The Furtherance of the Gospel

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

"But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12, NKJV).

In this verse, Paul tells the Christians in Philippi not to worry about all the things that they had heard had befallen him. Those “things” included great afflictions and infirmities. 

Paul wrote this epistle while bound in a Roman prison. At this point in his ministry, he was a seasoned warrior of the gospel, having endured every conceivable hardship and human affliction imaginable. He experienced shipwrecks, beatings, buffetings, mocking, persecution, hunger, thirst, nakedness and defamation of character. Everywhere Paul went, it seemed, he was met by affliction, trouble and sorrow. 

Yet Paul said, “None of these things move me” (Acts 20:24). Furthermore, he added, “No one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened” (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4).

Paul was reassuring these believers, saying, “I’ve told you all along that if you are going to walk with Jesus, you will face afflictions. Now that these afflictions have come upon me, why are you so surprised? This is our appointed lot in life.” 

Try to get this picture in your mind: Here was a holy man called by God to take the gospel to the nations. On every assignment, the Holy Spirit whispered to him that the next stop wouldn’t be easy. He would face opposition and would find more afflictions and trials. 

I find this man’s life absolutely amazing. Can you imagine it? Paul faced troubles and afflictions at every turn. At this point, you may be saying, “Wait a minute, you’re talking about Paul’s life, not mine. God appointed him to suffer afflictions. I haven’t been called to such a life.” Wrong! The Bible says: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).

The phrase “many are the afflictions” applies not just to Paul but to us as well. We love to hear the last part of that verse, but do we rejoice in the first part? Like Paul, let’s be glad when faced with a trial or affliction when the end goal is furthering the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Back to the Secret Place

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

“Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number” (Jeremiah 2:32, NKJV).

I quote this Bible passage whenever I miss my daily prayer time because of my busyness. It always drives me back to the secret place, where I cry, “Oh, Lord, I don’t want to forget you!”

This verse is frightening when we consider the context of the passage. God is reminding his people that he planted them as a noble vine of sound and reliable stock. They started out on the correct path with his blessing, but now they have forsaken him. 

“Your own wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will rebuke you…it is an evil and bitter thing that you have forsaken the Lord your God, and the fear of me is not in you… How can you say, ‘I am not polluted, I have not gone after the Baals’?...For they have turned their back to me… In vain I have chastened your children; they received no correction… My people have forgotten me days without number” (Jeremiah 2:19-32).

God’s people were no longer going to his house to worship him. They had become lazy and had forgotten all his blessings and judgments. They neglected him for days on end, pursuing their own pleasures; and worst of all, they said, “I am innocent…I have not sinned” (Jeremiah 2:35).

If you do not worship God with all your mind and heart, little by little, neglect will creep in, and you will begin to worship merely out of habit. 

You say you love Jesus, so I must ask you: Do you worship him daily, with all your heart, without distractions? Do you dig into the word of God, or do you go for days without opening your Bible or praying to him in your secret closet? 

God will not allow you to sit in your seat anymore and let your mind wander. He loves you and knows the power that pure worship releases in your spirit. It makes you stronger than any lion and bigger than any giant. It pulls down every stronghold because it makes you a pure-hearted, single-minded worshiper of him.

Distractions in the Holy Place

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

“Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me’” (Matthew 15:7-8, NKJV). 

I want to talk to you about mental distractions during prayer and worship, especially in the house of God. Jesus called people hypocrites who came into his presence mouthing words of praise but whose minds and hearts were preoccupied. He was essentially saying, “You give me your mouth and your lips, but your mind is somewhere else. Your heart is nowhere near me!” 

What about you? Most likely, you are present in God’s house for an hour every week. Your body is in church, but where is your mind? Your mouth says, “I worship you, Lord,” but is your heart a thousand miles away? Where do your thoughts take you during worship and praise? 

Do you become preoccupied with family concerns or a business matter that’s been hounding you? How distracted do you get during that hour in church as the congregation draws near to God’s majesty? 

It is dangerous to come into God’s house and enter into his presence lightly. “And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified’” (Leviticus 10:3).

The Lord said to Aaron, “I will not be treated as an ordinary person. If you’re going to come into my presence, you must come before me sanctified. All who approach my holiness must do so with carefulness and thoughtfulness because of my glory and majesty.” 

If your heart is not engaged during worship and your thoughts are not captive to the obedience of Christ, you might as well put a straw man in your seat. At least that is more honest than coming into God’s house with no mind and no heart. 

Many Christians do not worship with power, excitement and zeal because they have no intimacy with Jesus at home. Those who have learned to worship and focus privately bring their own fire; a fire ignited in the secret closet of prayer. True worshipers can’t wait to get to church to praise the Lord among his people. 

God Sits over the Nations

Gary Wilkerson

“Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us’” (Psalm 2:1-3, ESV). 

Note what the psalmist said about the leaders of nations. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together…” (Psalm 2:2). 

Today, we see something similar as rulers set themselves against the Lord with regulations and mandates that limit religious liberty or even institute evil. Some nations look to rid themselves of all public mention of God and limit faith to private expression. 

“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us” (Psalm 2:3). The picture here is of someone trying to break free from a terrible bondage. What is underneath that desire, however, is a lust to be free of all restraints that only begin with God’s law.  

Here is the good news: The whole world may rage, but God will have his turn. However terribly the world may rage, God endures patiently. What is his response to all the clamoring voices that oppose him? The psalmist wrote, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” (Psalm 2:4). 

God’s laughter over the nations isn’t that of amusement. It is laughter of ridicule. The thought of someone overthrowing God is ludicrous. He simply laughs at the vanity of such plotting. Note the word “sits” in this verse. High above all human scheming, God sits in sovereign power. What a powerful contrast to those who sit in the lowly seat of the scornful and who plot and plan against him.

As the world rages, the Lord doesn’t pace around worried, anxious or stressed. He simply sits. This image serves to reassure every righteous person who frets over the chaos swirling through the world. The psalmist advised, in essence, “Don’t lose your trusting heart. God sits over and above it all.” You may be troubled by the world’s chaos, but because Christ is with you in all things, you won’t be overcome. Trust God in times of crisis. 

This devotional has been adapted from Gary Wilkerson’s book, The Altar of Our Hearts: An Expository Devotional on the Psalms.

To Whom Much Is Given

Jim Cymbala

Let’s look at a word that God gives Eli, one of his priests, about the man’s sons. “…the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father's house, so that there will not be an old man in your house.’” (1 Samuel 2:30-31, ESV). 

Wow! Why did God say this about Eli’s sons? Because they profaned God’s house; they did sacrilegious stuff there like using their power to abuse the women in the temple, and Eli knew about it but didn’t restrain them. 

God is a God of grace, but he’s also a God of judgment. This wasn’t just an Old Testament thing either. It happened in the New Testament too (see Acts 5:1-11). A man and his wife lied to the Holy Spirit, and they both dropped dead in church. 

When you’re involved in sacred things and you have access to a lot of light, God takes it seriously when you know something evil is going on and you let it go. You turn a blind eye. “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48). That’s what Eli was judged for, and all his future descendants were cut out of the priesthood. You know God spoke to Eli’s conscience before this, and people came to Eli about what his sons were doing. God’s judgment didn’t come out of the blue. 

We live in a day where anything can be justified if we’re a victim of our circumstances, but God doesn’t look at it that way. If God’s given us warnings and we have light through his Word, God will judge us accordingly. We need to watch out to make sure we don’t turn a blind eye to evil just because its our family or race or denomination. God hates dishonest scales. If we have the ability to stop something evil that’s going on, let’s do our utmost to stop it.  

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29). 

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.