All spiritual things can be done in a way that is worthless
There is a time and place for everything, prayer, fasting, evangelism, reading the scripture, serving, tithing…¹ If we spend hours on our knees when we know we there is something else we should be doing, will God hear our prayer? If we are disobeying the Spirit’s leading, God won’t bless our effort. When God told the Israelites to enter the promise land they refused to enter. So, God told them they would not see the promise land. The Israelites decided to try and enter the promise land anyways, hoping God would crush their enemies, like he did before. But they acted outside of his will, and he did not crush their enemies. God says we can give all our money to the poor, or sacrifice our life for him, but if we are not doing it out of obedience to him (love), then our efforts are worthless. Who can give to God, unless it is first given them by God?² The only thing we can do for God, that pleases him, is what he has prepared in advance for us to do. He is the initiator of every good thing, apart from him we can do nothing.³ We must follow Him, not ask him to follow us.
The above reasons are why Satan will lead men to pray for countless hours or beat their bodies, or fast, or try and believe harder for healing, prosperity, happiness.... If Satan can trick us into a legalistic, guilt driven religion, he knows our efforts will be worthless. We will be dishonoring God, by doing good things with wrong motives. Satan is effectively doing this today by first deceiving men, then using them to deceive others.⁴ Unfortunately, some of these deceptions are being taught by true believers. Jesus said beware the yeast of the pharisees, because a little leaven leavens the whole lump.⁵ Even Peter was deceived, and was deceiving others, because of pressure of the circumcision group.⁶ We shouldn’t be shocked when we see godly men and women teach or do the wrong thing. But we need not despair, God is our shepherd, guide, teacher, father, helper… If we stop trusting our own ability, but turn to God, he promised to help us.⁷
① Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 ② James 1:17 / John 3:27 / Romans 11:35 ③ James 1:17 / John 15:5 ④ 2 Timothy 3:13 ⑤ Galatians 5:9 / Matthew 16:5-12 ⑥ Galatians 2:11-14 ⑦ Hebrews 13:6
An obedient child story
I was at a bible study (BSF) and a teacher named Allen felt compelled to share a story about his childrens group. After finishing the lesson, he rewarded his group with a gym game. One of the little children had his boots on so Allen told him to take them off before playing, but he refused. Allen tried to reason with him, but eventually he told him to sit out in the hallway. After the games the dad showed up, so Allen explained why his son was in the hallway crying. It turns out, that the dad had told him not to take his boots off that night, so the young boy was just obeying his father’s command. He would rather obey his father than play games but was too young to explain it. Clearly God was teaching the teachers a lesson in obedience.
Be alert for prayer
God tells us to be alert for prayer.¹ He also tells us to put him first.² I was struggling to obey these two commands, because when I came home from work, I was so tiered, that if I tried to force my mind to think hard, during prayer, I would get a headache. But I didn’t want to take a nap first, because I wanted to honor God with the firstfruits of my time.³ God opened my eyes to see that, just like the day before a wedding, the groom tries to get a good night sleep for the big day, along with many other preparations. God wants us to prepare for being alert, by sleep or making sure we have a distraction free time, or finding a paper to write down what God teaches us, or whatever else God might be showing us would be useful during prayer. When I rest for the purpose of praying better, I am giving God the firstfruits of my time, because I’m not resting for selfish reasons, even though I highly enjoy a nap! God also showed me it’s ok to say quick prayers, and it’s all right if we just mumble a few things to him, when we’re tired.
① Colossians 4:2 / Hebrews 5:7 ② Matthew 22:37 / Matthew 6:33 ③ Proverbs 3:9
Can the Holy Spirit speak without effecting our emotion?
One time my faith was shaken, so that I was asking God to show me again, that I was still His son, and that He hadn’t left me. I decided to do what Jacob did when he wrestled with God, I locked my room, I got in my prayer closet, and I told God I’m not leaving here until you answer me. I was a little scared when I said that, because I had no intention to lie, and I was worried if I had enough strength to wrestle with Him until He answered. After praying for a long time my knees lost circulation from kneeling and felt numb, then I began to unintentionally fall asleep and wake up, but I would keep praying when I woke up. Eventually though, I fell into a deep sleep and awoke with the sun shining. The words came to me, ‘I’m a son of God’, so strong, that I said it out loud, no emotion came with it, just those words. After saying them I got off my knees, for some reason I couldn’t stay and continue praying, I didn’t feel guilty, like God wanted me to continue wrestling with Him. But I do remember thinking well I guess I lied, be-cause I gave up before God blessed me. I headed downstairs, not sure what to do next, for some reason I decided to finish a YouTube video I had started the other day, by David Wilkerson. When I clicked play, I was amazed at what I heard. David set up the exact scene I had just played out. He said how sometimes believers just want to hear from God, or feel His presence, to know that they are His. But then David went on to tell how one day he went out to evangelize in New York, but he felt so unworthy that He was really struggling. The Holy Spirit spoke to Him, and said who he was in Jesus. David went on to say how the Spirit speaks with a gentle voice, in truth. I then remembered the oddity of saying, ‘I am a son of God’, before leaving my room, it wasn’t odd for me to say it normally, it was odd, because I didn’t feel like I was a son of God. In fact, when I said it, I was thinking to myself, that was pretty odd. But I now realized that God was showing me through this video, that it wasn’t me it was the Holy Spirit that said it. I hadn’t lied after all, I had wrestled with God until He answered me, I just didn’t recognize His answer until He showed me that YouTube video. Then the emotion, of God’s love and peace, returned to me and I thanked God for His kindness to me.
Characteristics of God’s voice
Every person is different, and God speaks to each of us in a way that we will understand. There are many subtleties in the voice of God, that distinguish it from our own thoughts, or the enemy’s voice. Not all the characteristics of God’s voice are present every time he speaks. Here is a list of some of the characteristics of God’s voice:
- I have peace when He speaks.
- I can often feel His intense love when He speaks.
- My Spirit rejoices in the truth.
- He reaffirms what he says, in the Bible.
- Godly men or women will reaffirm what God is showing me.
- While I wait or strive to do what God is prompting, He will begin to work out small details, to reaffirm that I’m on the right track.
- He is the author and perfecter of my faith. In other words, He will both initiate an idea and grow my faith in that idea.
- He will answer the specific questions I ask, regarding what he told me.
- Lastly the enemy will often oppose what God is teaching me or prompting me to do.
The enemies voice is different, but often so similar, due to his cunning and wit, in imitating the Holy Spirit, that I often cry out to God for further clarification, discernment and understanding. Here is a list of characteristics of the enemy’s voice:
- Act quick or you’ll miss it.
- Fear of consequences, if I don’t act.
- Selfish motives disguised as pure. For example: God won’t bless me with a relationship, or he won’t take me out of a trial, until I do such and such.
- Greed. The enemy will try and stir up discontent, and trick us into thinking our greedy desires are actually a way God wants to bless us.
- Anger. There is also a righteous anger, but the enemy will often try to trick us into not being patient, and justifying our words or actions.
- The enemy almost always uses twisted scripture with me. For example: God’s wants me to give up all my money. Then bible verses will come to mind, like the widow who put in all she had. Or Jesus telling the rich young man, to sell all his possessions, and give the money to the poor. (The true interpretation is that, we must be willing to give up everything for Jesus.)
God gave me a gift of discerning spirits, but I still find myself in confusion. I asked God to increase my discernment, but he showed me that I still need him even with the gift of discernment. We can’t rely on our own intellect and knowledge to escape Satan’s schemes. We don’t even know how to pray as we ought.¹ Fortunately, we don’t have to outwit the wolf; we just have to stay with the shepherd. God designed us to continually need his help and deliverance.² David said you made me to rely on you at my mother’s breast.³ God wanted us to be dependent on him, just like a mother likes caring for her child, or a husband likes his wife to need him. As long as our heart is submitted in obedience to God, he promised to take care of us. ⁴
① Romans 8:26 ② Matthew 6:11-13 ③ Psalm 22:9 ④ Isaiah 26:3
Paul said, “I have learned the secret of being content, with plenty or with lack.”¹ He goes on to say that he can do all things through God who strengthens him. Knowing God will strengthen us is part of the secret to contentment, but there are some other key truths for us to be content in every circumstance. I believe the reasons Paul doesn’t explain the secret in greater detail, is because it’s written all over the scriptures. We know wealth or getting everything we want isn’t the secret to contentment, because Solomon had wealth, women and everything else he wanted, but he said it was all meaningless.²
Ultimately God is in charge of how content we are.⁰ Our desires can only get as strong as God allows, although focusing on our desires can make them stronger, or focusing on God and praying, can make them less. God created us to have desires for peace, love, food, sex, fellowship, joy… so that he can satisfy them, and cause praise for him to come from our hearts.³ Our desires themselves are not sinful, although we can use good desires to crave sinful things. We cannot avoid strong unfulfilled desires, the loss of a loved one, loneliness or the lack of peace, love and joy, will come into our lives. The Bible is filled with godly men and women, who desperately craved something, but God kept it from them, or took it away. Abraham and Hanna longed for a child, Leah wanted her husband’s love; Job, David and Joseph wanted relief from their difficult circumstances. God tests us, to see if we are willing to trust in his goodness, compassion, love and mercy, or give up on God and try to fulfill our desires ourselves. God promised to fulfill our hearts desire, if we would delight in him (seek to please him and do his will), but if we try and fulfill our desires apart from God, he promised the fulfillment we get will end in misery.⁴ When God gives us our hearts desire, it may not be in the timing or way we expect, but like Joseph, who said, God has made me to forget the years of my affliction, we can trust that the God who created us to feel intense desires, knows how to fulfill them. We will reap what we sow. God says he will repay us here on earth apart from his heavenly rewards.⁵ Like the Israelites who doubted God and grumbled against him ten times in the wilderness, and as a result, weren’t allowed to entered the promised land.⁶ Our decisions determine our rewards on earth. God makes it clear, that unfulfilled desires are not necessarily a result of sin any more than a tragic death is a result of sin.⁷ An unfulfilled desire is an opportunity to trust God and have our desires fulfilled. God didn’t withhold his Son from us, nor will he withhold any good thing from us.⁸ These truths are actually the secret to contentment. I don’t need to have my desires met, if I can trust that God has my best interests at hand, and that he will fulfill my desire in a greater proportion than the pain I endured.⁹
Here is an example of the contentment God’s promises bring: If my house is a mess and I don’t have enough time to clean everyone else’s mess, because they keep adding to it. And if I have already told them, it bothers me, and prayed to God about the situation, but the house is still a disaster. I have a choice to make. I can either realize that God is in control of how the people around me think and act, and trust that these miserable circumstances are from him, and believe God will make the frustration worth it. Or I can believe that God is not controlling my specific circumstance, and he will not make the pain worth it. This will cause me to become discontent with my circumstance and try to change them by demanding my way or spending extensive time cleaning, when God has other things for me to do. If I am content to trust God, and ask his help, during miserable circumstances, he promised to use the pain for my good, and fulfill my heart’s desire. But, if I fight God by trying to scratch and claw my way out of my circumstance, outside of prayer and other God honoring methods, I can expect God’s discipline. When the Israelites craved meat, they didn’t trust God to fulfill their desires, so they grumbled. They said God’s plan wasn’t good, and he wasn’t going to fulfill their desires. They said things were better back in Egypt. God let them get the meat they wanted, but because they didn’t trust him with their desires or ask him for help, God punished them with a deadly disease, before they could finish eating the meat.¹⁰ Even if God allows us to get our hearts desires the wrong way, he said we will regret it in the end.¹¹
The contentment Paul talks about doesn’t make our unfulfilled desires any less painful. But God promised to use all our pain for our good, and he promised to give us the desires of our heart, if we trust him.¹² Because of God’s promises we can be content even when we are discontentment with our circumstances. God will help us through the pain, and he will make the pain worth it to us, so that like Joseph we will forget the land of our affliction, because of the blessing God brings about through our suffering.
⓪ Psalm 37:16 / Ecclesiastes 5:19 ① Philippians 4:11-12 ② Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 / Ecclesiastes 6:1-2 ③ Deuteronomy 8:7-10 ④ Matthew 16:25 / Galatians 6:7-9 / Matthew 6:33 ⑤ Proverbs 11:31 / Psalms 27:13 / 2 Corinthians 5:10 ⑥ Numbers 14:22-24 / Numbers 14:34 ⑦ Luke 13:4-5 ⑧ Romans 8:32 ⑨ Job 42:10-17 / Psalm 90:15-17 / Genesis 41:51-52 ⑩ Numbers 11:33 ⑪ Proverbs 6:30-32 / Proverbs 9:13-18 ⑫ Romans 8:28 / Psalms 37:4 / Numbers 11:23
Do I follow Jesus, or does he follow me?
I used to play video games a lot, but God started convicting me about it. I thought maybe if I read my bible for 10 minutes before I played, God would be happy, but after a week or so, I knew God wanted more. I decided to read my bible for the same amount of time as I played video games, but God still convicted me. I considered reading the bible for more time than I played video games, but I knew it was the same problem, my heart wasn’t honoring God while I played. So, I tried to make myself honor God while I played. I remember looking at the scenery in the game and trying to think how God created trees, and how he gave the ability to design these details in a game… There it was! I honored God for 2 seconds while playing a video game! But I knew I didn’t honor God, while playing a video game, rather, I stopped playing the game for 2 seconds. I even talked about God to a new believer in an online game. But I knew God wasn’t calling me for videogame evangelism. Sure, he might call some believers to do that, but I knew he wanted me to stop playing. Part of the reason it was so hard for me to stop, was because I thought Christian liberty meant I could do anything that’s not sinful. Which is a true statement, the problem is we also have to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, Christian liberty means we can do whatever doesn’t get in the way of us following God’s plan for us.¹ When Jesus called the twelve, he didn’t say finish what you’re doing and follow me, or just keep doing what you’re doing, and I’ll help you with it. Jesus told them to follow Him. He already has a plan for us. As soon as we become believers, we need to surrender everything to Jesus and start seeking his will for our lives. I was scared to ask God what He wanted me to do at first, because I thought God would want me to give all my money away and help people in some war-torn nation. But I now know that whatever God calls us to, he also created us for. God’s plans are perfect for us, our flaws are accounted for.² Sometimes God’s plans are crazy hard though.³ If we get stuck in a miserable situation, we shouldn’t despair, as if God made a mistake or we did something wrong. Joseph probably didn’t know God’s plan was to be falsely accused, and learn leadership skills in an Egyptian prison. And I doubt David or Moses knew God was using sheep herding to teach them about leading a nation. If we can’t think of a God honoring way to escape our current situation, it’s part of God’s plan.
Because God’s loves us, he also rewards us for following his plans. Every good gift, including Peace, joy, happiness come from him.⁴ His plans are ultimately for our good, to give us hope and a future.⁵ To not follow God is disobedience. Following my video game plan, landed me in one of the most miserable places I’ve ever been in. Me and the Israelites like to learn things the hard way. I’m so thankful God is patient and full of grace! His current plan is a trial, but I’m so thankful to be in God’s trial.
① James 4:17 ② Exodus 4:10-11 ③ 1 Peter 4:12-13 ④ James 1:17 ⑤ Jeremiah 29:11
Does God enjoy watching us suffer?
I asked God if my suffering is pleasing to him, like when you want to wake a sleeping baby, so you can see it move and make noise. God showed me that if I wouldn’t wake a baby, because I care more about its sleep, than I selfishly want wake it. How much less would He be willing to put us through pain for his enjoyment. God’s love for me means he wouldn’t let me suffer, unless suffering was good for me.
Does Satan ever prompt us to pray or evangelize?
It took me a while to recognize that the enemy was prompting me to pray, or talk about God, at inappropriate times. I thought it’s always good to pray more, right. But if I prayed for the leaders of every country, every day. I wouldn’t have time to do anything else, not to mention I have other things to pray for. It’s the same thing with evangelism, there are over 7 billion people in the world, and some people need hours of time to tell them about Jesus. If I tried to talk to everyone, I would have no time to pray, or read the bible… Even if I did manage to find time to pray for all the leaders of every country every day, and evangelize to 7 billion people, I shouldn’t expect God to bless my efforts. God promised that his word would never return void, but the scripture is the living word of God, it only divides bone and marrow, if God is involved. The pharisee’s talked about the bible all day, with no effect. We can’t force anyone to believe in God, because everything we tell them is spiritually discerned,¹ it won’t have any effect unless it’s God’s will. It’s the same with prayer. God promised to do whatever we ask in his name, but he said many of our prayers aren’t answered because we aren’t praying according to his will.² Apart from God we can do nothing. God said he prepared good works in advance for us to do.³ But if we don’t do his works, we shouldn’t expect any results. If God is prompting us to evangelize more the enemy might prompt us to stay home, or in my case to over-evangelize.
I first recognized this when I was evangelizing 3 nights a week. On my way home from a long night of evangelizing, I would see people smoking or walking on a sidewalk, and I felt guilty if I didn’t stop to tell them about Jesus. I knew the scripture said, if we know the good we ought to do, but don’t do it, we sin. I reasoned that this guilty nagging can’t be the enemy, because he would never chance a spiritual seed being planted, and I sure didn’t want to disobey God. I didn’t realize that the enemy was trying to wear me out and exasperate me. God only equips us to do his will. The enemy was safe to prompt me to evangelize, for several reasons. The whole world is in the power of the enemy, and unless God calls someone, they can’t come to him and God doesn’t call someone until it’s his timing. Even Jesus didn’t start his public ministry until he was about 30 years old.⁴ These truths were like spiritual glasses. Now I could see that it wasn’t the Holy Spirit convicting me, but the enemy in a Holy Spirit costume. Since this lesson I’m much more cautious, at what I commit my time and energy to.
① 1 Corinthians 2:14 ② James 4:3 ③ Ephesians 2:10 ④ Luke 3:23
God’s help in a demonic dream
In my dream the enemy gave me sleep paralysis, where I was aware of things around me yet sleeping. I could feel a dark presence, and was tempted to fear, but God gave me the ability to turn my thoughts to Him. Not wanting to sin against God by letting fear overcome me, I asked Jesus to help me, nothing hap-pened. Then I asked again and laid hold of Him, with a love I felt for him saying, because I trusted in you and came to you, help me with this fear! I then felt His intense love, I no longer cared that a demonic presence was at hand, I was consumed by His love. I heard the Spirit whisper to me, there, is that better. The verse came to my mind perfect love casts out fear. I wanted to remember what He did and spoke to me, so as soon as I awoke, I wrote this, the time is 2:16 AM.
God’s help in a wedding
about 9 months after dealing with socially triggered panic attacks, I was asked to be an usher in a relative’s wedding. They had asked my brother if he and I would be ushers, and he had said yes for me. Neither my relative nor my brother knew that it would be impossible for me to be an usher, without completely falling apart. It had nothing to do with my shyness or lack of trust in God. Prior to my panic attacks I had gone evangelizing 3 - 4 times a week, and I had spoken at 4 unrelated events, with 30 - 100 people at each event. But now I couldn’t even look close friends in the face, and no matter how hard I prayed or tried, I couldn’t keep my face from frowning or looking like I’m about to cry, sometimes my voice would even start to quiver. Because my brother had already said I would usher, I decided to pray about it before calling to let them know I couldn’t do it. I didn’t receive any noticeable answer from prayer, so I decided to call and cancel. A week or two went by and I still hadn’t gotten around to calling them, I told myself, I still have plenty of time, I’ll call them next weekend. But every time I was free to call them, either they were at work, or I didn’t have my phone on me, or I forgot, or something else would come up. This went on till there were only two weeks before the wedding. It was really weird and embarrassing to me that I hadn’t succeeded in calling them yet. Between trying to call, I had been praying that God would show me his will about being an usher, and I had a growing desire to see God get me through the wedding as an usher. The only problem was, I had no strong assurance that he would. So, I told myself I’m for sure going to cancel this weekend. But weird things happened and I forgot again. It got down to the Wednesday before the wedding, which was on a Saturday. I was starting to believe that my inability to cancel was God’s answer to my prayer. But I still didn’t have peace about it, so I told my brother to join me in prayer about the situation, before I left for work that day. At work, I decided to mention that I was supposed to be an usher, to my coworker. I don’t talk much with my coworkers, because they don’t care about God, and God is all I care about, so when either of us think of something to say we always stop and listen. When I started one of my rare conversations, my coworker cut me off, which I don't think he's done before or since. He said, I would cancel if I were you, because I was an usher once, and it was the worst two days of my life! I immediately took this as an answer from God, even though it came from a man who followed Satan as closely as I followed Jesus. Nothing was going to stop me from canceling this time! I had prayed earnestly for an answer, and this seemed as clear a word as any. But about five minutes after my resolution to get out of this wedding, I remembered how these loud seemingly clear answers are not always from God. Like when God spoke to Elijah in a still small voice, but not in the whirlwind or the earthquake.¹ I had a strong desire to see God do something in my life and I really believed that God had been the one keeping me from canceling so far. I also had a growing peace about being an usher, and a growing confidence that God would help me. The rehearsal day came and I was falling apart, I had no idea how God would get me through it, but he worked out the details. I was able to sneak in the back, while the wedding coordinator explained the basic plan. I was really struggling, even though no one was looking at me, but seemingly random coincidences such as funny jokes by an uncle, or being able to slouch behind the guy in front of me, kept me pretty under control. When I got home, I knew for sure that if God didn't intervene, there was no way I would get through this wedding. I was so worried, that I actually considered not going. That night I pleaded with God to carry me through this wedding. Daniel did a similar thing in the scriptures; God had promised to set the Israelites free from captivity after seventy years. But right before the seventieth year, Daniel fasted and prayed for God to do what he promised. God doesn't lie, and he already said he would do what Daniel was praying for, but me and Daniel both prayed earnestly, that God would do what he said.² I remember driving to the wedding and almost sweating because of the anxiety, which I knew could alter my face in an instant, no matter how hard I tried to smile. God answered my prayer and carried me through all twelve hours of the wedding (9:00 AM - 9:00 PM). Before I share some of the details, I should mention that my two biggest fears about ushering were, that I would be grimacing as I greeted the guests, and that I would be frowning in the wedding pictures. When I arrived at the wedding, I was greeted by a man I had never met before. He was bubbling over with kind words and he took the attention off me as we waited for the guests. Right before the guests started arriving, I was given a stack of bulletins to fold and told to lead some of the guests to their seats. This was the first wedding I’ve gone to with only two doors and three ushers. Not only did I get out of greeting guests, but God provided a stack of unfolded bulletins to keep me occupied. When it came time for the wedding pictures, God worked it out so that the photographer was late, and only had time to take a few family photos before the next event. I wasn't even asked to be in a picture. When the wedding coordinator informed me that I was supposed to release the guests, row by row, I had seen God do so many things already, that I was actually excited to see what he would do next. Instead of manipulating the situation, God gave me just enough strength to smile, or have a straight face. I don't remember frowning even once as I released the rows. I can see now that God had definitely been the one leading me to be an usher, and the enemy had been the one trying to deter me. God did many other things, so that by the end of that day, my faith was greatly strengthened, and I was overflowing with thankfulness.
① 1 Kings 19:11-13 ② Daniel 9:2-3
How hard should I try, if I’m relying on God?
Unless God watches over a city the watchmen watch in vain, unless God builds a house the builders build in vain.¹ We should work like it depends on us, but know that it is dependent on God. This principle can be seen as Nehemiah organized and led the Israelites to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Each man had his section, and the men used all their strength to complete the task fast. They also carried their swords, because of constant danger. Yet their enemies knew it was God who gave them success.² We should work with all our strength as if onto the Lord.³ We are also told to be as shrewd as serpents, because men will try and do us wrong.⁴ God wants us to use all our physical and mental abilities to serve him. He gave us the abilities we have, so we can do his will.⁵ He even wants us to plan for potential trouble, but our hope is in God, not our own ability or plans. Whether or not God blesses our work and keeps us from harm, is up to him. If we seek God’s guidance and do our best to please him as we work, we can be sure that God will lead and help us achieve the outcomes he wants.⁶
① Psalms 127:1 ② Nehemiah 6:15-16 ③ Colossians 3:23-24 ④ Mathew 10:16-17 ⑤ Exodus 31:1-5 ⑥ Psalms 5:12