More To Know
Spiritual leaders are facing some serious challenges. So much of what the Bible warns concerning believers of the faith, has and is happening. People who once seemed to be on fire for the Lord are now lukewarm and uninspired. Many who demonstrated a passion for the Word and Truth of God now rarely pick up a Bible or gather with other believers. The soul-winners, the evangelists, those who were consistently committed to witnessing to the lost have barely shared a tract or a testimony.
There is a demonic campaign afoot to lull people to sleep, spiritually. The devil does not want people to be aware and awake. The intent of the enemy is to divert attention away from the Lord, His Word, His Ways and His Warnings.
1 Peter 5:8 KJV
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
1 Peter 5:8 AMP
8 Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour.
The Greek word in the original text translated ‘devour’ is katapinÓ. According to Strong’s Concordance #2666 the word means ‘to drink down’. The word is also used to mean ‘to swallow’, ‘to destroy’ or ‘to consume’.
The devil’s desire is to get rid of you, if you are a child of the King. If you belong to the Lord and have submitted your life to Him, your adversary wants to destroy you. He, the devil, is cunning and crafty. He doesn’t come running at you with a big butcher knife to stab you in the heart and slit your throat. His tactics are much more subtle. Know that what he does is certainly as effective as the attack just described. But he does it in less obvious ways. Anyone with any sense of self-preservation would avoid any association with an individual who wants to kill them. But this enemy is clever, strategic and doesn't mind waiting for an opportune time to attack. He does not initially let a person know what he is all about. He presents himself as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14) But he is actually the devil of darkness and danger.
2 Corinthians 2:11 KJV
11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
In the verse above, Paul the Apostle warns us that the devil uses many forms of deception. He has various tricks and tools that he uses against humanity. If one idea doesn’t produce the results he wants, he will try another form of trickery. We are to be aware of how the enemy works. Something that may seem like it is not detrimental to your spiritual growth is actually weakening your stamina.
1 Peter 5:9 AMP
9 But resist him, be firm in your faith [against his attack—rooted, established, immovable], knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being experienced by your brothers and sisters throughout the world. [You do not suffer alone.]
Our stance of success is resistance, refusal and rebuking. Too many believers accept what the enemy says and does as fact. If you know a person hates you and wants to destroy you, why would you listen to or believe anything they say?
James 4:7 AMP
7 So submit to [the authority of] God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him] and he will flee from you.
Becoming and remaining strong in the Lord begins with submitting to, yielding to and obeying the Lord and His Word. Come under the Lord’s authority and remain there. Some folks want to keep climbing out the window in the middle of the night. They sneak back in just before dawn and act like they have been inside all night. But the devil knows who is authentic and who is just ‘playing church’. Just when it will hurt the most, that snake in the grass will expose those who are living a double life. Don’t let him make a fool out of you.
1 Peter 4: 1-2 KJV
Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.
Thinking and believing like the Lord Jesus Christ arms us and fortifies us against the wiles or tactics of satan and his imps. The scriptures are one way that the Lord makes His thoughts known. If you want to know how and what someone thinks, read their writings. The Bible is given to us so we know how the Lord expects us to live.
2 Timothy 3:16 AMP
16 All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage];
In the natural, we are not smarter than the devil. He has more experience, he has no morals and he doesn’t follow the rules. He will cheat, lie, steal and kill to get his way. We need help in recognizing his evil ways and instructions on how to stay out of his traps. We have the Word of God which satan cannot overcome. And we have the Holy Spirit Who knows all things. The Holy Spirit will lead and guide us into ALL Truth!
John 16:13 KJV
13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
Sadly, a spiritual crisis isn’t coming - - it is already here. Many spiritual leaders have given up the fight. They quit resisting, learning, leaning and loving. They are exhausted from trying to pull people along the path of righteousness. It is hard to inspire people who no longer care. We must arm ourselves (Ephesians 6:13-18) with the whole armor of God. And sincerely encourage others to do the same. Don’t think that becoming lukewarm can’t happen to you. The only ones who are immune to satan’s tactics are those who have already fallen asleep in the Lord. If you are not in the grave then you are a target of the enemy. He is out to get you and he will unless you prepare according to the wisdom of the Word and Spirit of God.
In the book of Judges Samson was used mightily by and for the Lord. But without realizing what was happening, he became weak. It is vital not to rely on past successes and victories. It is of utmost importance to spiritually build ourselves up. We must keep ourselves spiritually fit, aware and prepared.
Jude 1: 20 AMP
20 But you, beloved, build yourselves up on [the foundation of] your most holy faith [continually progress, rise like an edifice higher and higher], pray in the Holy Spirit,
Samson expected that he would continue to be able to conquer and overcome just as he always had. But the enemy was working on him and slowly eroded his resolve. Eventually Samson gave away the source of his strength and the enemy was able to surprise and capture him. Samson’s demise happened a little at a time. He had no idea that he was being lulled to sleep, spiritually and naturally. When he woke up naturally and shook himself, his power was gone.
Judges 16: 19-20 AMP
19 She made Samson sleep on her knees, and she called a man and had him shave off the seven braids of his head. Then she began to abuse Samson, and his strength left him.
20 She said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as I have time after time and shake myself free.” For Samson did not know that the Lord had departed from him.
When some people realize that a crisis is here many will shake themselves like Samson. But because they have not armed themselves, they, like Samson, will discover that their strength is gone. Prepare now. Abide in the Lord and let His words abide in you. (John 15:7)
Be strong in the Lord. (Ephesians 6: 10-18) Study and apply these instructions.
Be Ready. The war is won but the fight is on!
This passage is toward the end of the book of Job. It is after Job’s friends have shared their thoughts and Job has shared his. Now the Lord God is speaking and He is challenging Job. Based on what Job has said, the Lord charges that Job has spoken “words without knowledge”. (Job 38:1) Based on Job’s big talk, the Lord asked him some questions: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4) “Have you commanded the morning…and caused the dawn to know its place?” (Job 38:12) “Have the gates of death been revealed to you?” (Job 38:17) In Job 38:18 the Lord says to Job, “Tell Me, if you know it all.”
In the next chapter, Job 39, the Lord asks Job about his knowledge of the animal kingdom. This is Job 39:14 – 15 AMP:
14 The ostrich leaves her eggs on the ground and warms them in the dust,
15 Forgetting that a foot may crush them or that the wild beast may trample them.
When we look at the other birds, the ostrich seems like an oddity. Most birds fly - - the ostrich cannot. Birds usually, not always, but usually build their nests in the trees or some other high place which helps protect the eggs. The ostrich makes the nest on the ground. And it is kind of like a community nest because other females also put their eggs in the same communal nest. One ostrich may lay 12 – 18 eggs but the nest may have as many as 60 eggs in it. The dominant female puts hers in the middle, then the other eggs are placed around those. Even though ostriches are often depicted as sticking their heads in the sand they don’t really do that.
Job 39:16-17 AMP
16 She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers; her labor is in vain because she has no sense of danger [for her unborn brood],
17 For God has deprived her of wisdom, neither has He imparted to her understanding.
The Lord Himself is saying here that the ostrich is not that smart. Yet God created them the way they are for His purposes and for His glory. He likes them!
Job 39:18 AMP
Yet when she lifts herself up in flight [so swift is she that] she can laugh to scorn the horse and his rider.
Even though the ostrich is lacking some attributes that are seen as advantageous and common for birds, the Lord gave the ostrich some characteristics and abilities that other birds lack.
Their ‘flight’ mentioned in verse 18 refers to their speed.
- They can outrun most horses.
- They can sustain a running speed of 40 miles per hour.
- The stride for an adult can be as much as 25’ in length.
- They can live as long as a human being…generally 50 to 75 years old.
- They fight with their feet. They can kill a lion with one kick.
Now if God put all that thought and originality into a witless bird, what about you? What about us? He took a lot more care in our development than He did with the ostrich. We know that we are fearfully and wonderfully made! Sometimes believers live and think like their life doesn’t matter, or that God has forgotten them or He has no real purpose for them being here. None of that is true.
Remember what the Lord said to Jeremiah as recorded in Jeremiah 1:5 AMP “Before I formed you in the womb I knew [and] approved of you [as My chosen instrument]…
The Lord says, ‘knew’, past tense. He knew everyone of us even before our parents met each other. He also gave us the ‘thumbs up’. He approved of us. He was pleased with the life we would live for Him. He was satisfied and pleased with how He created each one of us to be!
This is the rest of Jeremiah 1:5 AMP
…and before you were born I separated you and set you apart, consecrating you;[and] I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.
This is God’s stamp not only on Jeremiah, but also on every believer. He marks us as His own. This is the distinction…
- Knew you – way, way back He already had you in His thoughts and plans
- Formed you – your character, attributes and abilities are specifically suited to what He has determined for you to be and to do
- Approved of you – He looked at you, clapped His hands and said, ‘Yay! It’s all good!’
- Separated you before you were born – you were put into a different category from those who would not obey, not listen and not serve.
- Set you apart – those He can trust with His assignments and purposes are deemed different from the rest
- Consecrating you – in the AMP all of these other distinctions are past tense. This one is not past tense. It is current. The ‘ing’ ending means it is ongoing, active, current, still happening. Consecrating means being singled out from the crowd specifically for the Lord’s use and glory. This special treatment began before you were even known by your mother and continues even right this minute!
- Appointed you – He chose you on purpose. Because He does all things well, He equipped, prepared and chose you.
- Gave you your assignment – He told Jeremiah at the end of verse five what he would be doing for the Lord. God said, “I appointed you (again, past tense) as a prophet to the nations.”
What is going on in our lives isn’t always clear to us. But it is crystal clear to the Lord. The plan didn’t just start when we became aware of it. It has been in the works way, way back…a long time ago!
At some point in our lives we have desired to have a talent, gift, attribute or strength that we lacked. Or maybe we had the trait or ability but desired to have it developed in a much greater measure. Think about this…hummingbirds and sparrows can fly. But they will never be able to soar to the heights or the speed of an eagle. Nor should they because their habitat is designed differently and they are equipped for the environment in which they are to live and thrive. We all also are designed and supplied to serve, thrive and excel in the areas that God has ordained for us. We have what we need to do what God has called us to do. We can also develop what we have to become more proficient.
Think about the twelve men Jesus chose to impart to on a regular basis. They were all different. The Lord doesn’t only use one type of personality in His ministry. He can use all types of people. Obedience is one of the few common requirements. But as far as strengths and attributes, the Lord delights in variety!
As an example, look at a couple of the disciples. Many times when people quote a biblical personality and they name that person it is often someone who had a big presence like David, Paul, Peter or Isaiah. But think about Matthew. He didn’t seem to have an exceptionally noticeable personality. He was probably what might be referred to today as a geek. An accountant. A studious, quiet, boring man. Extremely different from loud, exuberant Peter. Matthew was a tax collector. He had a desk job. Didn’t get out in the open air much. Wasn’t prone to hunting, fishing, exercising or being one with nature. If they had eyeglasses back then he probably would have had a thick, unattractive pair. He probably wasn’t much for fashion or other fancy things. He would have been a matter-of-fact type of person who was a logical, methodical thinker.
While we know that Peter, on the other hand, was an outdoorsman. He would not have been happy sitting in an office all day crunching numbers. He wanted to be out in the open, braving the elements, using his hands and physical strength to be able to ‘see’ at the end of the day what his efforts had accomplished: a boat load of seafood! Peter was impulsive: quick to act and quick to talk. He was a man of action who believed in jumping into a situation with both feet!
These men were very different in their demeanor and perspectives. Jesus chose both of them. Their personality differences did not exclude them from being valuable and vital to the ministry. The writings they left for future believers are reflective of their different temperaments. Matthew’s account is detailed, thorough, logical and a straightforward telling of the facts. He doesn’t use poetic language like David. He doesn’t use the prophetic voice like Isaiah. He doesn’t use the emphatic voice like Peter. Matthew uses his own voice as inspired and instructed by the Holy Spirit.
That is what the Lord wants from each one of us. He did not create or desire clones or robots. He likes and treasures our individuality. We all possess abilities that please the Lord. He is the One who gave us those abilities!
When I was preparing this I thought about my parents. They wanted me to do something I do not have the capacity to do. They wanted me to be able to play the piano. I do not have good eye-hand coordination. I can’t keep time very well. Don’t have an ear for music, no sense of rhythm. Just no aptitude for it at all. And yet, they kept sending me to piano lessons. I think the teacher must have finally advised them to quit wasting their money.
But God isn’t like that. Whatever His desire is for us, we have the capacity to do it and be it. Because He sees to it that we do. The Holy Spirit endows us with what we need to fulfill our assignments. There is no failure in God. There is no shortcoming in Him. He doesn’t miss anything or forget anything. He does all things well!
We may not appreciate some of our individual characteristics but God likes variety and He is the Master. He created each one of us on purpose. Our goal is to identify and learn our gifts and talents. Allow them to be developed and strengthened through the Holy Spirit. Then use them to glorify God.
Matthew 17: 24 – 27 AMP
24 When they arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the half-shekel [temple tax] went up to Peter and said, “Does not your teacher pay the half-shekel?” 25 Peter answered, “Yes.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do earthly rulers collect duties or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” 26 When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt [from taxation]. 27 However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take it and give it to them [to pay the temple tax] for you and Me.”
The tax spoken of here was not decreed by the Roman government. It was first mentioned in Exodus 30:11 – 16. The Lord spoke to Moses and directed that every male 20 years of age and older was to pay the tax, probably annually. In Moses’ day the funds were to service the Tabernacle or the Tent of Meeting. In Jesus’ time the tax was to support the Jewish temple. So, the tax was instituted by God and it was for legitimate purposes.
Before Peter broached the subject of the unpaid tax, Jesus brought it up first. Know this – - whatever is troubling you, Jesus already knows about it and He has the solution.
Notice that those who collected the tax were keeping track of Jesus’ payments. At the time they were questioning Peter, his temple tax hadn’t been paid either. But these tax collectors don’t mention what Peter owed. They also didn’t have nerve enough to confront Jesus directly. To his credit, Peter didn’t argue with these harassing cowards. When they asked if Jesus wasn’t in the habit of paying the tax, they already knew the answer. They were keeping track. The enemy will try to rush and push people to worry about something that is not even on the horizon. The enemy will try to needle a person about a bill that isn’t due for six months. He wants to clutter our minds and drain our energies by suggesting we fret and worry about all kinds of things. He will tell you the mole on your leg looks different today than it did last week and it’s probably cancer. But we know the devil is a liar and the truth is not in him.
When Peter came into the house Jesus addressed the matter by asking him a question.
“What do you think, Simon? From whom do earthly rulers collect duties or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?”
Jesus was not disturbed at all by this situation which seemed very pressing to Peter. Have you ever been going along in life, minding your own business, focused on what you are planning to do next? And somebody, seemingly out of nowhere, brings up a question or makes an assumption or levies an accusation that clouds the rest of your day. You are blindsided by this topic that they hit you with. Your plans for the next few minutes, days or weeks had nothing to do with what they were talking about. You were on track and focused. Now, after they dropped this bomb, you feel like you have to rearrange your thoughts and actions to try to deal with this matter. It is distracting and disheartening. It causes a person to feel anxious, sullen and discouraged. Then the enemy is jumping up and down and clapping his hands because his mission has been accomplished.
But God! Praise the Lord! But God!
Jesus HAS the answer and He IS the answer! When Jesus asked Peter, “Who do earthly rulers collect taxes from their children or from strangers?” Peter answered correctly, “Strangers.” The point that Jesus made is that He, Jesus, is Lord of the temple. He does not need to pay tax and neither do those who belong to Him because they are His sons. A modern-day example would be that the owner of a restaurant does not charge his own kids, his own household, to eat there. The following verses explain Jesus’ superiority over everything.
Colossians 1: 16 - 18 AMP
16 For by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, [things] visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [that is, by His activity] and for Him. 17 And He Himself existed and is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. [His is the controlling, cohesive force of the universe.] 18 He is also the head [the life-source and leader] of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will occupy the first place [He will stand supreme and be preeminent] in everything.
Even though Jesus was absolutely correct and He had the right not to pay the tax, He paid it. It wasn’t worth offending those who cared (the tax collectors). Jesus could have justified His right and exercised His authority and refused to pay the tax. But instead He demonstrated wisdom and humility and submitted Himself to a law from which He was exempt. It is hard to win over people that we have offended. Offense has a long memory and a short tolerance. Sometimes we just need to let people have their say and offer no argument, no resistance. They asked Peter, “Doesn’t your Master pay the tax?” Peter didn’t raise a ruckus or become indignant that they were suggesting that Jesus might not be a citizen in good standing in the Jewish community. Peter just said, “Yes.” He didn’t jump up and down lamenting that the ministry treasury was low and there weren’t enough funds to pay the tax. He didn’t moan and beg for an extension. Peter maintained his integrity and his composure. We need to remember to do that too.
Even though this conversation with the tax collectors had Peter feeling forlorn, the issue in question was a really easy fix for Jesus. Whatever you might be wrestling with internally is an easy fix for the Master. The verses in Colossians verify that everything is under His jurisdiction. You have nothing to fear.
Peter didn’t want to be viewed as a person who refused to obey the financial requirement. We support the local house of worship where we are fed because we love our God. We also choose to participate in the upkeep of the property because that is a practical and necessary thing to do. It would be ungodly to allow the place where we gather to worship to fall into disrepair and ruin. That would not be a good representation of our Father or a positive reflection of us, His children. Peter also did not want people to think negatively about Jesus. Peter was concerned about something that was not difficult for Jesus to resolve. But participating in the solution, in the miracle did require following specific instructions.
Reread Matthew 17:24 – 27 and note the following instructions.
- Go to the sea. Go to the specified location. Don’t go somewhere else and don’t send someone else.
- Throw in a hook. Use the stated equipment, method and tools. Don’t use a basket, a net or your hands if the Lord said to throw in a hook.
- Take the first fish that comes up. Don’t insert your own logic that this fish is too big, too small, the wrong color, doesn’t smell right or it is not the type of fish expected.
- Open its mouth. Don’t gut the fish, fillet the fish, cut off the tail, don’t sell the fish or eat the fish. The fish did what it was supposed to do. It is likely that the fish was to be put back in the water and was blessed to live a long, happy life.
- Take the coin. Jesus did not say to take the fish. He only said to take the coin. As mentioned before, it is quite possible the fish was to be placed back in the water to swim away joyfully.
- Give the coin to the tax collectors. Don’t give the coin to a messenger and send that person to the tax collectors. Don’t use the money for some other purpose even if it seems like a worthy or a more pressing cause.
- Pay the tax for both of us. Don’t pay the tax for one of us and get the change back.
Sometimes when God gives the “whole” answer people only apply “half” the principles or a fraction of the instructions. When the Lord supplies the means to pay the entire electric bill, pay the whole bill! Don’t just pay the past due amount and then have to finagle and fret to pay the rest later. The value of the coin was the exact amount needed to satisfy the need for both men for an entire year! Following instructions relaxes difficult circumstances. Not following instructions compounds the original issue.
Obeying instructions demonstrates:
- Humility. When we don’t know what to do and the Lord offers a solution that does not make natural sense, we have to humble ourselves and follow what He said.
- Maturity. Immaturity follows feelings and emotions. Maturity trusts the Lord.
- Wisdom. Knowing who to listen to and who to ignore requires wisdom. Listen to God. Ignore the devil.
- Self-control. Most of us have been faced with a dilemma that seemed not to have a workable solution. We might feel like jumping ship, throwing in the towel or doing something destructive, illegal, immoral or cowardly. It takes discipline to be able to keep a calm and spirit-directed mind.
One of the greatest benefits of doing what the Lord says is that it makes us free. There is liberty in obedience! If we follow all of the Lord’s directives, then He is responsible for all of the outcome! If we tamper with His plan, He is released from providing the results. I would rather have His results than mine!
When God provides the miracle, the solution, the answer…do you know what to do with it? Peter did exactly what he was told to do. He didn’t fry the fish or cash the coin. He didn’t do 50% of the plan and hold the rest of the money for another purpose. It is necessary to have already purposed in our hearts and minds that we will do as the Lord says, when He says and the way He says. That way, when we are blessed to participate in a miracle, as Peter was, we will not succumb to temptation to misuse the miracle.
The definition of "goodly" for the purposes of this discussion is the Archaic or the ancient or the Old Testament, biblical use of it. That definition is “attractive, excellent or admirable”.
In contrast, the definition of the word “godly” that we are using is “the quality or practice of conforming to the laws and will of God without any known resistance. If resistance is made known, it is immediately corrected.”
Godly is the practice, the habit, not just an occasional occurrence, of following and obeying the will of God without any known deviation in thought, word and deed.
In many social circles it is popular to be involved with certain charity organizations. And that is the only reason some people are contributors or volunteers: because it is the ‘in’ thing to do according to their peers. Some years ago, it seemed to be a ‘thing’ for many Hollywooders to adopt children from foreign countries. Another trend was to rescue abandoned animals from the impound or the shelter.
Some of these good deeds were probably goodly but not godly. It is admirable (one of the synonyms for goodly) to bring a child from a life of poverty into a country, a home and a life that far exceeds anything they would have ever known in their native land. It feels good to rescue an animal that was destined to be put down. Instead of their life coming to an untimely end, they find themselves on the gravy train, living in the lap of luxury.
People feel good about themselves when they are able to make a significant difference in someone else’s life. But every seasoned believer knows that goodly does not always mean godly. Not every act of kindness yields considerable results.
Some good deeds or acts of kindness are useless. They don’t make a positive difference in any way. An example of this is a group that I belong to makes blankets, hats, mittens and also purchases items like socks, gloves and so on. The group partners with organizations that serve the homeless community and others in need. We enjoy getting together to make or purchase the things and donating them. Most of the places and people who receive them are very grateful and appreciative. Not too long ago it was discovered that one of the places that we had donated to threw the items in the dumpster in back of their building. What we viewed as a good deed was useless. No one benefited from our efforts, our time or the money we spent to purchase and/or make the items.
That was a useless endeavor. But there are also actions that are perceived by most as very spiritual and godly but they are actually evil. Matthew 7: 18-23 records Jesus’ warning on this very subject. This is the AMP version.
18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore, by their fruit you will recognize them [as false prophets].
(In other words, What are they producing? What are the results of what they are saying and doing?)
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.
22 Many will say to Me on that day [when I judge them], ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and driven out demons in Your name, and done many miracles in Your name?’
23 And then I will declare to them publicly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me [you are banished from My presence], you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].’
This says that disregarding the commands of the Lord is wickedness. There are people who are in the limelight preaching, performing and practicing. But the Spirit of the Lord is telling them to sit down, submit themselves to a wise, spiritual leader or mentor and learn some things. But they are hearing and obeying ego, pride, zeal and immaturity more than they are hearing and obeying the voice of the Lord.
Years ago people talked a lot about the permissive will of God as opposed to the perfect will of God. Meaning that there were some goodly pursuits that the Lord will allow folks to do and persist in but those things were not the perfect will of God for their lives. In my immaturity and ignorance, I never believed that there was such aa thing as the permissive will of God. And I got sick of hearing people talk about it. You know how it is when a saying or a phrase gets popular it seems like EVERYBODY is saying it. Not only was I irritated that so many people were saying it, I was doubly agitated because I didn’t believe that such a thing existed. In my mind a thing is either the will of the Lord or it isn’t. If something is not the perfect will of God, then it is not the will of God at all, or so I thought. Then one day I was listening to a recorded message that Kenneth E. Hagin had preached. I believe this ‘permissive will’ phrase became popular because of him. He was so well respected and well regarded in ministry. He passed away in 2003. In the message he said he had pastored different churches for a total of 12 or 13 years. I forget the exact number. During the course of a conversation with the Lord, the Lord said to him that he never called him to pastor. The Lord allowed him to do it and blessed him while doing it and blessed the ministry and the people but that was not his perfect will for him. It was his permissive will. At the time of this conversation the Lord was having with Brother Hagin, the Lord had called him and directed him into his true calling. It wasn’t going as well as Brother Hagin expected and he was questioning the Lord about it. I learned something that day. I was completely wrong in my way of thinking.
The point here is that during the 12 or 13 years of pastoring, Brother Hagin was praying, fasting, visiting the sick, praying healing and restoration for scores of people. The ones that Jesus talks about in Matthew 7 that are mentioned above were completely out of the will of God. They were not in His perfect will and they were not in His permissive will. How do we know that? Because Jesus said, “I NEVER knew you.” That indicates that these spiritual do-gooders were operating out of their own will and their own desires. They never consulted the Lord about what to do next or where to go next. They only did what brought them attention, glory and whatever else satisfied their flesh and/or egos.
There is a saying, “You might get by, but you won’t get away.” One sister remarked to me how she used to think and pout before the Lord about people, supposedly Christians, who were behaving poorly, in a manner unbecoming for a believer, and seemed to be getting away with it. This is Matthew 7: 21-23 AMP again.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me on that day [when I judge them], ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and driven out demons in Your name, and done many miracles in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them publicly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me [you are banished from My presence], you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].’
One of my natural dad’s favorite sayings was, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” There will be people standing before the Lord, just like the ones described in Matthew 7 who will declare that they didn’t know what was expected or required of them. They will want to be excused from their lawlessness based on that declaration.
Power, giftedness, anointing and authority are likely to be used wrongly when a person lacks humility and spiritual understanding. Look at the Corinthian church as an example.
1 Corinthians 14: 36-38
36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
(The Corinthian church got carried away with themselves. Paul is asking them if they are now thinking and acting like they are the originators of the Word of God or that they are the only ones who have received the truth of God. They had begun to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think. They were tremendously blessed with spiritual gifts and they began to celebrate and exalt themselves rather than to celebrate and exalt the Lord.)
37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
(They started believing that they were better than any other fellowships and that they had a deeper understanding of spiritual matters than any other group of believers. The Spirit of the Lord was working mightily with them and His presence was evident among them. But they began acting like the folks Jesus is talking to in Matthew 7. They quit hearing and operating according to the word and will of God. They became impressed with the gifts God had given them and were using the gifts without the Lord’s order, instruction or direction.)
38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
(This was another verse my dad was fond of quoting. Except he would add the word ‘still’ at the end of it. Meaning, if you choose to be unlearned and not knowing. If that is your decision and you want to continue in that state of being, have at it. Go right ahead. Paul was saying that what you need to know and should know has been provided for you. It isn’t hidden. It is all right here out in the open. If you choose to be ignorant, go ahead. I won’t try to stop you. Because making that choice says something profound about that person. It told Paul trying to enlighten a person who obviously chooses ignorance over knowledge when knowledge is rich, plentiful and readily available - - - trying to school that person, mentor that person, enlighten that person is a waste of time and breath. Paul was saying, “I won’t do it. Let them be ignorant still. Let them stay in that state or condition if that is what they choose. I will not drain myself of energy trying to get a pig out of the mud when the pig is telling me he likes mud and wants to stay in it. I won’t keep pulling and tugging on that one when there are plenty of others who do want out and will receive and quickly act on the Truth that is shared with them.)
Believers are charged with being good stewards over everything the Lord has given us. Our bodies, our time, our resources, our influence, our spiritual gifts, our voices, our words and so much more. Our responsibility is to engage in the godly pursuits not just those things that are goodly. Remember the definition we are using for goodly is attractive, excellent or admirable. A lot of what people are doing looks good. It is attractive. It draws attention and accolades. People pat them on the back for their contributions. A lot of what is done is excellent. Their projects boast the latest technology and the highest natural standard of distinction. The causes they champion are admirable. They are worthy causes that boost the local economy and get them and their community featured on the nightly news. Those are goodly things.
Acts 5:17-29 AMP shows the difference when godly is happening instead of just goodly.
This is what you may experience when you follow closely the will of God.
- Religious folks won’t like you. (17)
- Their attacks against you are unwarranted and excessive. (17)
- They will use whatever power or influence they have to shut you up, discredit you and embarrass you. (18)
- They will go way beyond what is normal behavior and speech to lash out at you. (18)
- God will send you divine assistance. (19)
- God will provide specific instructions. (20)
- Those who feel threatened by your obedience and fidelity to the Lord will form an alliance against you. (21)
- What God does for you and through you will confound and confuse them. (24)
- God will make sure they hear about and see your successes in the Lord. (25)
10. At some point they will realize you are no ordinary individual serving an extraordinary God and they will have to acknowledge those facts publicly. (26)
11. They will still try to act like they are in charge. (27)
12. They will try to get you to stop talking about Jesus, who He is and what He has done. (28)
13. They will blame you for the wrong that they have done or created. (28)
14. You will stand strong in the Lord, remain faithful and receive eternal rewards. (29)
Concentrate on what is godly. Listen to the Holy Spirit as He directs our efforts and pursuits. He is never wrong. He is trustworthy. Engage in what is godly, not just goodly. Many activities are attractive, excellent and admirable but they have no eternal value. We are living this life, to live again. Everything here is temporary. We are to focus on what is eternally significant. Be godly.
Colossians 3:17 NASB Whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Psalm 126 probably refers to when the Jewish people were conquered by Nebuchadnezzar and taken captive by the Babylonians. Not all of the biblical commentators agree with that thought. In researching, I did not find enough documentation to support the idea that this psalm refers to a different captivity. The Israelites were in captivity at other times but I am of the opinion that this psalm refers to the Babylonian captivity.
Not all of the Jews were carried away from their homeland as a result of this invasion but many were. Some of the Israelites were left in Jerusalem but the city was ransacked and the temple destroyed. To give some perspective of how devastating this was for them, think about how the United States was overwhelmed with grief and shock and fear when the Twin Towers were attacked in New York. Most U.S. citizens didn’t live in New York or work there or even anywhere near there. And yet the effect on us as a nation and as individuals was catastrophic. Israel’s beloved city was left in ruins and the temple that was the epicenter of their worship was disrespected in a horrific way. The invaders had no reverence, no regard at all for a monument that meant so much to the Jewish people. Being victims of such an ordeal crushes the people’s spirits, causes mass confusion and totally disrupts the stability of everyday living.
Although the Jews were under tremendous pressure while they were held captive, they were able to maintain their cultural customs and religious identity. They were allowed Elders who supervised the Jewish communities. Ezekiel, Ezra and Isaiah (45:1-3) are three of the biblical writers who wrote about this part of Israel’s history. This might have been the time when synagogues were first established so the Jews could keep their religious observances since there was no temple, of course, in Babylon. Prior to this, all of their formal religious practices were done in the temple.
Eventually when Cyrus the Great, the Persian ruler, is in power over Babylon, he makes a proclamation and sets the Jewish people free. He also said that “The Lord God of heaven” charged him to build the Lord a house or rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. No specific details are given as to why Cyrus says that he was “charged” by God to rebuild the temple. It sounds like he had some kind of direct unction, message, visitation or possibly a dream that communicated this assignment to him. The information that we do have is written in the Old Testament book Ezra 1. Not only does Cyrus decide to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem but he also sent back all the temple treasures that Nebuchadnezzar had taken. All the gold and silver vessels that Cyrus sent to Jerusalem were 5400 items. That is a lot of gold and silver!
Some scholars differ on the timeline but according to Jeremiah 29:10, they were in Babylonian captivity 70 years. For some people that would have been their entire lives. Some of those Jews were born in bondage and died in bondage. Some of them never got to ever see, let alone live in, their precious homeland. Others who were very young children when they were captured, were now well advanced in age. All of this sets the stage for the rejoicing that is expressed in Psalm 126.
I don’t know when this psalm was written but it had to be sometime after the Jewish people were released to go back home to Jerusalem. Some of them went and some of them didn’t. Because remember, some of them had been born in the locations where they were. That was the only home that they knew. Others had gotten comfortable and were established in that place. Maybe all the family they had still living were there in that area. So, they stayed. But to be free, no longer under the Persian ruler’s reign was almost unbelievable to them. This is how the psalmist expressed their feelings about it.
When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion (Jerusalem),
We were like those who dream [it seemed so unreal].
Then our mouth was filled with laughter
And our tongue with joyful shouting;
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
They were in absolute awe that suddenly, they were no longer prisoners. As mentioned earlier, many of them had been in bondage their entire lives. They had NEVER lived as a free person who could go where they wanted to go and do whatever they wanted to do…NEVER! They said it seemed like a dream…almost too fantastic to be real. And then the joy came. Have you ever gotten news that was so unexpected and so far from what you ever expected to hear that you just began to jump and laugh and were just beside yourself with gladness? That’s how these people were. The joy was so great it was overwhelming! The excitement was probably to such a degree that they really didn’t know how to express it.
When something phenomenal happens for someone, other folks talk about it. Other people get excited about it. It changes the atmosphere. Even neighboring countries and other foreigners were talking about
this freedom that had been decreed for the Jews. It was big news!
The Lord has done great things for us;
We are glad!
Sometimes when something really out-of-this world happens for someone they try to keep cool. They don’t want to seem too overly excited. So, if you ask them about it or want them to tell you what happened they try to downplay it a bit. But not these people! They are so happy to be free and they are acknowledging that exuberance in every way they can. They know only God initiated and caused the actuality of their emancipation. They are not shy about giving Him the glory!
Restore our captivity, O Lord,
As the stream-beds in the South (the Negev) [are restored by torrents of rain].
All of the captives didn’t go back or weren’t released at the same time. Those who have been set free and returned to their native land are offering this prayer for the ones still in Babylon and the other places of captivity where they settled. This waterway that is referred to is unique in that it is a dry bed for almost the entire year…about 11 months. Then during the rainy season, it fills with water and is a strong and rushing stream. The prayer is for the return of the others to be swift, sure and strong.
They who sow in tears shall reap with joyful singing.
He who goes back and forth weeping, carrying his bag of seed [for planting],
Will indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
These last two verses are a sure promise of the Lord. He has established the principle of sowing and reaping. It is a spiritual principle and it is a natural principle. One application of verse five may be that while they were prisoners, away from their homeland, they still had to work and eat. They still had to farm and plant gardens and do all the daily requirements for living. They sowed or planted with tears because they were in a foreign land. There was no enjoyment while they worked and there was no sense of satisfaction after the field was planted or the beans were picked and the potatoes pulled. When tilling your own field, planting your own garden and reaping your own harvest there is a sense of accomplishment that accompanies the work. But laboring under duress does not produce those same feelings. The work seems harder, longer and most of the produce belongs to and goes to the ones who own the land. The Jews did all the work and the Babylonians got all the profit.
We are not always in the situation that we would like to be. Circumstances are not always ideal, but we have to keep going. We have to keep doing what is necessary. Sometimes we might be doing the laundry with tears on our faces and tears in our hearts. We may be driving to the workplace or to pick up the kids or going to the grocery store while burdened with a sorrowful spirit. But these things still have to be done. So, they did what they had to do. They weren’t happy about where they were physically but they kept doing what needed to be done and eventually God brought them out.
The message is to keep sowing. Keep spreading God’s precious seed. Not everyone wants to hear it. Not everyone will receive it. We may lament as it seems like none of what we are doing or saying is making a significant difference. But the psalmist has confidence in the promises of God and so should we. He is saying, “Don’t stop planting. Don’t stop doing good. Don’t stop sowing seeds of kindness even when conditions aren’t the best. Because the Lord is the One who gives the increase.” You will be singing and rejoicing and realizing a huge harvest eventually. It may be at a time when you least expect it. Sowing and reaping originated and have been established by our Creator. The principle doesn’t fail. Don’t give up on God. He has not given up on you.
I don’t know if you are or were ever part of a fellowship that sings or sang the hymn “Bringing In the Sheaves”. *The song was written in 1874 by Knowles Shaw. Knowles Shaw started preaching at age 26 and became known all over his home state of Indiana as the ‘Singing Evangelist’. Brother Shaw was killed in a train accident at the age of 43. Sometime during his short life, he wrote the words to this song “Bringing In the Sheaves” based on Psalm 126:5-6. Sheaves are bundled crops. (Genesis 37:5-6)
Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness, sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve, waiting for the harvest and the time of reaping - - We shall come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves.
Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows, fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze, by and by the harvest and the labor ended - - We shall come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves.
Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master, tho the loss sustained our spirit often grieves, when our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome - - We shall come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves.
Praying that the psalm and the song will help encourage you to keep sowing for the Master. There will be a great reward afterwhile. Blessings to you.