In his later years, the faithful disciple John was exiled to the Isle of Patmos (see Revelation 1).
This was in effect a punishment of solitary confinement. John had no human contact on Patmos except with his jailers. It was a time of extreme cold, hunger and excruciating isolation for this elderly servant. Yet in the midst of his trial John had a powerful vision of the Lord.
“When I saw [Christ], I fell at his feet as dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid: I am the First and the Last. I am he who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:17-18).
Today I try to imagine being in John’s situation. It had to have been a time of great confusion and questioning, even for this godly man. In fact, I believe things could not have been worse for John. Yet the first words Jesus said to his anguished servant were, “Do not be afraid.”
Even the apostle Paul knew this kind of desperate isolation. Yet in the midst of his own trials, Paul had a vision of Jesus standing beside him, and he was able to declare in the midst of his persecution, “All forsook me. . . . But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me” (2 Timothy 4:16-17).
For John and Paul, life’s circumstances could not have been darker. Yet each of these men testified of seeing Jesus in their trials. Now, dear Christian, I have a question for you: Do you see Jesus in your present situation?
Jesus is with you and you can say with confidence and authority, “Christ stands with me. He is giving me strength despite my circumstances.”
The more we hustle and rush to accomplish things for God by our own efforts, the more his power drains out of us. This happened in the Old Testament again and again. Israel was always moving ahead of God, frustrating his plans for them and robbing him of the glory he deserved as their faithful deliverer.
At times Israel even aligned with pagan armies to defend themselves against bigger enemies, which God forbade them to do. We have the same tendency today. Our flesh is simply inclined to move ahead of the Lord.
Elijah knew what it meant to wait on the Lord. I love this verse about him: “The word of the Lord came to [Elijah], saying, ‘. . . hide yourself ’” (1 Kings 17:2-3). I believe these are some of the hardest words any follower of Jesus can hear. It’s the equivalent of Jesus telling his disciples, “Wait.” The Lord is faithful to move at his chosen time if we will wait.
For the disciples, waiting was a matter of weeks; for Elijah, it was three years. That was the remaining length of the famine Israel endured after God spoke to him. Imagine how hard that period must have been for Elijah. He had a word from God burning in his heart—but he was commanded to stay silent for three long years.
Once those years passed, however, God told Elijah, “Go, show yourself . . . and I will send rain upon the earth” (18:1). At the appointed time, Elijah took part in an amazing blessing that God imparted to his people.
Today, a lot of us “show ourselves” before God’s appointed time. We end up spinning our wheels, tiring ourselves, becoming weary in doing God’s work. Friend, the only power we’ll ever have for God’s work will come from time spent in prayer.
To the Corinthians, Paul said: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7, emphasis added). There it is staring at us. Now what are we going to do with this verse? The infallible Word of God says the manifestation of the Holy Spirit was given to each one for the common good. To each one, not just to the apostles. Think of the impact of that verse. Is that something we preach? Do we believe it? Expect it? God has promised every one of us a manifestation — supernatural by definition — of the Holy Spirit. It is part of being a Christian.
One of the ways the Spirit glorifies Christ is to build up his Body, which is for the common good. Since the church is a spiritual organism, it needs spiritual ministry to build it up. And spiritual ministry can come only by the Holy Spirit showing himself through human vessels.
Those who engage in false displays and teachings of the Spirit have scared away many sincere people who love their Bibles. Someone who truly loves the Word sees those displays and says, “No, thank you. Let’s just sing some safe praise songs, have a good Bible study and then go home.” But our Lord Jesus Christ never intended that his church operate without visitations and blessings from the living Spirit of God. Why would he send another Helper if not to help us? Just look around at the world. Don’t we see the obvious need for something fresh from God to overcome the powerful influences of evil?
The early church was alive and active because of the Holy Spirit. There is not even one verse that relegates the importance and vitality of the Spirit only to the New Testament church. We have to believe the Holy Spirit is present for us today.
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.
Today our society is broken. We have out-of-control schools, confused leaders, collapsing banking systems, widespread unemployment, unmanageable social programs, and a complete breakdown of moral values. And to top it off, the earth could be standing on the brink of a nuclear catastrophe. In short, things seem to be spinning out of control.
How can believers possibly stand firm and steadfast in the midst of all this chaos? The author of Hebrews answers us: We must see Jesus in all that is happening in our lives (see Hebrews 2:9).
Some may wonder, “How could the Lord be in any of this? So many things in my life feel out of control.” Let me give you an example from Scripture. I am talking about a man whose world was turned upside down by chaos, shaking the very foundations of his faith. Yet, in the midst of it all he saw the Lord.
In his hour of great trial, the apostle Stephen stood unmoved as a mob of Christ-haters surrounded him armed with stones and ready to put him to death. Stephen knew he had only a matter of minutes to live — yet he was filled with peace and calm. What was the secret of this man’s endurance?
In that very moment, Stephen testified, “Look! I see the heavens opened and [Jesus] standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). He kept his eyes focused on Jesus alone. He could face a cruel death knowing Jesus was with him in it all.
I am convinced that the example of Stephen holds something of great importance for all who love and serve the Lord. It is this: When we truly see Jesus in the midst of our afflictions and hardships, we will always hear him tell us, “Fear not!”
Few Christians doubt that Jesus is their source but they don’t always have confidence and assurance he’ll give them what they need. Here are a few wonderful reminders of the Lord’s concern for you.
He knows all about your personal needs. “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8).
“My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). You are being promised, “In Christ are all the riches of glory. In Jesus God has given you everything you need for life and godliness.”
God truly cares for you and he is touched by your need. “Casting all your care upon him, for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). The Greek meaning here is, “You matter to him.” This may be difficult to comprehend in the midst of your long affliction. But even now God is taking a great interest in every matter touching your life: your job, family, children, relationships, health.
“Do not cast not away your confidence, which has great reward” (Hebrews 10:35). God says, “Hold on to your confidence, because I am a rewarder.” Simply put: “It pays to hold on.” “But without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Do you truly want to bring Christ pleasure? Then give him your total confidence. Hold on and don’t waver. And remember his promise to you:
“The just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, my soul shall has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:38–39).