The apostle Paul founded a church in Corinth, and while on a trip to Ephesus, he wrote a letter back to the church.
The Corinthian church was falling into various compromises, struggling with sin. In spite of this, Paul was so gracious at the beginning of the letter, encouraging instead of rebuking them.
“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God …to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
“I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“God is faithful by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Corinthians 1:1-9).
Paul tells the church that every day he thanks God for them (I Corinthians 1:4). But he mentions Jesus Christ so many times! In fact, he mentions him ten times in these verses above — he is absolutely obsessed with Jesus who was so alive in his heart.
Do you have more of a hunger for Jesus today than you did five years ago? Or even last week? Are you so obsessed with him, as Paul was, that he permeates your thoughts and actions? If not, ask the Holy Spirit to place a hunger within you to become more intimate with Jesus Christ.
I bring good news! Eternity is not the only thing we have to look forward to. I believe our hearts are going to be filled with deep joy even in the midst of difficult days (see John 16:33). There is going to be a fellowship in the Body of Jesus Christ such as you and I have never experienced in our lifetime.
There will be rejoicing when we come together — times when we simply do not want to leave the house of God. The Lord is truly going to be our strength and our song. And He will give us the privilege of glorifying Him by allowing others to see His strength in us in a time of suffering. Sinners are going to come to us and say, “Tell us the reason for the hope that you still have!” You see, we will have hope because we heard the warning of God and took the time to prepare.
No matter how difficult things may become, I certainly do not see the Church of Jesus Christ going out in a whimper. I see a victorious Church — a Church that is Christ-honoring, standing boldly in the power of the Holy Spirit, just as she began in the book of Acts.
In this time of preparation, my prayer has been, “Lord, take everything out of my life that will bring weakness into my heart. Let Your Spirit within me give me strength and cause my life to bring You honor.” I encourage you to ask the Lord for those things you have need of, as well. Ask Him for courage, endurance, and confidence (see Philippians 1:20-21). Ask Him for the grace not to give up in your present trial or in the ones to come.
I assure you, God will not fail you! And not only in a time of suffering but through all eternity, you will never regret having put your confidence in Him.
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001.
To me, one of the most interesting people in the Old Testament is Jacob, a deceiving, manipulating man. Yet God loved this man dearly.
Jacob had tricked his twin brother Esau out of his birthright and stolen the blessing from his father, Isaac — a blessing that belonged to Esau. When Esau learned what Jacob had done, he was determined to kill his brother and that set off a long war between them. But in spite of that, the Lord brought Jacob into the covenant blessing of his grandfather, Abraham, and his father, Isaac (see Genesis 28:14). Then God added these wonderful blessings: “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you” (28:15).
God actually told him, “I’ll never leave you, Jacob, and you can never make a move that I won’t be involved in. My purposes will be accomplished in you, no matter what!”
What a promise! It is hard for me to find any faith, goodness or grace in Jacob, so how could he possibly be the covenant patriarch of God’s eternal purpose? Actually, I’d want to ask the Lord, “What did you see in this man? You are holy and just, and you don’t wink at the kinds of things he did. So why didn’t you correct him instead of blessing him after he had stolen and deceived?”
God saw something in Jacob’s heart that brought forth his great love and a desire to bless him. We read, “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit” (Isaiah 57:15), and God knew that Jacob had a repentant, broken spirit.
We have heard that humans consider the outward appearance, but God always looks at the heart. He knew that something in Jacob’s heart was willing to be changed.
And that is exactly what God is looking for in us!
Three common words heard among Christians in times of crisis are, “Lord, do something!” It is totally against our nature as human beings to stand still and do nothing when we face perplexing situations. In fact, waiting patiently for God to act is probably the most difficult discipline of the Christian walk. Even devoted believers panic when the Lord doesn’t move according to their timetable.
Our God is always searching the earth for a people who will trust him in every crisis, trial and hopeless situation. Indeed, he often leads us into situations that are alarming, critical, difficult, in order to test us. He wants to see if we are willing to stand still and wait for him to bring supernatural deliverance.
The Bible states very clearly, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way” (Psalm 37:23).
This means that it is God, not the devil, who leads us into difficult places. We may cry out, “Lord, why are you allowing my crisis to continue?” But the truth is, he allows our trials deliberately — for a purpose. And that is hard for us to accept!
I firmly believe every step we take is ordained by our heavenly father. God wants to produce faith in us, so he is molding and shaping us into godly examples of faith — to be his testimony to a faithless, ungodly age.
God is absolutely faithful to his children and he would never lead us to the brink of a difficult situation only to abandon us. He is always asking us, “Will you be the one I’ve been searching for? Will you be the one who does not panic? Who will not charge me with forsaking and hurting my children? Will you stand in your crisis and trust me to see you through?”
“Standing still” is an act of faith — an active resting on God’s promises. Faith changes everything! Will you determine to cease all questioning today and simply trust him?
The subject of giving thanks came to me during a time of great personal heaviness. So many problems were piling up that I blurted out to my wife, “I’ve about had it. I’m at the end of my rope and I just want to disappear!”
Feeling very sorry for myself, I began to complain to God, “Lord, how long will you keep me in this fire? Don’t you see how weary my spirit has become? When are you going to answer me, God?”
Suddenly the Holy Spirit fell on me and I felt ashamed. He whispered to my heart, “Just begin to thank me right now, David. Bring to me a sacrifice of thanksgiving for all the things I’ve done for you in the past and for what I’m going to do in the future.
“Thank me for your family, your health, your ministry. Just give me a sacrifice of thanksgiving and everything will look different. You’ll have peace in the battle and I will bless your soul with assurance.”
Those words settled my spirit but I wondered what the Lord meant by “a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Searching the Word, I was amazed at all the references I found.
“Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing” (Psalm 107:22).
“I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116:17).
“Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” (Psalm 95:2).
And, of course, the most familiar Bible passage on thanksgiving: “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name” (Psalm 100:4).
When you have no place to turn, turn to thanksgiving! Thank the Lord for his forgiveness, his blessings, his promises, all that he has done and is going to do. In everything, give thanks!