A Table before My Enemies

Gary Wilkerson

We're in a season right now where, as bad things are happening in our country, there is an opportunity for the church to move.

Believers need to awaken from the common, nominal, social-club version of Christianity. Those who are oftentimes coming to church for the social life or the feel-good messages are realizing that they don’t have answers for the problems plaguing our culture now. The hyper-faith and prosperity messages that come on Sunday mornings aren't cutting it anymore. People are realizing, “Okay, you promised me everything's going to be a blessing, and this is the year of favor and prosperity. But I don’t see those in my life. In fact, I’m suffering right now.”

People are hungry for something deeper. It’s very likely that the hand of God is involved in this. There's great potential here for the church to be revived and come into a season of spiritual awakening. I’m not just talking about more souls won for Christ, although I do believe that will be the case; I’m talking about more depth in existing believers as well.

In the season right now, when people are looking for answers, I'm afraid the answers often end up being “Don't fear” or “You're going to be okay” or “God's with you.” What if, instead, the church began to go a little deeper? What if believers grew mature enough to ask in their suffering, “Who do I believe God is? Who does the Bible say God is? What does that mean for my season of suffering?”

There's a purpose for the valley of the shadow of death. There's a purpose for the table being set before me in the presence of my enemies. We didn't set that table; God set it. So there's a purpose for our enemies. There's a purpose for suffering.

This is when we discover the significance in Paul’s words, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5, ESV). Once we understand this and live it out, then the church can rise up in strength as a light to the nations.

The Prayers of Ordinary People

John Bailey

In the Book of James, there’s a verse that a lot of believers quote, but it’s followed by another verse that I’d bet most of those same people don’t know. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours…” I want to pause there and say that if you look at Elijah, he was just an ordinary man. He saw the wickedness all around him, so he stood up and spoke the truth.

We don’t know exactly what path Elijah took to becoming the prophet during one of the most wicked times in Israel, but we do know that he loved God. When he looked at the wickedness and paganism that gripped his country, he wanted to be a voice pointing people to God.

He was an ordinary man who believed God’s promises, and God used him to do incredible miracles. The verse in James goes on to say, “…and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth” (James 5:16-17, ESV). When I was a new believer, I came across this passage, and I thought to myself, “I don’t know that this Elijah guy was very smart. Why would you pray for a drought when that’s going to affect you too? You’re not going to have water just like your neighbor!”

Now that I’ve been walking with the Lord longer, I see the wisdom here. Elijah knew that people cry out to God in places of distress. Even if it meant that he would have to go through suffering, he was willing to do that because he knew that people would turn to God as they experienced hardship.

In places of distress, people often seek the Lord and see him most clearly. Even in the darkest places, don’t give up on prayer. James’ writing goes on to promise, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). God puts great power behind the prayers of ordinary people.

John Bailey is the COO of World Challenge Inc. and the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church in Jacksonville, Florida. John has been serving the Lord in pastoral ministry for 35 years, ministering the gospel in over 50 nations, particularly as a pastor and evangelist in Cork, Ireland.

The Fortitude of God’s People

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Caleb, whose name means “forcible, fortitude,” was the type of Christian who goes all the way. He was inseparable from Joshua who represented a believer who continually walks with the Lord.

Caleb had been over the Jordan with the spies Moses sent into the land. While there, he was drawn by the Holy Spirit to Hebron, “the place of death.” No doubt with awe, he climbed that hallowed mountain. Abraham and Sarah were buried here, as were Isaac and Jacob. Years later, David’s kingdom would begin there. Caleb prized that consecrated place! From that time on, he wanted Hebron for his possession.

God said, “My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it” (Numbers 14:24, NKJV). Caleb never wavered to the very end. At 85 years of age, Caleb could testify, “As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in” (Joshua 14:11).

At an advanced age, Caleb waged his greatest battle! “ Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said” (Joshua 14:12). “Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb…because he wholly followed the Lord” (Joshua 14:14).

We need to grow in the Lord to the end. Keep your spiritual power and strength; do not waver, and “wholly follow the Lord” even in old age! We should have an ever-increasing faith. It was on Hebron that Abraham, the father of faith, had built an altar to sacrifice his son; and it was there that Caleb and his family would live. They would be constantly associated with that altar of living sacrifice.

Caleb’s wholeheartedness for the Lord produced a holy fire for God in his children, and his family grew strong in the Lord!

Living in the Middle Ground

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Those who choose to live in the middle ground share certain characteristics. I see those characteristics shown in the two and a half tribes of Israel that chose to stay west of the Jordan. They were Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh. Those tribes’ Hebrew names exposed their sin struggles.

Reuben means “A son who sees!” He was Jacob’s firstborn, but he lost his birthright because he was driven by lust. Jacob described his son Reuben as “Unstable as water, you shall not excel, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it” (Genesis 49:4, NKJV). Reuben slept with his father’s concubine, and Jacob, in his dying hour, refused to bless him. Reuben had eyes only for this world with its lusts and pleasures. He was unstable because his heart was always divided, and this spirit was passed on to his posterity. Here was an entire tribe attached to the world and bent on having their own way.

Gad means “Fortune or troop.” Simply put, this means soldiers of fortune or mercenaries. Moses said of Gad, “He provided the first part for himself…” (Deuteronomy 33:21). This tribe was outwardly obedient, “executing the justice of the Lord,” but the overriding characteristic was self-interest. Gad was consumed with its own problems and the need to “make it.” Gad’s philosophy was “I will fight with the Lord’s army; I’ll be obedient and do everything God expects of me. First, though, I need to get myself and my family set up, then I’ll be free to do more for the Lord.”

Manasseh means “To make forgetful.” This was Joseph’s firstborn son, and he should have received the birthright. Even in his childhood, there was a sad trait developing, however, and Jacob saw it in the Spirit. Manasseh would one day forget the ways of his father, Joseph, and neglect the commandment of the Lord.

The same mentality found in them can still found today in those who refuse to pulverize their idols and die to the world. Consider these combined traits of middle-ground Christians. They are unstable as water in spiritual convictions, lukewarm, ruled by selfish needs, neglecting the Word, making their own choices instead of trusting God. They forget past blessings and are unwilling to let go of certain idols, justifying their decisions.

Let us determine to want the Lord’s fullness. God’s desire for you is to enter into a place of rest, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit. Let’s follow him with our whole heart.

Seated in Heaven with Christ

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Here’s an incredible promise to God’s people: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3, NKJV).

Paul was saying, “All who follow Jesus are blessed with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, where Christ is.” This promise becomes mere words if we don’t know what these spiritual blessings are. How can we enjoy the blessings that God promises us if we don’t comprehend them?

Paul wrote this epistle “to the saints who are…faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1). These were believers who were sure of their salvation. The Ephesians had been well trained in the gospel and the hope of eternal life. They knew who they were in Christ, and were assured of their heavenly position in him.

These “faithful ones” fully understood that they’d been chosen by God from “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Ephesians 1:4). They grasped that they were adopted “by Jesus Christ to himself” (Ephesians 1:5). When they heard the truth, they believed and trusted it.

Many forgiven, cleansed and redeemed people live in misery. They never have a sense of being fulfilled in Christ. Instead, they continually go from peaks to valleys, from spiritual highs to depressing lows. How can this be? It’s because many never get past the crucified Savior to the resurrected Lord who lives in glory.

Jesus said to the disciples, “Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:19-20). We are now living in “that day” that Jesus spoke of, and we are to understand our heavenly position in Christ. What is meant by the expression “our position in Christ”?  This position is “where one is placed, where one is.” God has placed us where we are, which is in Christ.

In turn, Christ is in the Father, seated at his right hand. If we’re in Christ, we are actually seated with Jesus in the throne room. This is what Paul refers to when he says we’re made to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). Yes, Jesus is in paradise, but the Lord also abides in you and me. He has made us his dwelling place.