If we were to become more of ‘who we really are,’ we would become more wicked and full of contention with one another. If it were not for the common grace of God, our world would fall apart.
We often find relational poverty even in the church, not just out in the world. We find in our own lives a severe selfishness that’s driving our ambitions and direction in life. We find a prayerlessness and lack of worship. We cannot accept the full victory and life of the gospel news unless we understand how fallen our nature is and how far from God we are.
In Philippians, Paul gives us good news that counters this relational poverty and selfishness in our lives. Embedded in this text is a world-altering promise.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:4-8, ESV).
The Lord is at hand. The peace of God will guard our hearts and minds. Without the knowledge of our own deep sinfulness and then this promise, we cannot know the joy of the good news of Christ coming, living a perfect life, his death, his resurrection and the imputing of his righteousness to us.
“Remember those who are called to be models for you and to teach you the Word of God. Consider [imitate, reproduce] the issue [the fruit, the example, the result, the outcome] of their lives. Imitate their faith for Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:7-8).
This passage states that God’s people (our children, families, friends and every precious soul our Lord put on our path) must be able to look at our faith and trust in God through every trial and storm, in our deepest values, passion, reactions, decisions and true priorities and to literally imitate our faith. This unchangeable and remarkable principle means that my life must become a testimony, a proclamation and irrefutable proof that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. God wants my faith and my trust in him to plead with everyone who is watching my life and is tempted to drift away, to believe that God is faithful, he never changes, there is no shadow of variation in him and he who trusts in God will never be disappointed!
God wants your children and mine to testify to their friends that it is “by watching my mom and dad living their faith, day in and day out, through the terrible tragedies and trials of their lives, through every pain and pressure, that I have decided to live for God because my parents’ faith proved to me that God is alive.”
It is of supreme importance for every believer to realize that he possesses a sphere of influence that is uniquely his. We each have people we can touch or influence, a work to complete or a purpose to accomplish that no one else can.
This is what you are called to do: the people God predestined to be influenced by you, the eternal destiny you were called to fulfill, the greatest man of God in the world cannot do! It is your faith that produces the fruit of confidence in God in the people who surround you.
Some people’s faith, love, joy and passion are communicative. To be near them does you good, inspires you, heals and reconciles you with the human race. We love being around them and thank God for their faith that produces hope and propels others toward new heights, commitments, and possibilities in God.
Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.
“Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?’ But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do” (John 6:5-6). Jesus took Philip aside, and said, “Philip, there are thousands of people here. They are all hungry. Where are we going to buy enough bread to feed them? What do you think we should do?”
How incredibly loving of Christ. Jesus knew all along what he was going to do; the verse above tells us so. Yet the Lord was trying to teach Philip something, and the lesson he was imparting to him applies to each of us today. Think about it: How many in Christ’s body sit up half the night trying to figure out their problems? We think, “Maybe this will work. No, no…. Maybe that will solve it. No….”
Philip and the apostles didn’t have just a bread problem. They had a bakery problem…and a money problem…and a distribution problem…and a transportation problem…and a time problem. Add it all up, and they had problems they couldn’t even imagine. Their situation was absolutely impossible.
Jesus knew all along exactly what he going to do. He had a plan. And the same is true of your troubles and difficulties today. There is a problem, but Jesus knows your whole situation. And he comes to you, asking, “What are we going to do about this?”
The correct answer from Philip would have been, “Jesus, you are God. Nothing is impossible with you. So, I’m giving this problem over to you. It’s no longer mine, but yours.”
That’s just what we need to say to our Lord today, in the midst of our crisis: “Lord, you are the miracle worker and I’m going to surrender all my doubts and fears to you. I entrust this entire situation, my whole life, into your care. I know you won’t allow me to faint. In fact, you already know what you’re going to do about my problem. I trust in your power.”
You may be in the middle of a miracle right now and simply not see it. It may be that you are waiting for a miracle. You’re discouraged because things seem to be at a standstill. You do not see any evidence of God’s supernatural work on your behalf.
Consider what David says in Psalm 18: “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; he heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth; coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down with darkness under His feet… The Lord thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice, hailstones and coals of fire. He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe, lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them” (Psalm18:6-9, 13-14).
You have to realize, none of these things literally happened. It was all something that David saw in his spiritual eye. Beloved, that is faith. It’s when you believe God has heard your cry, that he hasn’t delayed, that he isn’t ignoring your petition. Instead, he quietly began your miracle immediately when you prayed, and even now he’s doing supernatural work on your behalf. That is truly believing in miracles, his marvelous progressive work in our lives.
David understood the foundational truth beneath it all: “He also brought me out into a broad place; he delivered me because He delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19). David declared, “I know why the Lord is doing all this for me. It’s because he delights in me.”
I truly believe in instantaneous miracles. God is still working glorious, instant wonders in the world today. In Matthew 16:9-11 and Mark 8:19-21, as Jesus reminds the disciples of the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000, he is asking them and us to take note of his progressive miracles and their role in our own lives today.
Do you know it is possible to walk before the Lord with a perfect heart? If you are hungering for Jesus, you may already be trying—desiring earnestly—to obey this command of the Lord.
I want to encourage you; it is possible or God would not have given us such a call. Having a perfect heart has been part of the life of faith from the time God first spoke to Abraham: “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1).
In the Old Testament we see that some succeeded. David, for instance, determined in his heart to obey God’s command to be perfect. He said, “I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way…I will walk within my house with a perfect heart” (Psalm 101:2).
To come to grips with the idea of perfection, we first must understand that perfection does not mean a sinless, flawless existence. No, perfection in the Lord’s eyes means something entirely different. It means completeness, maturity.
The Hebrew and Greek meanings of “perfection” include “uprightness, having neither spot nor blemish, being totally obedient.” It means to finish what has been started, to make a complete performance. John Wesley called this concept of perfection “constant obedience.” That is, a perfect heart is a responsive heart, one that answers quickly and totally all the Lord’s wooings, whisperings and warnings. Such a heart says at all times, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. Show me the path, and I will walk in it.”
The perfect heart cries out with David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:23–24).
God does indeed search our hearts; he said as much to Jeremiah: “I the Lord search the heart” (Jeremiah 17:10). The Hebrew meaning for this phrase is, “I penetrate, I examine deeply.”
The perfect heart wants the Holy Spirit to come and search out the innermost man, to shine into all hidden parts—to investigate, expose and dig out all that is unlike Christ. Those who hide a secret sin, however, do not want to be convicted, searched or probed.
The perfect heart yearns for more than security or a covering for sin. It seeks to be in God’s presence always, to dwell in communion. Communion means talking with the Lord, sharing sweet fellowship with him, seeking his face and knowing his presence.