  Luke 12:22-26 (NKJV)

So what prevents us from turning these things over to God? Why are we not able to see that He alone provides for us and allow Him to work the solution out in our lives? How is it that our faith does not outweigh the doubt in our lives?

  1. There is an “I” in sin.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 (NKJV)

Sin separates us from God. Although we are all born into sin, from the age of accountability on it becomes a choice. You have seen me say before that “life is full of choices” and the reason being is that He gave us free will. He wants us to choose Him and to choose Him to abide within us. The Israelites were God’s chosen people and when they were given the law they had to make a choice between life and death. We are given the same choices today but when we choose sin over God we alienate Him from our lives and therefore prevent Him from working in us.

  1. There is an “I” in pride.

When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom. Proverbs 11:2 (NKJV)

Pride is probably the easiest trap to get caught in. It is so easy for us to say “I can take care of it” that we end up pushing out the One that actually can. My pride was getting in the way of Him providing for me. I became scared of how others might perceive me as a failure so I kept it to myself. I was so caught up on how I would make everything happen that I pushed Him out of the picture. I alienated myself from Him but thankfully He is full of grace and mercy.

Pride prevents us from experiencing God and allowing Him to reveal His nature to us. We live in a world of “instant” everything. Everything is at the swipe of a finger anymore. We can always find answers to our issues. Why do we need God? Because only through His redemptive grace can you ever experience life to its fullest. You may think that you are living it now, but believe me God has a lot more in store for you than anything this temporary residence which we call Earth can ever offer!

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. James 4:10 (NKJV)

When you begin to remove the “I” from the equation, you should prepare for a battle. I’m talking about a real spiritual battle with Satan himself. He will try to come at you from any angle and even sneak into your camp and attack you from within. He will use anything you allow him to. That is why we are called to put on the full armor of God. As with any battle, if you are not careful you can allow your shield to become damaged and all Satan needs is a crack to sneak in and attack.

Since I have become unemployed with only $594 a month income, Satan has tried to convince me that there is no way to provide for my family, he has attacked my dreams at night, he has attacked my family and tried to create doubt in me through them, and he has even tried to hit me with depression and despair. However, I am strong and rebuke him in the name of Jesus Christ whose blood was given for my life. He has nothing that can battle that and he loses every time!

Sometimes in the mornings when I feel a weight upon me and I just want to cry, he tries to make me believe that if I do, then I am not being faithful. The Lord spoke to me today and reminded me that even Jesus cried when He was saddened over the pain that His friends were feeling over Lazarus’ death even though He knew He would raise him back up. I believe I am human and that I will still experience sadness and fear, but I cast them upon Him and He reminds me that He is still on the throne. I sing praises to him throughout the day and continually thank Him for what He has given me.

I realize that this will probably get worse before it gets better and the Lord will allow that to bring me closer to Him or to possibly bring my family closer to Him. I am already seeing Him work this to His good through my wife. She has turned all her fear and doubt over to God and He has given her the “peace that surpasses all understanding.” I will praise His holy name and will continue to give Him all the praise and glory.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

Dear Father in Heaven. My Jehovah Jireh. I come before you today humbled to be in Your presence. I thank you for you incredible mercy and grace that before I was even born, you sent your Son to die for me so that I would not have to live in sin but I would be able to spend eternity in Your Glory. I ask that you continue to work with me to remove any remaining pride or sin in my life that would separate me from You. I thank you for continuing to reveal yourself to me daily. I ask that you be with each and every person that reads these words that they may continue to turn to you. I pray for every person that may not know you as their personal Savior, that you place someone in their path that can share a message of hope with them. I will continue to give you all the glory in all that I do. I pray in Your precious Son’s name. Amen.

 

Anchoring in the Storm

There is a lot of debate in the nautical world whether you should anchor a boat on the sea when a storm approaches. Some say “yes” and others say you’re crazy to. However, when faced with an impossible situation, it is often natural to want to throw an anchor overboard to ground yourself and keep yourself from drifting on the rough seas. The question is where do we put our anchors?

When faced with the storms that will inevitably hit our lives, do we run for high ground or do we run back to our “safe place?” That place where we always found comfort in the past. For some this is drugs, others alcohol. It could be the safety we find in the arms of another man or woman outside of marriage, or perhaps it is the internet pornography that is so easily accessible these days. Regardless, we need to be careful where we place our anchors.

When the storm hits, many times we have no warning and are not prepared for it. Take for example, unemployment. You get called into the office one Friday only to find that you are no longer employed. No warning…no sirens…no weather station telling you its coming. Now you have to determine how to tell your family. How to face the humility of telling your children that you no longer have a job. Your mind wanders to “how will I feed my family?” or “how will I pay rent?” The storm clouds are rolling in and the wind is beginning to pick up. The sky darkens above you and you begin to doubt your abilities as both a husband and a father and the next thing you know you are throwing down your anchor to weather the storm.

If this has happened to you, or you may be dealing with it now, I can assure you that God will weather the storm with you. You are never alone in the boat. Instead of anchoring yourself to the world, anchor yourself in faith and prayer.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

For some this is much easier than others. I myself find it easy to have faith in the dark times. I have seen first-hand what God can do if we allow Him to work in our lives. It was not always that easy for me. I found myself running from God when the storms approached and anchoring myself in the world instead of anchoring myself in Jesus. Somehow that never worked out for me and the storms only intensified. It does not come easily though. Like anything else in life, it takes practice removing the doubt in our lives. Doubt only comes from the father of lies.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” James 4:7

You have to ask yourself, “where is my anchor?” Are you anchored to an addiction or perhaps you are just anchored to doubt instead of faith. Well, I can tell you that there is a way to weather the storm and break free of that anchor weighing you down.

The anchor of a U.S. aircraft carrier weighs over 30 tons and the links are just an incredible size and strength. Sometimes we allow our anchor to grow to ensure that we are firmly grounded in our “safe zone.” Once we are anchored, our sin only strengthens the chain that holds us there. Fortunately there is a solution.

I believe that most of you have heard the song by Zach Williams entitled Chain Breaker. In his song he talks about God breaking the chains of sin that bind us. My God is a chain breaker.God can also break the chain of the anchor that is holding you down regardless of its size or strength.

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

No matter what storm you may be experiencing in your life today, God has already provided a safe haven for you. He sent His son to die upon a cross and shed His blood so that you no longer had to be anchored to sin in this world! He carried your sin and mine so that we did not have to. And He did all this before you were even born!

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Can you ever imagine such love? Not in this world, but My God is love. He loves us so much that he would sacrifice His only son so that we may be free. What a wonderful gift. It is only by faith that you are saved. So when the storm approaches, be sure to anchor yourself in faith and prayer rather than the things of this world. You will see such a difference in how you are able to weather the storm.

Dear Father, I thank you for your wonderful grace and mercy. I will never be worthy of your grace but I thank you that you sent your Son to die upon the cross for me so that I no longer had to be anchored to this sinful world. I pray today that these words may touch someone as they have me. I pray that anyone that may be anchored in the wrong place, that You will reach out to them wherever they are and touch them and let them know that they are not alone. Send Your Holy Spirit upon them and strengthen them or convict them that they may turn the tide and find You waiting for them. I will continue to give You all the glory forever. Amen!

Break Free From Your Prison

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”  James 5:13-20 (NKJV)

We live in a world that is filled with heartache and strife. Everywhere you look you see poverty, war, disease, homelessness, starvation, and sin of every kind. It is easy to get caught up in all of it and lose our focus. James here is addressing the Christian Jews that had been scattered abroad according to God’s will. He knew that they were easily drawn away from the lord since they were living among sinners. They were persecuted, made to live in poverty, and sometimes even killed for their beliefs. They had been through so much already and he wanted to reassure them that they should not lose sight of God. Let’s take a look at what James was referring to here.

The original Greek word for trouble used here is kak-o-pa-theo which means to “endure or suffer hardships.” Here he is referring to hardships such as bereavement, disappointment, persecution, unemployment, financial troubles–all the things that we face daily. Later James will deal with sickness but for now he is referring to the hardships that you and I face everyday.

Everyone has trouble of some sort in their lives. Perhaps you are facing financial crisis or loss of a job. Perhaps you have recently lost a loved one or you’re facing a bully at school that is teasing you. Sometimes we suffer because of our own sins. Those things that happen when we stray from the presence of the lord and lose our way. The hurt, anger, confusion, and hopelessness that can plague us when we are not right with God.  Look at the parable of the prodigal son. He had to endure much because of his sin. Christians suffer for righteousness sake and sometimes our suffering just has no apparent reason. Whatever the case may be, there is one to whom you can turn in time of need and he will deliver you.

“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” I John 4:4 (NKJV)

How are we to handle suffering? Well, some turn to drugs or alcohol to try and drown out the sorrow. Some turn their rage outward and persecute those around them while still others can turn it inward and become trapped in a world of despair. Most of us just complain about it and hope that it goes away. We complain that “God did this” or “God didn’t do this” or we simply blame it on other people. This only works to feed the cycle of sin.

The Word tells us that we are to rejoice about it.

“but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4:13 (NKJV)

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” James 1:2-3 (NKJV)

We are also instructed to be patient.

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord! Psalms 27:14 (NKJV)

So, we are called to rejoice and be patient but also to pray for our sufferings. James tells us to pray for the removal of the suffering if it be God’s will. Paul pleaded with God three times to remove the thorn in his flesh but it was God’s will that he should endure it so that, as Paul writes,”…that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9b (NKJV). Prayer is our open line of communication with the creator. He desires for us to draw closer to Him and to know of His great love through an intimate relationship with him. He wants to heal us and deliver us from the evil in the world but He can’t do that unless we offer up our prayers in faith.

James uses the example of Elijah to drive this point home. He states in verse 17 that “Elijah was a man with a nature like us.” Elijah was no different from any other man on earth, except Christ of course, but he was prone to the same temptations that we are. Yet he prayed to God “earnestly” it says. Not half-way or sometimes, but earnestly that it would not rain and it did not for three and a half years. Then, it says, he prayed again and the heavens poured rain.

So, what keeps us from praying faithfully like Elijah?

As we experience difficulties whether it be physical or emotional, we begin to build walls. We feel ridiculed, so we build a wall. We feel rejected, so we build up a wall—we think we should have it our way and when we don’t, we build a wall. Before you know it, we have built ourselves into a personal prison that prevents us from praying faithfully. These prisons can take on many forms. Each one drawing us farther away from our Father. The first of these is the Prison of Depression.

It is far too easy to get caught in this prison today. The economy is in the dumps, military conflicts are all over the globe, divorce rates are skyrocketing, and our children are faced with situations that challenge their beliefs everyday at school. This prison challenges our faithfulness. When we are depressed we become self-loathing and regretful. When we throw up our hands and say “Its just not worth it” God says…

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

When we become overwhelmed with everything happening in our lives and say “I can’t manage anymore”, God says…

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 (NKJV)

And when we reach our wits end and say  “I just can’t go on anymore” God says….

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV)

Made perfect in weakness—that point of brokenness at which God meets us, wraps His loving arms around us, and clothes us in His love. God most definitely can work in our lives if we only allow Him to do His work. So, the prison of depression can keep us from praying with faith.

Then there’s the prison of shame.

We will never be worthy of God’s grace. No matter what you do, you will never earn it. It is a free gift from God because of His great love.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8 (NKJV)

Satan knows this truth and tries to guilt us by shame and then we become trapped in this prison of shame. He reminds us of our past and tries to convince us that we are beyond saving. Satan will use every opportunity we give him to make us feel disgraced and ashamed. He says, “you’re not worthy” I heard a preacher say once, “If God had a refrigerator, you’re picture would be right in front.” We are ALL worthy!

God never reminds us of our sin. When we confess our sins and are forgiven, he throws them into the sea of forgetfulness.

He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19 (NKJV)

It is only the evil one that reminds us of our past mistakes and tries to draw us away from the Lord with them. We all carry regrets with us. Whether from childhood or yesterday, we can easily become trapped in the prison of shame but thankfully God gives us a way out through the cross. Only faith will allow us to break free from this prison. We must have faith and not doubt.

It is so easy for Satan to convince us that we belong in the prison of doubt. We seek answers from God in prayer and when we do not get it right away, the seed is planted. We want to believe but we are trapped in this prison of doubt because we cannot see all that God is doing for us.

How many times have you prayed for something and when God didn’t answer right away you became doubtful that he would give it to you or that he even heard you at all? This is when our faith is truly tested. We live in an “instant world” today. We have the internet, and as my kids always remind me, the internet is never wrong. We have satellite television with video on demand, even our cell phones can give us up-to-date weather information. We cannot however expect our prayers to be answered in the same instant fashion. And this can cause doubt. We are told to not doubt when we pray.

For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. Mark 11:23-24 (NKJV)

The prison of pride is probably the most common one.

When sin entered the world, so did pride. We have all dealt with it in one way or another at some time in our lives. Some of you may still struggle with it even today.

We tell ourselves that we know better than God and therefore do not completely let go and allow God to work in our lives. This prevents us from having a true prayer of faith because in our hearts we think we know how to handle it.

Or perhaps we become impatient and take it back from God. When we lay it at the cross it should stay there. Christ cannot work in our lives unless we allow him to. We must open ourselves up and begin to pray again with faith.

Know that God will supply all your needs. It has been promised in the Holy Word of God! When we try to do it ourselves, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to draw closer to God and reveal Himself to us.

We can’t offer up a prayer and then prescribe to Him how it should be answered. It’s presumptuous for us to think that we know better than the One that created the heavens and the earth.

God often has to humble us in order to draw us closer to him. We should seek that humbleness and welcome it when God brings it to us.

It is never easy to be humble because it goes against our grain, but in order to give over complete control to God, we have to be able to submit all. This allows God to work in our lives.

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)

Pride is probably the most common way that we create distance between us and God. We do not confess our sins to one another because we are afraid that someone may find out and judge us for what we have done.

Oh my—how embarrassing that would be!

Don’t you think Christ was embarrassed to be stripped, beaten, and nailed to a cross for everyone to see? They spit on him, laughed at him, and called him names all while he hung there naked so that you and I may be free. If he didn’t care what others thought, than why should we?

So what are we to pray for?

We are to pray that the suffering may be taken from us if—and here’s the important part—if it is God’s will to do so. I think we lose track of that sometimes and expect God to give us everything we ask for.

Things happen. It is simply part of living in a sinful world. But God can take anything bad and turn it to good for His kingdom.

He sometimes allows us to suffer because he desires for us to be closer to him, to bring us into a right relationship with Him, but he also desires for us to be happy. He calls us to endure hardships with patience for His name sake.

So we are to pray for patience as well but James also tells us to lift our prayers in praise. Our Father inhabits the praise of His people. We should never forget that everything we have comes from the Lord. Thank him for the air you breathe, the food on your table, the roof over your head. Remember to thank him for his saving grace and for saving us from the eternal flames.

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. James 5:14 (NKJV)

Imagine what would happen if there were more prayer in medicine. God gave man medicine to help him, but he also gave us the power of prayer. Prayer can become medicine and that’s one prescription that you don’t have to stand in a long line for.

I believe that God created the community of believers because He wanted us to fellowship together, worship together, laugh and cry together, and pray together.

He didn’t intend for us to be alone. In the Garden, God created woman so that man did not have to be alone. We are to be a communal people; Lifting one another up in prayer.

James is calling us to action. We are to pray for one another and sing praises to God for His many blessings. We are to pray for the lost that they may be found and we are to pray for one another that we may be strengthened in the Lord. It is our responsibility as children of God to pray for the lost.

There is only one way to break free from your prison and you cannot do it by yourself, but thankfully God has given us a way out. Ready for this?

Christ went to the cross, bled, died, and rose again that you may be free from your prison. Let me say that again—Christ went to the cross and died that you may never again be imprisoned by sin.

God sent His Son so that you and I no longer had to live in our prisons. He unlocked the cell and has paid the price. All we have to do is step out of our prisons and come closer to Him.

God gave us one another to help us accomplish this. What would you do for your family? Would you lay hands on them if they were sick, Would you praise them? Do you pray for them? Then why should the Family of God be any different?

Deaf Father, I think you for your undeserving mercy and grace. I think you that you have compassion on a sinner such as I and while I was still a sinner, your Son died upon the cross for me so that I did not have to live in sin. I pray that you would use these words to perhaps reach someone that is trapped in a prison today. Reach out and touch their lives in a way that will leave no doubt that You are on the throne! Lord, you are the great healer so I humbly ask that you touch all those that are afflicted either emotionally or physically today who are reading this. Wrap your loving arms around them that they may begin to experience what you desire for us to be. I will continue to give your son all the glory forever. Amen and Amen!