In the past, open doubters were either burned (literally) or branded by the church.
Contrast that with Christ’s treatment of doubt. Christ never failed to distinguish between doubt and unbelief.
Doubt is “can’t believe;” unbelief is “won’t believe.”
Doubt is honesty; unbelief is obstinacy.
Doubt is looking for light; unbelief is content with the darkness.
To the doubters like Thomas, Philip, and Nicodemus, Jesus was respectful, generous, tolerant, and patient.
Sometimes as much as we hate to think about it, our past can catch up to us. We may be totally different people but you never know what the consequences of previous actions may bring years later.
Enter Jacob. 20 years had passed since he deceived his dying father and cheated his brother Esau out of the blessing that belonged to the first-born. In those 2 decades Jacob had found love, a home, and prosperity. But then the shadow of his old transgressions fell across his path. Esau is on the march to meet him with 400 armed men. Esau the cheated had sworn an oath that he would kill his brother.
After splitting his company in 2, Jacob prayed that God would deliver him. He also sent presents to his brother. Then Jacob remained alone to wait. It turned out to be his life’s greatest experience. Do not fear your solitary moments. God will come closer to you than at any time.
What happened? He wrestled with some unknown assailant from midnight to dawn. In awful solitude they fought. Jacob seemed to have an advantage when his mysterious opponent somehow got his hip or thigh out of joint. Yet Jacob fought on.
As the morning dawned, Jacob found out this wasn’t an enemy but an angel. Jacob gripped him close and cried, “I will not let go until you bless me.” The angel blessed him and departed.
What opposes us in life, even our past, or what makes us struggle is, after all, not an enemy but a friend in disguise. Do not mourn over the hard and difficult experiences of life that have thrown your thigh out of joint, for in ways that you know not they have made you strong. Make sure that you utter the prayer of struggling Jacob, “I will not let go until you bless me!”
Each of us has a personal mission field. These are the people who are in our lives and don’t know Christ or have a church family. It’s imperative that we first pray for them and then for a divinely appointed opportunity to have a conversation or interaction that leads to the gospel. Before we try to talk to them, we need to walk with them in terms of identifying ourselves as someone who genuinely loves them. That takes actions more than words.
It’s easy to criticize and goad people . But spiritual leaders must see the good in their people and thank God for them even before they bear much fruit. Saying, “I am thankful for you” is a powerful spiritual work which deepens our bonds with one another and with Christ in ways that are truly powerful. It even makes a cold church warm for outsiders.
The Holy Spirit is called the Counselor. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is reserved for Christians (John 7:39-40). He actually enters our bodies (Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 6:19), and makes us as God’s possession (2 Corinthians 1:22). Through Him we are sanctified (Romans 15:16), taught (1 Cor. 2:10-16), guided (Romans 8:14), and strengthened (John 14:26). Through Him we receive adoption (Romans 8:12-17), gifts with which we serve the church (Rom. 12:6-8), and fruit for the glory of God (Galatians 5:22-23). He intercedes for us when we don’t know how to pray (Rom. 8:26), and refreshes us when we are downcast (Acts 3:19). This brief job description of the Holy Spirit makes me want to shout with thankful praise.
What Jesus said in John 14:13-14 is hard for people to understand, yet believe. Jesus promises that he would answer our prayers no matter how great the request. This is not a blank check to satisfy our whimsical desires. There are parameters around Jesus’ promise from parallel passages.
We must ask:
- in faith (Matthew 21:22)
- in agreement with other believers (Mt. 18:19)
- in Jesus’ name (John 14:13-16; 16:23-26)
- according to His will (1 John 5:14-15)
- while obeying His word (Jn. 15:7; 1 Jn. 3:22)
- and bearing fruit for Him (Jn. 15:16).
The promise does not apply where we ask selfishly or with the wrong motives (Mark 10:35; James 4:2-3).
So what shall we request?
Jesus told us to ask for at least three things:
- The Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13)
- Workers in the harvest (Mt. 9:38)
- and wisdom (James 1:5).
Our greatest error is not that we ask inappropriately or that we ask for the wrong things, but that we don’t ask at all (Luke 11:9; Ephesians 3:20).
Do you wish to become wise? Then you must walk with people who, by their words and their presence make you wiser. And to the best of your ability you must avoid those people who don’t. That means you must choose wise friends and mentors.
The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are. C.S. Lewis
A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel. Proverbs 1:5
The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm. Proverbs 13:20
Today’s culture tells us that all we need is love. But in the end, love wasn’t even enough to keep the Beatles together. It’s ironic that a band that sang such great love songs ultimately had no love for each other. That’s because love is more than just a song, a dream, or feeling.
The commitments we make are like magnets: they pull toward each other. In friendship, commitment means being there for someone even when it’s not convenient. In family relationships it’s being by someone’s side even after years of dealing with a disappointing father or brother stuck in addiction. In marriage, commitment means that divorce isn’t an option.
To a large crowd in Luke 14:26 he says,
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.
That’s what it means to follow Jesus.
Why does he talk about hating? I thought he taught that we’re not even allowed to hate our enemies! So what is he saying here? Jesus is not calling us to actively hate like Fred Phelps; he’s calling us to hate comparatively. He says, “I want you to follow me so fully, so intensely, so persistently that all other attachments in your life look like hate by comparison.”
If you say, “I’ll obey you, Jesus, IF my career thrives, IF my health is good, IF my family is together,” then the thing that’s on the other side of that IF is your real master, your real goal. But Jesus will not be a means to an end; he will not be used. If he calls you to follow him, HE must be the goal.