Coming to God in Sadness

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

The Holy Spirit directed me to the book of Nehemiah; and as I read chapter 2, I saw something I had not seen before. This chapter contains an encouraging story for all who come to the Lord with a heavy heart.

Nehemiah was a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. He tasted the wines before they were brought to the king’s table to make sure they weren’t poisoned. Over time, Nehemiah became a trusted servant to the king.

Nehemiah received a report from his brother that Jerusalem was in ruins. The population had been decimated; the people were in terrible straits, and conditions were worsening daily. This tore at Nehemiah’s heart. He loved Judah and Jerusalem, and a deep sorrow began to grip him.

Scripture says, “And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before. Therefore the king said to me, ‘Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart.’” (Nehemiah 2:1-2, NKJV).

Understand that people were forbidden to come into the king’s presence with sadness, especially if they were court employees. Nehemiah knew that having a gloomy countenance could cost him his head, and he was terribly fearful.

When the king saw Nehemiah’s grief, he was moved with compassion. Scripture tells us that he gave his downcast servant a leave of absence. He also gave him a letter of credit, opening the royal treasury to him. After all that, Nehemiah received from the king the desire of his heart: permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the city walls.

Here is my point. If Nehemiah could go into the presence of a pagan king with a sad countenance and yet find favor and blessings beyond imagination, how much more will King Jesus show compassion to each of us, his children, in our sadness. He is eager to lift our burden and supply our needs.

When We Have No Hope

Gary Wilkerson

Elisha inherited the role of prophet from Elijah. In 2 Kings 4, Elisha encountered one of his first big tests when he was approached by a Shunammite woman whose son had just died. In desperation, she told Elisha, “I’ve prayed and fasted, wept and pled; but I have received nothing from the Lord. With my son gone, I don’t have the strength to go on. I just don’t understand what God is doing. This is more than I can bear.”

Elisha responded by doing something unusual. “He said to Gehazi [his servant], ‘Tie up your garment.’” In other words, “Gird up you loins.” Then he continued, “Take my staff in your hand and go. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not reply. And lay my staff on the face of the child” (2 Kings 4:29, ESV).

Heeding Elisha’s instruction, Gehazi went to the family’s home and laid his staff on the face of the dead child. There was no sign of life, so Gehazi returned to Elisha saying, “The child has not awakened” (2 Kings 4:31).

Here is my question to you. What do you do when everything you try brings no result? Where do you turn when every effort you put forth does not accomplish its purpose?

There comes a time when we have no resource but Jesus alone. In this story, Elisha is a type of Christ. He went to that Shunammite family and stretched himself out over the body of the dead boy. When he was face to face, foot to foot, hand to hand over the child, he breathed into him.

What happened then? Scripture says the boy sneezed seven times (see 2 Kings 4:35). He was alive! What brought about this new life? Jesus himself breathed into the situation. When we have no hope, no resources, no ability, Christ breathes his supernatural life into our circumstances.

Make this your prayer: “Lord, I have nothing, but you have everything, and I need you now. If you do not breathe into my problem, I won’t make it. I can’t do it, but you can, Lord!” 

The Challenge of Faith

Jim Cymbala

When we read the beginning books of the Bible, we tend to forget something very important. God had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob a homeland where he would provide for them. He didn’t keep his promise the way that anyone would’ve thought he would. We forget that because we know the end of the story. Who would have thought that 400 years of slavery in Egypt would be part of keeping that promise, though? We feel like it’s hard to trust God when he’s not keeping his promises the way we think he should or with the timing we would have.

Take the story of when the Israelites finally got to the Promised Land, for example. They received the law on Mount Sinai and orders for worship. They knew what God wanted from them.  

They sent 12 spies into the land; you know the story. They came back and said, “The land is beautiful! It’s flowing with milk and honey.” That means it could handle cattle and had enough greenery and fruit-bearing trees that there was honey. Ten of the spies then said, “We can’t take it. We’re slaves. We don’t fight. Let’s go back to Egypt. We had garlic, leeks, onions; we were safe there.” 

This is the challenge of faith. 

Now you’d figure that if God sent down 10 plagues and parted a sea in front of us that we’d trust him. No, no, that’s how we operate. No matter what God has done for us, unbelief clings to us like soot. Some people let God save them out of the world, but they never walk in faith and enter into all of his blessings.  

How about you? What is God asking you to trust him with today? Think about what he’s already done for you. Think about what it says that he’s done for his people in the Bible. God is always faithful to his people. 

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:22-26, ESV).

Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.

Is Prayer a Burden?

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Perhaps prayer is a burden to you. Is prayer boring to you? Is it more of a duty than a pleasure?

So few Christians enter God’s presence with delight, simply for the pleasure of his company. Some think of it only as work. When we commune with a dearly loved one here on earth, do we think of it as work? No, it is a pleasure to us! If you are happily married, you don’t think of your times of intimacy with your spouse as work.

Christ likens his relationship with his people to that of a husband and wife, and the Bible says Jesus delights in us. The fact is that a husband’s pleasure in enjoying intimacy is not simply the satisfaction of his own needs. No, his real pleasure is in the joy of knowing his wife shares his delight. He says in his heart, “She really wants to be with me. I’m first in her heart; I’m everything to her.”

We know the Lord delights in his people. David said, “He delivered me, because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19, NKJV). The scripture gives us a picture of the Lord and his exuberant delight in us.

Do we delight in him? The Bible tells us, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Delighting in the Lord does not mean simply being happy in his presence. 

I asked the Lord what the word “delight” means, and he answered, “David, delighting in me means simply being able to say, ‘I would rather be with Jesus than with anyone else on earth. I prefer his company to that of my spouse, family or friends. I prefer him over all celebrities, world leaders, even great men and women of God. He is my delight.’”

It also means being able to say, “I long to be shut in with Jesus because he is the only one who can satisfy me. All others leave me empty and unfulfilled. No one but Jesus can touch my deepest needs, and I rush to him as often as I can.”

Prayer that Pleases the Lord

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

I believe the kind of prayer that most pleases God is very simple and easy to understand. It is so simple that a little child can pray in a way that pleases him.

The disciples said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1, NKJV). They would not have asked unless they had wanted to learn. I believe that most who are reading this message would love to be faithful in prayer, but they do not know how. They simply do not understand the purpose of prayer; and until they grasp this vital purpose, they will never be able to maintain a fulfilled, meaningful life of prayer.

Many Christians pray only out of a sense of obligation. They think of prayer as something they are “supposed” to do. Others pray only when tragedy strikes or when a crisis befalls them, and then they do not pray again until the next difficulty comes along.

Prayer is not only for our benefit but also for the delight of our God. We are not just to intercede for things we need, but we are to ask for the things he desires. Unless these two elements go together, we do not have a foundation upon which to build a prayer life. Whereas we seek relief and help from the Lord, he desires fellowship with us.

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25).

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow…” (Matthew 6:33-34).

“Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8).

God is saying to us, “When you come into my presence, focus your attention on fellowship with me, on getting to know me. Don’t let your focus be on material things. I know what your needs are so you don’t even have to ask. I will take care of them all. Just seek me. Let us enjoy sweet communion!”