Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Disaster Strikes God's Own Country
Volume 8 No. 495 August 17, 2018

IV. Kerala Flood Disaster Supplement

How to Face Life’s Storms

In the midst of the storm they no doubt wondered why Jesus had sent them out alone. How they would look back at the dim outline of the hills, where they knew He was, and wonder, "Why, Lord, did you send us out into this storm?" ...

Responding to Disaster

What is a Biblical view of disasters and how to respond to them? Are disasters only natural events? Should we only consider secondary causes? Have we become so secular as a nation that we no longer consider God has any input on how we live as a people? ...

Where Revival Begins

 It's always easier to confess someone else's sins. Ask God what stands between you and a new experience of his power and blessing. If you ask in sincerity, God will surely answer. ...

Hope When You Face More Than You Can Bear

Afflictions are a divine blessing in disguise. When we are pressed beyond our limits, these hard providences reveal our inability to deal with the ultimate reality: death. These "unbearable" times are when God draws us closer to himself in simple faith. ...

Getting Right with God

This encounter teaches us what happens when a person gets right with God...

IV. Kerala Flood Disaster Supplement

How to Face Life’s Storms

by Stephen Felker

Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33


This passage tells of one of the most amazing miracles that Jesus Christ did. In this story we are told that Jesus literally walked on water! As a result, walking on water has become proverbial for amazing ability. When you refer to someone who seemly can do anything, you say, "He can even walk on water." The disciples saw Christ perform many other miracles, but when they saw Christ walking on water, they could not believe their eyes! In fact, they assumed He was a ghost. Apparently, they could not even conceive of the idea of Jesus walking on water. That was a miracle far greater than anything they had seen before. And by the way, that is one of many reasons why we know that Jesus actually walked on water. In mythology the people expect the strange and miraculous to occur from their heroes. But the disciples did not expect such a miracle as this. This is similar to the account of the resurrection. They were very slow to believe in it as well. So I believe that this miracle literally happened.

After this miracle, we read in v.33 that they worshipped Jesus, saying, "Truly You are the Son of God."1 Honestly, that is the main point of this story. Matthew gives yet another evidence of the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, and therefore He is certainly the King. But though what this passage teaches us about Jesus is very important, there is much more here that I want you to see. Now there are 3 scenes in our story today. In each scene we are going to learn some important lessons. So let’s look at this passage together. The first scene is:


V.24 tells us about a storm that came upon the Sea of Galilee. Most of that Sea is surrounded by mountains or hills. Strong winds can swirl around into a powerful storm very quickly and unexpectedly. When the disciples found themselves in the storm, they kept trying to get to the other side, and yet for hours they were making no progress, "for the wind was contrary" (v.24). The wind and the waves were causing the boat to rock & sway violently, threatening to capsize. So they were in danger of sinking and perishing in the midst of the Sea. Worst of all, Jesus was not physically with them. In the last storm, Jesus was there with them, and after waking Him, He quickly came to their aid. But this time Jesus was not with them.

In the midst of the storm they no doubt wondered why Jesus had sent them out alone. How they would look back at the dim outline of the hills, where they knew He was, and wonder, "Why, Lord, did you send us out into this storm?" What made the situation worse was the fact that v.22 says that Jesus "made His disciples get into the boat." He instructed them to go on to the other side without Him, while He sent the multitude away. Now as the Son of God, Jesus should have been able to anticipate that His disciples would face a storm. Yet, He sent them out by boat. Furthermore, when the storm did come, Jesus did not immediately come to their aid. Evidently, they struggled against the storm for several hours. Note the length of the struggle in v.25. The fourth watch is from 3 to 6:00 a.m.

1 His divinity seems to be stressed by the absence of the article and the position of the word. The next time you face a storm in your life, you may wonder why God didn’t prevent it from happening. You may wonder why God is allowing you to go through the storm. I have been through some storms, so to speak. In 1977 I had a car wreck. I was injured, and I totaled my car on the very day I was going back to Bible College. My first thought was, "Why, God?" In 1982 Cheryl & I went through a storm together when she almost bled to death after the birth of our first son. A few years after that I went through a storm in my first church. Some of the founding leaders were not happy with the direction the church was going in, and put me & the church through a period of grievous conflict. More recently I have gone through the death of my mother & sister. So I and many others have found that it is not a matter of if you are going through a storm, but when. And we often wonder why?

God could protect us from all the storms of life, but He does not do so for the following reasons:

A. To Strengthen Your Character

These many hours the disciples had been harassed by the elements, and they were still a considerable distance from their destination. They really got a workout. They were rowing as hard as they could against the elements, trying to get to the other side. So the storm made them physically stronger. But it also made them spiritually stronger. James 1:2-4 says that the testing of our faith produces patient endurance, which in turn takes us closer to maturity and perfection. That is why James says we should count it all joy when we find ourselves in the various trials of life. Trials have a way of strengthening your character.

I am told that the trees that grow in windy areas produce the strongest wood. Even so, when you respond to the storms of life in the right way, they will not hurt you, but only make you stronger. You see, there are two kinds of storms: storms of correction, when God disciplines us; and storms of perfection, when God helps us to grow.

Another reason why God allowed the disciples to go through this storm was:

B. To Teach a Lesson about God’s Will

Whenever you find yourself in a storm, you need to get ready to learn some important truths. God can teach you things in the storm that He cannot teach you in any other way. Now they had obeyed Jesus, they were in His will, and yet they went through a storm. Many Christians have the mistaken idea that obedience to God’s will produces "smooth sailing." But this is not true. Furthermore, the storm came because they were in the will of God and not, like Jonah, out of the will of God.

Even so, when you are going through some trouble and trial, it is not necessarily because you have been doing something wrong. Some troubles we bring on ourselves. But at others times you can be in the center of God’s will, and still experience a storm in your life. We just have to face the fact that we live in a fallen, sin-cursed world, and you will experience storms and trials and troubles in your life. Jesus promised, "In the world you shall have tribulation" (John 16:33).

Finally, God will allow you to go through a storm:

C. To Experience God in a Fresh, New Way

The storm gave Jesus another opportunity to work in their lives. As we shall see, it led to an experience of His great salvation and victory over the storm. So if you are in God’s will, and yet find yourself in the storm, then get ready, because God is about to do a work in your life, and teach you some lessons! When you go through a storm following God’s will, you can be sure that Christ will be with you to deliver you from the storm. Now let’s move on to the second scene. In the midst of the storm the disciples saw:


The disciples realized they couldn’t fight the storm alone. If we had only v.24 the situation would be gloomy indeed; the violent wind, the darkness, the angry billows, the absence of Jesus! But Jesus intervened in several ways, and He is willing to intervene in your life in many of the same ways.

Now the main thing you need when you go through a storm is faith in Jesus. Notice in v.31 that Jesus rebuked the disciples for having so little faith. They had doubts and fears instead of faith.

Now when you go through a storm, I want to encourage you to:

A. Have Faith in the Prayers of Jesus

In v.23 we read that Jesus "…went up on the mountain by Himself to pray." During His earthly sojourn, Jesus spent much time in prayer. I believe He probably spent several hours in prayer on this particular occasion, for He did not cease praying & come out to rescue His disciples until about "the fourth watch of the night" (v.25), or about 3:00 in the morning. He could have been praying for Himself, praying for strength to resist the temptation of the people, who wanted to make Him an earthly King now (Jn. 6). He could have been praying for guidance. Furthermore, the shadow of the cross had come a little nearer, and was weighing heavily upon His heart. But not only did He pray for Himself; the recorded prayers of Christ offer abundant evidence that He prayed also for others. They could not see Him but according to Mark’s Gospel (Mk. 6:48) He could see them. He knew their distress, and no doubt He prayed for their safety, and He prayed that their faith would remain strong. Though the disciples were scared in Jesus’ absence, they were secure in Jesus’ prayers.

Even so, the Bible teaches that right now Jesus is engaging in an intercessory prayer ministry on our behalf. Heb. 7:25 says, "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them." Romans 8:34 says that Christ "makes intercession for us." So the next time you go through a storm, just remember that Jesus cares for you and is praying for you.

Secondly, you should:

B. Have Faith in the Power of Jesus

When you’re in a powerful storm, you need an even more powerful Savior. So we read in v.25, "Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea." What a display of amazing power! I don’t know how He did it. Perhaps He caused the molecules to lock together to support His weight. Perhaps He temporarily suspended the law of gravity. Perhaps the most likely explanation is that He lifted Himself up enough to counter-balance the force of gravity, as He did in His ascension.

Then we read of another manifestation of His power in v.32, "And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased." What power He had over nature. Once again, even the winds obey His voice! So we should not be surprised to read in v.33 that they "worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.’" Only God has the kind of power that Jesus displayed. When Jesus calmed the first storm (Matt. 8:23-27), the disciples said, "What manner of Man is this?" But now their clear testimony was, "You are the Son of God!" And the fact that He accepted their worship indicates that He acknowledged divinity. So Jesus clearly demonstrated yet again that He was the Son of God. Man can’t walk on the water, but Jesus can.

Now there are three applications I want to make. First, Jesus was showing His supremacy over whatever storm we face. Jesus showed His mastery over the very thing they feared: the wind & the waves. The waves that were over their heads were under His feet. He also caused the wind to cease. Always remember that Jesus is greater than the storm you are facing. So no matter what trial you face, Jesus is able to see you through. Secondly, we ought to imitate the disciples, bow at Jesus’ feet, and acknowledge that He is King of kings and Lord of lords! And finally, just as He brought peace to the raging waters of the Sea, even so He can bring peace to your own heart! When you go through a storm, He can either calm the storm, or He will calm your heart and bring peace if you will trust Him.

Now a third thing you should do in a storm is:

C. Have Faith in the Presence of Jesus

Often we feel like Jesus has deserted us when we are going through the hard times of life. But for the child of God, Jesus always comes to us in the storms of life. He may not come at the time we think He should come, but He will come just when we need Him the most.

Now at first His presence terrorized them (v.26). The sight of a figure walking on the water in the dark, stormy night caused their scalp to creep and their hair stand on end. They assumed that He was a ghost, for men do not walk on water! No doubt they wondered why the "ghost" was coming after them? Possibly they thought that this apparition was a messenger of death to them. But Jesus was not coming to terrorize them, but simply coming to their aid, moved by their helplessness in the grip of forces beyond their control. He was coming to calm their fears, not add to them. He was coming to reassure them of His presence.

Now notice how Jesus comforted them. In v.27 He said, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." Notice that He said "It is I" and only then said, "do not be afraid." His presence is the only rational foundation for calm fearlessness. Psa. 23:4 says, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me…." (KJV). The Lord says to all believers, "Don’t worry about this storm - I’m here." And the consciousness of His presence banishes all fear. And what is there to fear? Christ is either on the mountain interceding for us with the Father, or He is on the sea walking to us. In either case we are secure. There is no reason for anxiety no matter how severe and hopeless the storm appears.

When you go through a storm, you are going to ask, "God, where are you?" But you need to trust in the unseen God, who has promised to be with you in every storm of life. Some of you have seen or read, Love Comes Softly. In that story Clark suffers several tragedies in his life. His wife died and he was left to raise their daughter Missy alone. Later he remarried a widow named Marti, who evidently had very little church background. After the barn burned and they suffered yet another loss, Marti said, "I don’t understand why the God you pray to would let such unthinkable things happen to decent people."

Clark took her to a hill where he worshiped God and said to her, "Missy could fall down and hurt herself even if I’m walking right there beside her. That doesn’t mean that I allowed it to happen. She knows with the father’s unconditional love, I’ll pick her up and I’ll carry her. I’ll try to heal her. I’ll cry when she cries. And I’ll rejoice when she is well. In all the moments of my life, God has been right there beside me. The truth of God’s love is not that He allows bad things to happen. It’s His promise that He’ll be there with us when they do."

Oh, child of God! Just as Jesus manifested His presence in the storm, even so He will be present when you go through a storm. Isa. 43:2 says, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned…." Trust in the promise of God’s presence.

Now let’s move on to scene 3 and see:


Perhaps even more amazing than Jesus walking on the water is the fact that Peter walked on the water! A most interesting person, this Peter. He seems to do nothing halfway. When he is good, he is very good; when he is bad he is very bad. When he repents, he weeps bitterly. He turns from trust to doubt, from clear and open profession of Jesus as the Christ, to rebuking that very Christ. He moved from a vehement declaration of loyalty to base denial, from "By no means shalt thou wash my feet" to "Not my feet only but also my hands and my head" (KJV).

Furthermore, Peter was so impulsive! Notice in v.28 it says, "And Peter answered...." You could count on Peter to be the first to respond. He would try anything. This impulsiveness proved to be a negative trait on several occasions. Just a year later there was the same impulsiveness when he said, "I will lay down my life for Your sake" (John 13:37). Peter’s bravery was short lived. Now notice a few things about Peter’s experience in this story. First:2

A. His Discernment

Peter was very discerning. He knew he had to have faith to be able to walk on the water out to where Jesus was. But he also understood that faith must be based on the Word of God to be true and effective faith. The way to walk on water is to get the permission of Jesus (v. 28). So first, he said, "Lord, if it is You...." This did not express doubt, for it can be translated, "Since it is You, command me to come to you...."

Even so, before you try to walk on water, you must first get the word of Jesus that He will enable you. Faith, apart from God’s promise, is presumption! It is putting God to the test. So don’t do something crazy and expect God to bail you out. Don’t quote the verse, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," and then jump off a tall building, expecting God to enable you to fly. We have no promise from God that He will enable us to fly. To attempt to fly is not faith, but presumption. And you need to have some discernment when you are listening to preachers on TV. Some want you to step out on faith, sell most of what you have, & give it to their ministry. Or someone my convince you to throw away your medicine. Well you better be sure you have a word from God before you do that!

B. His Demonstration of Faith

Peter heard the Lord say, "Come." That is all that he needed. So after receiving the Word, we read in v.29 that Peter "…walked on the water to go to Jesus." One can imagine that with hushed expectation the other apostles looked at Peter as he let himself down over the side of the boat. Do you think Peter tapped the water first with his feet, before putting his full weight on the water? I probably would have done that, but not Peter. I believe he just rather impulsively stepped out of the boat, into the stormy waters. You see, Peter not only stepped out on the water, but he first stepped out on Jesus’ Word! No doubt he was confident in the Master’s ability to enable him to walk on the water. So to the amazement of the other disciples, the impossible happened. He did not sink! In fact, some of our oldest Greek manuscripts indicate that "he came to Jesus" [aorist, accomplished fact; "B" textual rating]. We have to give 2 I removed His Desire as a subpoint– In v.28 Peter said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." To be fair to Peter, I do not believe he wanted to show off. He mainly just wanted to be with Jesus. Notice his request was, "command me to come to You on the water," rather than, "command me to come on the water to You." That translation is faithful to the Greek word order. "On the water" was simply the only way to get to Jesus quickly. Likewise, in John 21:7 we read that after the resurrection, Peter jumped out of the boat and swam to Jesus when he realized He was standing on the shore. Again, he just wanted to be with Jesus. Besides, it probably seemed that in the storm it is safer to be on the water with Jesus than in the boat without Jesus!

Even so, we should desire to be with Jesus. And in fact, the storms of life will often drive you closer to Jesus. Peter credit. Anybody can sit in the boat and watch. But it takes a person of real faith to leave the boat and walk on the water.

Oh the power of what faith can do when God gives us a promise we can rightly claim for ourselves! By faith the power of Jesus flowed unto Peter, and He was able to walk on water just like Jesus! As Peter was held up, so we shall be held up everywhere, and in any storm, as long as we set our confidence and faith upon Him.

Ah, but Peter’s demonstration of faith quickly turned to:

C. His Defeat

In v.30 we read, "But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out…." Peter was doing just fine, walking on the water, but then there was a sudden breakdown in Peter’s trust. The vital link to the source of power was severed and Peter began to sink, and fear gripped his heart. He went from victory to defeat in just a moment. Now we need to learn something from Peter’s defeat. Notice:

1. The Cause of His Defeat

Notice in v.30 that he took his eyes off Jesus and on the circumstances. There we read that "when he saw that the wind was boisterous…." Instead of thinking about how big & powerful Jesus was, Peter started thinking about how big the waves were. He should have been more like young David, who did not concentrate on how big Goliath was, but on how big his God is. In comparison to God, Goliath was rather small! Even so, our faith is sure to fail when we turn away our eyes from Christ to look at the tempest and the dangers. When we go through a storm, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, and not on the circumstances we are facing.

2. The Reasons God Allowed His Defeat

Christ allowed him to sink:

1) because difficulties and dangers often send us back to the trust which the fear had broken. The trial lasted long enough to wash out his self-confidence. His distress got his eyes back on Jesus. Does trouble do that to you?

2) Furthermore, a defeat that leaves you humble is better than a victory that leaves you proud.

D. His Deliverance

Notice in v.30 that Peter, "beginning to sink,… cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’" At this point he got his eyes back on Jesus. Even so, when you are going down, or when you are in danger, that is a grand opportunity to place your faith in Jesus. And when you do, notice what happened in v.31. There we read, "And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him…." The child of God may go down, but he will not go under. So having saved Peter, the implication is that Jesus and Peter walked on the water together and went to the boat. What a Savior Jesus is! As Jesus saved Peter & the other disciples, even so He will save you if you trust Him.


I indicated earlier that I have gone through several storms in my life. At times God allowed the storm or defeat to get my eyes back on Jesus. At times I believe God was just strengthening my character, and teaching me some important lessons. But through it all, I can say that none of those storms really hurt me, but only made me a better person. And you have heard the story of Job. Through all his suffering God taught him some important lessons, and then Job ended up with twice as much as he had before (Job 42:10).

I am probably speaking to someone who is going through a storm right now. Will you turn your eyes upon Jesus right now? Perhaps you are going through a storm because that is the only way you will turn from sin, and trust in Jesus as your Savior. Perhaps you are going through a storm because God wants to strengthen your character, and teach you some important lessons. Will you turn to Jesus right now? Will you place your faith in Him? If He can walk on water, He can handle any problem you are facing. He wants faith to replace fear. He wants to comfort you. Call out to Jesus in prayer, and He will help you.


William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Matthew (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975);

Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 971);

Stephen Felker, Devotional & Explanatory Notes on the Entire Bible (Col. Hghts, VA: Published by Author), 2006;

William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1973);

John MacArthur, Jr. (specific source unknown);

Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Vol 6 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House);

John Phillips, Exploring The Gospel of Matthew: An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1999);

Larry Pierce, Online Bible [CD-ROM] (Ontario: Timnathserah Inc., 1996); Alfred Plummer, An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Matthew, reprint, Christian Publishing Co.;

Jerry Vines (notes from his sermon on this text);

Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Loyal: Matthew (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1980).

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982).

© Dr. Stephen Felker.

Responding to Disaster

by Alex Dodson

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

In a recent news article, the senior pastor of a large church in Dallas, Texas states,

"When you remove prayer, when you allow the killing of children, and when you destroy the basic underpinnings of the family, you have destroyed the infrastructure of any culture. God is no respecter of nations. The nation that fears God will be blessed by God; the nation that turns away from God will be judged by God…"

In 1905, David Brewer, US Supreme Court Justice, wrote,

"…we constantly speak of this republic as a Christian Nation – in fact, as the leading Christian nation of the world. This popular use of the term certainly has significance. It is not a mere creation of the imagination. It is not a term of derision but has substantial basis – one which justifies its use."
(P. xii, The United States a Christian Nation)

Yet, today, many people claim that this nation is not a Christian nation. This shows how far we have come as a people since the early part of the 20th century.

Great disasters have struck this country in recent years including hurricanes, drought, floods, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, and even an attack on our own shores from a foreign enemy. We have responded with all sorts of aide and acts of charity to help the victims of these disasters which is to be commended. We have refined our weather reporting to warn of such disasters ahead of time to help people get ready. When disasters strike, we are great at analyzing all the secondary causes. When our enemies strike us, we strike back decisively which we should. We do all these proper responses to such disasters. Yet, we have failed in one great respect. We have left God out of the picture. We have either totally separated God from such disasters and not even considered any connection or we have attributed all such to Satan and his domain and have said that a loving God would not do such things.

We have become so sophisticated as a people that we attribute just about everything to natural causes only. We quickly say that Mother Nature is just acting up when a tornado or a hurricane strikes. It is true that certain laws of nature are at work in such disasters. Yet we mostly forget the one who controls those laws. Some see God as only a God of love and know nothing of a God of wrath and judgment. All such beliefs are outdated to modern man. All of these disasters have come upon us, yet we have consistently refused to even consider that we as a people might be at fault.

What then is a Biblical view of disasters and how to respond to them. Are disasters only natural events? Should we only consider secondary causes? Have we become so secular as a nation that we no longer consider God has any input on how we live as a people. We have largely ignored the moral law of God as a people and pretty much set up our own morality of what we think is right and wrong. We can by majority vote declare something moral and right and then go on not stopping to consider if what we have approved might be wrong in God’s sight. All of that morality stuff was for an earlier generation. We have outgrown such thinking. So, many think today.

What then about all of these disasters? Do they mean anything or are they just things that have happened with no ultimate cause behind them? We want to consider a very important text in this regard, 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 which says, "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." These verses teach us that the repentance of a people is the Biblical response to disasters. This, of course, is an unpopular teaching today and not believed by our nation based on its response to the disasters that have struck us. We don’t see the people of this land flocking to the churches to mourn over their sins and ask God’s forgiveness for how we have sinned against him. The media would ridicule such an idea. Note the media’s response to a gathering recently in Texas which made some effort in this direction. It is true that we should not see every natural disaster as a punishment for some sin that individuals have committed. Yet, on the other hand, we cannot completely rule out the possibility that repeated disasters on a nation might be God’s judgment on a people. The Bible is full of such and we harm ourselves to ignore the clear Biblical implications of repeated disasters upon a people.

We want to point out first that disasters come upon nations for a reason. In the verses we are considering for this article is found mention of disasters coming upon a nation. Verse 13 says, "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people." There are different kinds of disasters. The Bible talks about famine, sword, and plagues (pestilences). Jeremiah 14:12 mentions all three as instruments of judgment upon a people. The verse says, "Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague." The New Bible Dictionary defines the Hebrew word used in verse 13 for "plague" or "pestilence" – "Originally meaning ‘destruction,’ this word is used comprehensively for all sorts of disasters and is often linked with the sword and famine which three evils generally go hand in hand; and with divine visitation." (p. 1001) So, plague or pestilence could describe any kind of disaster whether coming from the weather, disease, or invasion by an enemy. Here in our text, drought, invasion of pests, and then the word "plague" or "pestilence" is used. All disasters could be included under these words. In recent years, our nation has experienced all kinds of weather disasters whether hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, drought and others such as fire and earthquakes, disease, and even invasion by an enemy.

God uses disasters to discipline nations. Those who have a secular mind set might not believe such could happen in our modern and sophisticated society. Yet, the Bible is not governed by the beliefs of modern society. The Bible definitely teaches that God does and has used disasters to discipline and judge nations. This can be clearly seen in II Chronicles 6:26-27 where Solomon sees the possibility of such in the future. He says, "When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and confess your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance." Notice that drought comes because of the nation’s sin and that God uses drought to teach the people the right way to live. Such thinking is so foreign to our present national mindset that it is difficult to even suggest that our disasters might come upon us because of our national sins.

Ezekiel 6:11 says,

"This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Strike your hands together and stamp your feet and cry out ‘Alas!’ because of all the wicked and detestable practices of the house of Israel, for they will fall by the sword, famine and plague."

If we continue in our sexual immorality of all sorts, our total neglect of the Sabbath Day, our killing of the unborn, and our idolatry in all its modern forms, should we expect any better? The Bible is clear that God punishes nations that fall into sin and refuse to repent. He has done it before and He is doing it now whether we believe it or not.

What then is a Biblical response to disaster? Verse 14 says, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." A Biblical response to disaster is to acknowledge God as a people. Often this verse is used to teach that if Christians repent of their sins, their nation will be healed. However, the emphasis here is that a nation is being addressed and if the people of the nation repent that nation will be healed. Dr. Henry M. Morris comments on this passage in his notes in The New Defenders Study Bible saying, "This verse is often cited by way of exhortation to Christians on behalf of their particular nation, but it was actually a very specific promise to the people of the elect nation, Israel, given to King Solomon on behalf of his own nation Israel." (p. 683) This verse is not so much teaching us that if the Christians in a particular nation repent that their nation will be healed but it is teaching us that if a nation of people repent that nation will be healed. The emphasis is national and is directed to a nation not a people within a nation. Lot and his family acknowledged God but that did not save Sodom. God destroyed Sodom because of its sin despite the fact that Lot who lived there was righteous. Today, if some Christians in America have a meeting and repent of their own sins, that doesn’t mean that God is going to heal America. That is not what the verse teaches. It simply teaches us that if the people of a particular nation repent and turn to God, that nation will be healed.

Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah and that nation was spared. The whole nation repented as a people collectively from the top down. That is a true national repentance. First, a nation as a people need to acknowledge God, to pray and seek his face as a people. John Gill in commenting on this passage writes, "…which contain an answer to the particular requests by Solomon in case of a famine or pestilence, that when the people of Israel should humble themselves in prayer and supplication, the Lord would be attentive to them and forgive them; and which is given as a specimen, and as encouragement to expect the same treatment in all other cases mentioned in Solomon’s prayer, they so behaving." (Commentary on 2 Chronicles –

The nation as a people not only need to pray and seek the face of the Lord but they need to follow through and repent of their sins. Matthew Henry writes, "National judgments are here supposed, famine, and pestilence, and perhaps war, for by the locusts devouring the land may be meant enemies as greedy as locusts, and lying all waste. National repentance, prayer, and reformation are required….God expects that his people who are called by his name, if they have dishonored his name by their iniquity, should honor it by accepting the punishment of their iniquity. They must humble themselves under his hand, must pray for the removal of the judgment, must seek the face and favor of God; and yet all this will not do unless they turn from their ways, and return to the God from whom they have revolted." (Matthew Henry’s Commentary - 2 Chronicles – p. 932-933) We as a nation need to repent of our national sins and to turn as a nation back to the God we have revolted from. When we repent of our sexual immorality in all its variations, of our total disregard of the Christian Sabbath, of our killing of millions of unborn children, and of our enormous idolatries in many forms, then God will heal our land as a nation.

The result of repentance as a people is the healing of their land. Then we will dwell in peace. Then we will have better weather and our land will produce. Then will we be protected from disasters of many kinds. Again Matthew Henry comments, "National mercy is then promised, that God will forgive their sins, which brought the judgment upon them, and then heal their land, redress all their grievances. Pardoning mercy makes way for healing mercy." (Ibid, p. 233) The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible comments on this passage saying, "God promised that the nation would receive relief from hardship caused by sin if the people would turn to him in humility and prayer. Within this general parameter, God retained the prerogative to bless when and how he saw fit." (p. 656) We will see a national healing of our land when we see a national repentance of the people of our land.

Now, we come to our national failure. We have failed to respond to disaster properly. We have done many things to respond to our national disasters such as giving aide to the needy and providing help to those who have suffered. All of this is to be commended. However, the great failure on the part of this nation is that we have not acknowledged God in all of our disasters, we have not owned up to our sinfulness as a people, and we certainly have not repented of our sins. Because of our national failure to do these things, the disasters have continued to come year after year and they will continue to come in the future and may increase in number and degree. Until we as a people own up to our national sins and until we as a people repent of those sins, we can expect national disasters to continue. No nation that divorces itself from the God that same nation once honored can expect to survive as a nation. We cannot secularize the nation and expect God to bless us.

We have left the principles and examples of our forefathers. In the summer of 1623, there was a severe drought at Plymouth, Massachusetts. The drought was long lasting and not even the Indians could remember anything like it before. Edward Winslow wrote, "There scarce fell any rain, so that the stalk of that planting which was first set, began to send forth the ear before it came to half growth, and that which was later, not like to yield any at all, both blade and stalk hanging the head and changing the color in such manner as we judged it utterly dead. Our beans also ran not up according to their wonted manner, but stood at a stay, many being parched away, as though they had been scorched before the fire." (The Light and the Glory, p. 141) What did the people of Plymouth do? Did they analyze all the secondary causes of this drought? Did they just pray for rain? No! They called for an assembly of the people. Winslow writes, "These and the like considerations moved not only every good man privately to enter into examination with his own estate between God and his conscience, and so to humiliation before Him, but also to humble ourselves together before the Lord by fasting and prayer. To that end, a day was appointed by public authority, and set apart from all other employments." (Ibid, p. 141) A day was appointed by public authority to acknowledge God and repent of their sins. What happened? Before the meeting was over, the clouds began to gather and it started raining and continued for fourteen days. The crops were healed and an abundant harvest came in the fall. Their number one thing to do in this disaster was to acknowledge God and repent. As a result, God answered and healed their land. It wasn’t just a few Christians calling a prayer meeting, but by public authority the whole people were called together and the whole people repented.

Our presidential forefathers as leaders of the nation have often called for fasting and prayer and national repentance in the light of national disasters or to prevent such. In 1789 George Washington called on the nation as a people to pray. He wrote in his proclamation, "…that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord, to promote the knowledge and practice of the true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us, and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best." (America’s God and Country, p. 654)

On March 6, 1799, President John Adams called for a National Fast Day in which he said, "As no truth is more clearly taught in the Volume of Inspiration, nor any more fully demonstrated by the experience of all ages, than that a deep sense and a due acknowledgement of the growing providence of a Supreme Being and of the accountableness of men to Him as the searcher of hearts and righteous distributor of rewards and punishments are conducive equally to the happiness of individuals and to the well-being of communities…..that the citizens on that day abstain, as far as may be, from their secular occupation, and devote the time to the sacred duties of religion, in public and in private; that they call to mind the numerous offenses against the most high God, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore his pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through the grace of His Holy Spirit, we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to his righteous requisitions in time to come; that He would interpose to arrest the progress of that impiety and licentiousness in principle and practice so offensive to Himself and so ruinous to mankind; that He would make us deeply sensible that ‘righteousness exalteth a nation but sin is a reproach to any people." (Ibid, p. 11)

In the midst of the Civil War on March 30, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln called for a national fast day. He wrote, "And whereas, it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history: that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord: And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisement in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?" (Ibid, p. 383)

Now, where are such proclamations today by our national leaders? They do not exist. That’s our national failure. We have not acknowledged God like our forefathers did in the light of national disasters or in the light of the fact that we are a sinful people.

Today, our greatest need is a national repentance, not the repentance of a few Christians within the nation but the repentance of the nation as a whole people. That will come about when a national spiritual revival takes place that only God can send. Our duty as Christians is to pray for a national spiritual revival to fall upon this land before it is too late. Only then will we see a national repentance and a healing of this land.

Works Cited

All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (1978) unless indicated otherwise

Brewer, David J. The United States – A Christian Nation, American Vision Press, Powder Springs, Georgia, 1996. (Originally published 1905)

Douglas, J. D., ed. The New Bible Dictionary, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1962.

Federer, William J. America’s God and Country, Fame Publishing, Inc., USA, 1996.

Gill, John. Commentary on 2 Chronicles, .

Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. II – Joshua to Esther, Fleming H. Revell Company, USA, originally in 1708.

Marshall, Peter and Manuel, David. The Light and the Glory, Fleming H. Revell Company, Old Tappan, New Jersey, 1977.

Morris, Henry M. The New Defenders Study Bible, World Publishing, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1995.

Pratt, Richard L. Jr., ed. Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2003.

About Alex Dodson

Alex Dodson serves as president of Watchmen Radio Ministries International and as a staff evangelist. He is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary and is presently a member of International Ministerial Fellowship. He has also done postgraduate studies at the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary. ...

Source: Watchman Radio Hour
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Where Revival Begins

by Dr. Ray Pritchard

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 7:14

The Scottish poet Robert Burns said it this way:

"Would some power give us the gift
To see ourselves as others see us!"

It's a gift most of us need to receive more often. We all want to believe the best about ourselves. That's natural, and it's even healthy. But it's also healthy to have someone hold the mirror in front of your face and say, "This is what you really look like." It can be a very instructive experience.

We all want to believe the best about ourselves

Spiritual progress begins when we see ourselves as God sees us. It's one thing when a friend says, "This is what you look like." It's another thing for God to utter those words. We can sometimes fool even our closest friends, but it's impossible to fool the Lord. Hebrews 4:13 says, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." He knows what we say behind closed doors, the secret thoughts no one else can hear, the hidden motives, the buried ambition, and all the twists and turns of our sinful nature. He doesn't have to uncover our thoughts; he already knows them.

This is a sermon about revival. Let's start with the word itself. You revive something when you bring it back to life. You can't revive something that has never been alive in the first place. That's why revival is different from evangelism. Evangelism is preaching the gospel to the lost that they might be saved. Revival awakens the saved from a state of spiritual slumber. When God sends revival, the church wakes up. Or to give a more formal definition, revival is the sovereign act of God, whereby he calls his backsliding people to repentance, faith, and new obedience to him.

Revival is God's wake-up call!

I grew up in a church tradition that emphasized "revival meetings," usually week-long gatherings where a visiting minister would challenge us spiritually. I can remember sitting with rapt attention as Angel Martinez preached night after night at the church where I grew up. That was at least 50 years ago. Probably the greatest move of God I've been part of happened during a youth revival in May 1970. Lives were changed forever by the decisions made that weekend. I say that so you'll know I'm not speaking against "revival meetings." Not at all. They can be greatly used of God. I simply point out that revival is a sovereign move of God that can't be scheduled in advance.

Our text comes from 2 Chronicles 7:14, which is perhaps the most famous verse on revival in the Bible:

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

In the preceding verses the Lord lays out certain hard times that might come to the people of God. There might be a drought or a plague of locusts or an outbreak of disease in the land. 1 Kings 8 adds other times, such a crushing military defeat, or famine or blight or cities under siege by the enemy, or being sent into captivity. This verse is meant for God's people whenever there is trouble in the land. The promise always applies, but in desperate times we need to pay close attention to verses like this.

2 Chronicles 7:14 was written for such a time as this. Let's consider what it says under three headings.

I. The Subjects of Revival

"If my people, who are called by my name" (v. 14a).

These two phrases tell us this verse is limited to those who know the Lord. In this political season, when clergy of all stripes rush to support their preferred candidates, it's important to remember 2 Chronicles 7:14 was not written to the Democrats or the Republicans. This is not a blanket invitation that applies to anyone, anywhere, at any time. God limits this invitation to those who are "his people." This is not, for instance, a verse that applies to the Hindus. Nor does it apply to mankind in general. This promise applies to those who know Jesus and to no one else. To be called by the name of the Lord means you have called upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Romans 10:13).

II. The Conditions for Revival

"Will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways"

Here are the four conditions for revival:

#1: Humility

What exactly is humility? Although many answers might be given, perhaps the simplest is that humility means seeing my true condition before God. After all, pride is simply taking credit for things that I'm not really responsible for. When we start feeling too puffed up about ourselves, we need to remember 1 Corinthians 4:7, "What do you have that you did not receive?" The answer is nothing. Not even Bill Gates can say, "I did this by myself." To be sure, it took courage and ingenuity and commitment and perseverance to build Microsoft. Mr. Gates sits atop a multi-billion-dollar empire that didn't happen by chance. Give that man all the credit he deserves. The same applies to every other successful man or woman in any field of endeavor. Kudos to anyone who has "made it" to the top. But just remember this. The strength to do the task, the intelligence to put together the plan, the skill to bring all the parts together, the courage to make it happen—all of it comes directly from God. It is true that between the richest man and the poorest man there is a great gulf in terms of worldly possessions. But on one point—the only one that counts—there is no difference. Both are alike the recipients of the grace of God. Neither man has anything to boast about. When we understand that, it changes the way we look at life, it changes the way we evaluate ourselves, and it changes the way we treat other people. If we are wise, it also changes our view of worldly success. We won't base our self-image on our net worth when we believe God isn't impressed with our bank account. We'll have time for people because we understand we are all created by the same God.

#2: Prayer

What sort of prayer is the Lord talking about? It is the sincere prayer of a person who realizes his true condition. When I understand everything I have comes as a gift from God, my prayers will be filled with gratitude, love and praise. I will cry out to God, confessing how far short I fall of his divine standards. And every day I will remember the words of Jesus, "Without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

# 3: Seeking God's Face

The phrase "seek my face" is a familiar one in the Old Testament. It has to do with the direction of my life. It is very similar to the fourth beatitude: "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6). To seek God's face is to hunger for a closer walk with him. Many of us know little of this because we fill our stomachs with spiritual junk food that never satisfies but keeps us from seeking nutritious food. The question is, what are you hungry for right now? Those who are hungry to know God seek one thing; those who are hungry for a career seek something else. What you are hungry for determines what you seek.

# 4: Turning from our Wicked Ways

At some point things have to change. We must repent. To repent means you turn from your wicked ways. You used to cheat on your wife, but now you don't. You used to be lazy, but now you aren't. You used to fill your mind with bitterness, but now you don't. Once you were angry most of the day, but now you have turned away from anger. Once you were sloppy on the job when the boss wasn't watching, but not anymore. Once you lived in lust for that which God has forbidden you to have, but not anymore. Once you lived to party on the weekends, but that life is part of your past. Whatever your wicked ways are, revival means turning from those ways to the ways that Please God. It means a definite break with the past and a deliberate change of direction.

If you think about it, these four conditions form a kind of progression:

  • You will never pray with any fervency until you see your true condition before God.
  • You will never seek God's face until you begin to get serious about prayer.
  • You will never turn from your wicked ways until God becomes all-important in your life.
  • Humility leads to prayer. Prayer leads to seeking God's face. Seeking God's face leads to turning from our wicked ways.

III. The Results of Revival

"Then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (v. 14c).

We need to think carefully about this because it's easy to turn 2 Chronicles 7:14 into a formula for revival. Certainly the verse lays out a plan for us to follow. The word "then" encourages us to believe our crying to God will never be in vain.

Our tears are not in vain.
Our prayers are not in vain.
Our burden is not in vain.
Our sadness is not in vain.
Our desperation is not in vain.

Our prayers are not in vain

Perhaps we can say it this way. When we are so dissatisfied with the status quo that we cry out to God for help, the answer will indeed come from heaven and things will begin to change. We must not limit God as to the how and the when. He is still the sovereign God who does whatever pleases him (Psalm 115:3). We must not dictate to the Lord about how the answer from heaven will come. He will answer in his own time, in his own way, according to his own will. But we have this assurance:

He will hear.
He will forgive.
He will heal.

If we do our part, though it will seem very incomplete, God will certainly do his. If we humble ourselves, and if we pray, and if we seek his face, and if we turn from our wicked ways, knowing all the while that we still fall short, God will move from heaven to come to our aid.

Politics is Not the Answer

This verse gives me hope because we seem to be in a bad state today. I cannot remember a time when America was more divided than we are at this moment. As a nation, we have turned away from the Lord. How will we ever find our way back to God?

The answer won't come from the White House.
Politics will not save us.
Putting another justice on the Supreme Court won't heal our land.

I say that in full recognition that it matters greatly how we vote because it matters who sits in the White House and makes those judicial appointments. We have to vote. I'm all for speaking out and taking a stand.

But when all is said and done, our greatest need is not political; our greatest need is spiritual. We need another great awakening in our land. Perhaps it will come in our day. I certainly hope so. Perhaps we will see another Layman's Prayer Movement sweep our nation. I'm certainly encouraged by the thousands who have come to the various state capitals to pray with Franklin Graham. I'm very glad about the hundreds of thousands who came to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for the "Together 2016" event. Later this year a number of ministries are planning different events to call the church to prayer. I urge you to get involved in praying with others for revival. Across the nation churches have come together to pray in response to the shootings that have taken place. This is all to the good.

Praying in the Last Days

Let me add one final thought. I believe we are living in the last days before the coming of the Lord. It certainly seems like the "terrible times" of 2 Timothy 3:1 have come true in our generation. I don't have any secret information about the date of the Lord's return. I'm simply giving my observation on the basis of what the Bible says about the last days.

What if Jesus is coming soon? What difference should that make to us? Can we still expect a move of God in the last days of human history? With all my heart, I believe the answer is yes. Take a quick look at Luke 18:1-8, which we call the Parable of the Persistent Widow. Most of us know the story about the judge who gave the widow what she wanted because she wore him out by coming back again and again. It's an easy-to-grasp lesson on the importance of persistence when we pray. That much is obvious. But here's the kicker. Jesus ends the story this way: "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). Where did that come from? This isn't a parable about the second coming. It's about prayer. But Jesus applies it to the situation on the earth when he returns.

What's up with that?

We need to read this against the larger New Testament teaching that in the last days there will be a huge turning away from the Lord. It is sometimes called the "apostasy" or the "falling away." You can read about it in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21 and 2 Thessalonians 2. As we rush headlong toward the return of Christ, we should expect to see exactly what is happening today:

False Christs.
Spiritual counterfeits.
Christians compromising their faith.
Pastors turning away from the truth.
Spiritual leaders who mislead the flock of God.

The Last Days will be awash in spiritual deception

As the foundations of society crumble beneath us, we will see this happening more and more. All these things are just the "beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:8).

We ought to read Luke 18:9 in light of those passages. In a world where truth has become entirely subjective, where feelings trump biblical commands, where we reinterpret the Bible to justify our sin, Jesus' poignant question takes on a deeper meaning:

When the Son of Man comes…
Will he find faith in your church?
Will he find faith in your family?
Will he find faith in your heart?

While going through my files, I found the notes from the final sermon I preached at the first church I pastored after seminary. On that parting Sunday I told the people, "I have some prayers I have prayed for a long time." I listed a number of requests I had brought before the Lord. My notes say I had just talked with someone whose marriage was in trouble because of an enslaving habit. They were in despair and needed a place to live. No name is written down, and I can honestly say that 33 years later, I have no idea who I was praying for back then. But I added this…

Will we keep on praying?

"Not all my prayers have been answered… yet!!!"

As we journey along through life, there will always be some prayers that haven't been answered yet. Will we give up or will we keep praying? That's what Jesus means when he asks, "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"

Will he find anyone still believing or will everyone turn away?
Will he find faithful believers who still pray as the world self-destructs?

We can make sure the answer is yes. We can do our part by praying persistently, unitedly, fervently, joyfully, and faithfully. I believe those end-time prayers will have great power with the Lord because they are offered in the face of persecution, ridicule, and rising unbelief.

God will not let those prayers go to waste.

Start by Looking in the Mirror

So where does revival begin? The answer is always the same. It begins with you and it begins with me. It's one thing to talk about what stands between our nation and revival or between my church and revival. It's always easier to confess someone else's sins. Ask God what stands between you and a new experience of his power and blessing. If you ask in sincerity, God will surely answer.

The call of Christ is always personal

Do we have to stay the way we are? The answer is, "No, but." We have to start by understanding "the way we are." Once we see that, the possibility of genuine change and real spiritual growth is open to us. So I end where I began. Revival is not far away when we see ourselves as God sees us. It's easy to say, "America needs to get right with God" or "My neighbor needs changing" or "My church needs revival." Those statements can become excuses for evading our own responsibility.

The call of Christ is always personal. He calls us one by one to follow him. Perhaps we should repeat the Chinese prayer that goes this way: "O Lord, change the world. Begin, I pray thee, with me." Revival begins with the person you see when you look in the mirror. Start there and by God's grace revival will begin inside your own heart.

© Keep Believing Ministries

Hope When You Face More Than You Can Bear

by Scott Churnock

Have you ever heard someone say, "God will never give you more than you can bear"?


Is this what the Bible teaches? Is this what your own experience confirms? Let's be honest. In those seasons when we are walking through "the valley of the shadow of death," this platitude not only provides little comfort, but it also piles a lot of guilt on us.

The apostle Paul, who was no weakling in the faith, described his feelings of anguish to the Corinthian church: For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. (2 Cor. 1:8)

Paul doesn't describe the affliction that caused him to despair even of life, but he does let us know that it was more than he could bear! In 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, Paul gives us a minicourse on affliction - a divine lifeline for those times when we are "burdened beyond our strength." The Reality of Affliction "Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death" (2 Cor. 1:9a).

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul is intentionally vague about the nature of his suffering. The specifics aren't important. It is the reality of the pain and hopelessness he felt that Paul seeks to convey to his readers. This means that Christians who face various forms of suffering, affliction, and pain can identify with Paul and be helped in the same way.

This affliction had pushed Paul beyond his limits. His situation was so desperate and utterly beyond his ability to handle, that he thought he was going to die. The very words Paul uses are those of a man on death row. He was in a hopeless situation with no human way of escape.

Does God only give us what we can bear? Not according to Paul! If God only gives us what we can handle, if he only gives us what we can bear, why do we need him? If we have the ability to handle what comes our way in this life, just maybe we have within us the ability to deal with the next life as well.

The Reason for Affliction? "But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead" (2 Cor. 1:9b).

Afflictions have a divinely ordained purpose, namely, to change our perspective regarding ourselves. Paul's words here literally mean, "to make us stand not relying on our ourselves…" He was pushed beyond the limits of his human ability and was confronted with the complete inadequacy of self-reliance in the face of certain death. This pain brought him to the place of dependence upon the One who not only has power over death but also has defeated it.

This is why afflictions are a divine blessing in disguise. When we are pressed beyond our limits, these hard providences reveal our inability to deal with the ultimate reality: death. If we can't handle cancer, what makes us think we can handle death? These "unbearable" times are when God draws us closer to himself in simple faith.

The Response to Affliction He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again (2 Cor. 1:10). Because we know that our good and gracious God is at work in our pain to bring us to a greater dependence upon him alone, we can respond to these times with hope.

Hope grows in the soil of affliction. In this fertile ground, the Holy Spirit makes us aware of the glorious hope we have in Christ. Our gracious heavenly Father often does deliver us from the many afflictions of this life, but these temporal deliverances cause us to look to the future with hope and anticipation for the great deliverance yet to come. While we cannot be certain that God will remove the crushing burden we face right now, we can be assured of his ultimate deliverance. He is the one who raises the dead, and upon him we have set our hope.

The gospel is not a promise that all our problems in this life will be solved - or that we will never face anything beyond our ability to bear. The gospel is all about Christ. He is everything we need. He is our only hope. Our loving heavenly Father often burdens us beyond our ability in order to deepen our dependence upon Christ, who is our true strength. He may even bring us to despair of life itself, so that we might find the comfort and strength of resting on the One who raises the dead.


Getting Right with God

by Rick Ezell

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 7


I imagine that it was on a beautiful fall day that Solomon and the people of Israel came together to dedicate the temple. They had worked long and hard to build a permanent and magnificent structure to house the Ark of the Covenant. Finally, the day had arrived for the temple dedication. The people gathered and Solomon prayed. "When Solomon finished praying fire descended from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple" (2 Chron. 7:1).

I don't know about him, but if I were in his shoes, this would have been an unforgettable experience. I would have been his "foxhole" experience. I understand that in war when the bullets are flying and the bombs are exploding all around and a soldier feels that any breath will be the last, there are no atheists. Everyone gets right with God. If Solomon wasn't right with God before this manifestation of God, he would have been afterwards.

It boggles my mind at the thought of fire falling and filling a place. In my wildest dreams I cannot imagine the result of God igniting a place. I do know that I would be shaking in my boots and doing everything in my power to get right with God.

This encounter teaches us what happens when a person gets right with God.

I. When a person get rights with God

A. The purifying fire of God's presence makes them holy like God

God has always used fire to identifying his presence and purify his people. To Moses, God spoke through a burning bush, saying the place you are standing is holy ground. To Elijah, God consumed the altar with fire from heaven, proclaiming, among other things, that this was a holy man. To the first few believers in Jerusalem, God visited them in a violent blowing wind and tongues of fire, announcing that these were a holy people. To Solomon and the worshipers at the Temple, God came as a fire from heaven consuming the temple, stating that this was a holy place.

People who are right with God are separated from the world. They are holy. Jesus prayed that all his followers would be separated from the world, "I am not praying that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth" (John 17:15-19). Jesus used the word sanctify three times. It means to set apart for sacred use or make holy. Remember what Peter wrote, "but, as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy" (1 Peter1:15-16).

A person who is right with God is a holy person. They have separated themselves from the world. They have distanced themselves from sin. They have detached themselves from evil. It shows up in how they live, how they talk, and how they think.

A law of physics states that two object can't occupy the same space. That is true regarding our hearts. God and sin can't occupy the same space. A person who is right with God has confessed their sin so that only God resides in their heart.

Are you holy? Are you separated from the world? Have you distanced yourself from sin?

B. The consuming fire of God compels them to worship God

Notice what the people of Israel did. "All the Israelites were watching when the fire descended and the glory of the LORD came on the temple. They bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement. They worshiped and praised the LORD: For He is good, for His faithful love endures forever" (2 Chron. 7:3). Worship is a response to God's presence, his all-consuming holiness, and his glory. Worship is expressing our love to God for who he is, what he's said, and what he's doing. In genuine worship the warmth of God's presence is felt, the cleansing of God's pardon is offered, the burning of God's purposes are revealed, and the flame of God's power is displayed.

People who are right with God have fallen in love with the God of the universe meet him in his consuming glory. They long to meet God in worship. They know that worship does not lead to an encounter with God; it is an encounter with God.

Do you long to encounter God in worship? Does your heart seek to respond to God's glory, greatness, and goodness?

C. The spreading fire of God leads them to witness of God

The nature of fire is to purify and to consume. Its nature is also to spread. God not only wants his presence to consume us resulting in our worship; he also wants his fire to spread into the hearts of others. An intimate connection exists between worship and witnessing. The goal of our witnessing produces worshipers of God. And at the same time, worship provides the motivation for witnessing. Worship produces a desire in us to tell others about Christ.

God said to Solomon, "and [If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land" (2 Chron. 7:14). If is the biggest two-letter word in the English language. The destiny of persons, families, and nations hinges on that one little word. This statement was a word from God to Solomon following the temple dedication ceremony. The temple symbolized commitment to worship and partnership with God. If suggests responsibility on the hearer's part. God was saying to Solomon, "You are the man to carry my flame into the world." And, to the nation of Israel, "You are the people. The responsibility of proclaiming my forgiveness and healing is yours."

The responsibility for spreading the flame of God's forgiveness and healing rests squarely on the hearer's shoulders. Just as God was saying to Solomon you are the man, he is saying to you and me, "You are the man! You are the woman!" Just as God was saying to the people of Israel you are the people, he is saying to every Christian Church, "You are the people." When the fire falls on us we are compelled to burn for others. If the fire would fall on others, our hearts have to burn.

When one is right with God they can't help but tell others about the glory, greatness, and goodness of God. Witness of God is a natural outgrowth of one who is in love with God.

We used to speak of those Christ-followers passionate about sharing their faith as being on fire. Could it be that we don't say that phrase today because so few are on fire? Are you on fire for God? A person right with God has a passion for God and compassion for others. They tell others about him.

Let's conduct a spiritual audit. Are you separated from the world? Are you responding to God in worship? Are you a faithful witness for Christ?

II. What will it take for us to be set on fire?

What will it take for us to be set on fire? Fire cannot be ignited when it is in an environment that is hostile to combustion. We, to be on fire, must be composed of combustible material. We must find a way to create a kind of spiritual reaction that creates both heat and light. And that way is no secret. God gives us the formula for starting a fire in our hearts. Actually it is as simple as striking a match and lighting a pile of dried cornhusks. The way for God to get a grip on us is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14. If . . . humble themselves . . . pray . . . seek my face. . turn from their evil ways . . . .

A. Take personal responsibility

If shows our responsibility. Getting right with God is your responsibility. It is not the pastor's responsibility, your deacon's responsibility, your parent's responsibility, your Sunday school teacher's responsibility. It is your responsibility.

B. Humble yourself before God

Humble themselves is a statement of position. Last week we talked about Jacob humbling himself to be reconciled with his brother Esau. That same position is needed in reconciling our relationship with God. When we humble ourselves we bend low; we prostrate; we fall to the ground. Jacob fell on the ground seven times before he met his brother. It is worth remembering the root of the words humiliation and humility is humus, meaning dirt or soil. We meet God on our knees. Like two sides of the same coin, a humble person not only sees himself or herself as they are - lowly and desperate; they see God as he really is - majestic, sovereign, omnipotent, and gracious. We see a God who, too, humbled himself on a cross, so that he could be in relationship with us.

C. Spend time with God

Pray indicates a relationship between the Creator and us, the created. It is hard to get right with God if you aren't spending time with God. Statistics reveal that most evangelical Christians spend less than ten minutes a day in prayer and Bible reading. How can we be right with God if we aren't in conversation with God?

D. Long for God's presence

Seek my face shows the intent of our desire to be with God. Notice, it does not say "seek my hand." Too often we seek God's hand - what he can do for us; rather than seek God's face - who he is. If you want to get right with God, don't just seek what God can do for you, seek God. Peter Lord said, "If we only seek God for what he can do for us, rather than seeking him for him, we are spiritual idolaters."

E. Walk toward God

Turn from their evil ways shows the direction of our walk - toward God. The theological word for turning from our wicked, sinful, unholy lifestyle and walking toward God is repentance. Repentance means to turn around. It is to say I'm going in the wrong direction; I need to turn from my wicked way. The practical word repent is useful to describe a moral and spiritual act of getting right with God. Repentance does not mean to feel sorry, or to cry over, or to blame someone else for the wrongs in one's life. Repentance is the act of changing the direction in which the heart is inclined. It is a spiritual "about-face." It is a change of mind that calls for a change of way. The Greek word for repentance metanoeo means "to change one's mind; to think differently; to turn one's heart away from sin and toward God." Repentance is an act of the will. A volitional choice on our part to turn around.


Those are the steps that it will take to get right with God. Are you ready and willing to take those steps?

One of the saddest scenes is the burning embers of churches that have been burnt to the ground. What if we saw similar headlines, "Church on Fire," because it members demonstrated a purity of holiness, an intensity in worship, and a passion for witness? Wouldn't it be awe-inspiring if the fire of God's presence fell on people in extraordinary measure? Wouldn't it be attractive if our churches caught on fire spreading God's message to their communities and beyond?

You know what would happen, don't you? People would come and watch us burn.

As a young boy in that small Alabama town, I remember hearing the fire siren atop the town's water tower. I would wait for the sound of the fire truck seeing which direction it would speed off toward a blaze. And, then something interesting would happen. A parade of cars would follow in hot pursuit of the fire truck, some to help the volunteers, but most to watch the fire.

Church buildings will not attract many people, but fire in the hearts of holy people who worship and witness in them will. Christians who carry large Bibles will not attract many people, but people who are right with God will.

Is your heart aglow? Are you on fire? What steps do you need to take to get right with God?

About The Author:

Rick Ezell is the pastor of First Baptist Greer, South Carolina. Rick has earned a Doctor of Ministry in Preaching from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master of Theology in preaching from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Rick is a consultant, conference leader, communicator, and coach.

Source: Lifeway
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