Do you have commitment issues (when it comes to prayer)?

Sometimes I have to laugh at myself. I have what I would label commitment issues. No, I don’t have problems committing myself to people. What I have problems with is committing myself to pray for the same thing, over and over again. Especially, when that prayer is not answered. I love it when I pray something and bam, God answers me right away. Like immediately. So cool! But more often than not, that’s not how it happens and I spend years struggling with the same old prayer. Truthfully, I give up. And then I feel bad so I come back to it and pray about it again. Halfheartedly of course. The cycle goes on and on. I come up with reasons to convince myself that I really should keep pursuing this issue, because more often than not, it’s an important one. But it is so very, very hard. I’m sure that I cannot be the only one who struggles with this and with that in mind I want to share with you something the Lord revealed to me several years ago. I remind myself of it when I need that little kick in the pants not to give up on my prayers.

In Matthew 15 there is this cute little story of a woman who did not give up on her prayers and the reason we know about her, is because of something that she said to Jesus that was quite memorable. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase that I’m talking about in Matthew 15:27:

“Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table”.

Now being a dog lover, this verse really sparked my interest so one day I decided to pursue it and examine what really took place during this story. Jesus was in the far north, in the territory of Tyre and Sidon, which was Gentile country. He meets a Canaanite woman who begs that he please heal her demon possessed daughter. His response to the woman was to ignore her. It says “but he answered her not a word”. Been there, done that. Prayed and got nothing! I’m sure we all have. And that’s where most of us stop. This woman did not.

The story goes on to tell us that she cried out so often and for so long, that his disciples grew weary of her and asked Jesus to send her away. I’m guessing that they tried to tell her first, but she was having none of it. Jesus answered His disciples with the following:

“I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”.

He was telling them in effect, I didn’t come to save or heal the Gentiles. Right now I’m here for the house of Israel. She’s the wrong nationality. Wow. No doubt she overheard Him because what she did next is very telling. She fell at His feet and worshipped Him and called Him Lord!  But He turned to her and told her the following:

“It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs”.

Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds vaguely insulting to me. It would have been easy for her to walk away at this point and be offended. But she persisted, because she really wanted her daughter to be healed. Like really badly. Have you ever had a child so sick that nothing would stop you from crying out for help? That’s the kind of persistence we are seeing here. But notice something. Jesus is now talking to her! Yup, that’s right, He is talking to her! And boy does she ever take advantage of that because she answered Him with that famous phrase that I shared above. She impressed Jesus because He says to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire”. She got her answer, her daughter was healed.

When I think about this story I think about the number of times that I have prayed and been ignored by God. Or if I shared my prayer with others, been told that since I haven’t received an answer, it must not be God’s will. Perhaps there were extenuating circumstances in my prayer request, and I knew it probably wasn’t the right time, it was the wrong season, it wasn’t in His will.  You get the drift. It is so easy to give up! Maybe we have heard No! or even worse, silence, so many times, that we have stopped praying altogether. Maybe, just maybe, giving up is exactly the opposite reaction that God wants from us.

Humor me for a moment and ponder on the parable of the unjust judge in Luke 18:1-8. Jesus tells the story of a woman who had gone to court and wanted justice for her situation, but the unjust judge didn’t care about her. Yet, because she was persistent and didn’t give up, he gave her what she wanted, just to get rid of her. The Lord then tells His disciples that God, who is a just Judge will avenge his children if they ask him by crying out to him day and night. He then asks them this question:

“Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

So what I’m understanding here is that faith requires persistence. It requires me to cry out day and night and never give up until He answers my prayer.

I’ve got another story for you that might help you really embrace this truth. In John 2:1-11 Jesus is attending a wedding with His mother and disciples. This is before He starts His actual ministry. He goes to the wedding and on the third day His Mom comes to Him and tells Him they’ve run out of wine. In those days weddings would go on for about a week, so you can imagine the fiasco of running out of wine on the third day of your party. His response is actually kind of funny because He looks at her and says:

“Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

You know I can’t help but wonder how many times we’ve asked God for something and He thinks to Himself, what on earth does this have to do with me? Hey, I thought it was funny. I mean, shouldn’t the host of this wedding party have planned better? Whose fault was this anyway? Certainly not God’s! But seriously, Mary disregards His answer and tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them. There was no question in her mind that He would help her. Perhaps we could learn from that attitude. Even when we mess up, even when we are at fault, Jesus is willing and able to help us. Mary also got her answer that day and what an answer it was. He turned water into wine and it was such excellent wine, that Scripture tells us it manifested or revealed His glory!

So I want to encourage you with these words. If there is something that you have prayed for, something that you have asked for over and over and over, don’t give up. It doesn’t matter what other’s tell you, it doesn’t matter whether God is silent or says no. Don’t listen to any of it. Keep on asking. Worship Him in the midst of your wait. Nothing moves the heart of our God more than our worship when we are waiting on Him and are struggling to trust Him. Be like these three women of great faith and persevere until you get your answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never let the devil give you his counterfeit of what your life should be.

I love it when I open my Bible and read a Scripture I’ve read a hundred times over the years and this time the Holy Spirit opens it up to me in a completely different way than I’ve ever understood before. That’s what happened to me this morning. I was sitting here reading Luke 4 which is all about Jesus going through His 40 day fast in the wilderness. We are not told what took place during those 40 days, but I can imagine it was pretty intense. He’s fasting for 40 days, which is incredible. He’s in the desert no less, which is even harder I would think given the harshness of a wilderness. Depending on the time of year, this would have been pretty bad.

The story begins at the end of the fast with Jesus heading back into town. I’m sure He was looking forward to some amazing street food in Jerusalem but the devil does not and never quits on his own. So, as Jesus is walking, the devil is walking next to Him. Notice that the devil is very aware of the situation, and he never gives Him a break, not for one moment. Jesus has got to be at His weakest point after not eating for 40 days and mentally looking forward to eating again. If you think the devil plays fair, think again. He didn’t play fair during this story and he won’t play fair with you either.

Now at first glance, satan tells Jesus to do something which doesn’t seem so bad. He says to Him the following:

“If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Luke 4:3

What’s wrong with this you say? I’m sure that if we were to study this, the number of things wrong would be amazing, but let’s start with what I saw this morning. Never, ever let the devil tell you what to do. The only person who you should listen to is God. It doesn’t matter if what the devil suggests is not evil, or bad, never listen to him. Once you open the door he will put his foot through the doorway and things will get worse. Eve’s first problem in the garden, before she was deceived, was that she actually listened to the devil, thought about what he said and then gave it credence. She then shared that with Adam. If she had rebuked him, and turned away from him, things would have turned out different!

What the devil was doing here, was asking Jesus, the Son of God to prove Himself. Prove to me, the devil that you are the Son of God. As if he didn’t already know. We do not ever need to prove ourselves to the devil. He will always question our identity in Christ but we do not need to prove ourselves to him. Rebuke him if he ever asks you to.

The next temptation is the easy way out. It is the wide road. On their way the devil takes Jesus on a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And he says this to Jesus:

All this authority I will give you, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I will give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if you will worship before me, all will be Yours.” Luke 4:6-7

The devil will always try to give you a counterfeit version of what God has put into your heart. The call on your life is from God but the devil will try to give you the easy road. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:13 that there is a narrow gate and a wide gate. The devil’s version of your call is the wide gate. It is the broad road that is easy to travel on but leads to destruction. If Jesus had done what the devil wanted, had traded himself in and worshiped the devil, he would not have had to go to the cross. We know for a fact that this had to have been a temptation for Jesus, because as we see later, when Jesus is facing the impending cross He says this to the Father in Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Never assume that this was not a temptation for Jesus, He was flesh and blood and knew what was coming.

As we continue on in this story, it becomes apparent that the devil is walking Jesus to the very place that He would be crucified, Jerusalem. He walked Jesus to the place of His destiny, His goal, His dream if you will. The devil will walk beside you to the place of your destiny as well. And as you walk, the devil will try to persuade you to take the shortcut, just like he asked Jesus to take the shortcut. He takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, and said the following to Him:

“If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you, and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Luke 4:9-11

He is in fact asking Jesus to jump off the temple because God’s angels will protect Him. So now he’s quoting prophecy to Jesus about Himself. This prophecy written by King David in the Psalms was indeed written about Jesus. But it was never meant to take the place of the cross because that is what the devil again wants Jesus to do. Notice what the devil says at the beginning of this temptation: If you are the Son of God. He’s using the same phrase that he did in the first temptation.  Prove yourself to me and this time to the world, by jumping off the temple. When you walk away from your jump, everyone will believe that you are the Messiah, and you won’t have to die on the cross. If you fast forward to Matt 27:42 the people standing at the cross, after Jesus is crucified mock Him and say the following:

“He saved others, but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.”

Jesus never came to earth to save himself. He came to die on that cross so you and I could live.

Never let the devil tempt you with your physical destiny. God will never ask you to risk your life to prove who you are in Christ. I’m not saying people won’t kill you! I’m saying God will never ask you to tempt Him to protect you from reckless behavior. Jumping off that temple was reckless behavior. If Jesus had jumped and then walked away, I have no doubt that some of the people would have followed Him and believed He was the Messiah. But the goal was never about proving who He was. The goal was always the cross and that required Him to go through the narrow gate. That required Him to listen to God, not the devil.

The final thing I would like to point out about this story is that the devil will only leave you if you resist Him, as Jesus did, and he will always come back.

“Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.” Luke 4:13

When does he come back? During an opportune time. During a good opportunity. When you are at your strongest? Probably not. Most likely, he will come back when like Jesus, you are at your weakest. James tells us in James 4:7 the following:

“Submit yourselves then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

It is up to us to resist the devil. Just as Jesus quoted Scripture at the devil, find Scripture that pertains to your situation and when the tempter comes, quote him God’s word. God will help you just as He helped Jesus to overcome.