Sometimes we preachers get discouraged at the seemingly little results which flow from our preaching of the gospel. But that should not be. We must remember that we have nothing to do with the results. All that is required of us is to be faithful in sowing the good seed. The results are with God. Let us not wortty about results. If we worry at all, let it be as to whether we are doing our full duty; whether we are sowing as much as we can be in prayer.
Help us, O Lord, more and more, as your servants to realize that in and of ourselves we can do nothing: we are only instruments in Your hands and our effectiveness as instruments depends entirely upon whether or not the Holy Spirit uses us.
“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord…” is a truth we should bury in our hearts and carry with us in all that we undertake for the Lord. There is no other guarantee of success. There is no other power that can brings results, that can open blind eyes, unstop deaf ears, soften hard hearts, and bring people to repentance and faith.
In preaching, are we seeking to impress the truth on others or impress others with how we express the truth? Are we trying to draw attention to Jesus or ourselves? Too often it is of ourselves that we are thinking; and this is one reason why, though we may preach brilliant and eloquent messages, they are attended with so little results in the development of disciples of Jesus.The preacher’s aims should be to get such a clear conception of the truth, and should be so impressed with its value, its importance, that in their effort to present it, they will not only lose sight of themselves, but their hearers also will, in thought of the truth.
The Prodigal Son made 2 mistakes:
1. He rejected his father’s authority. The first step that gets us into trouble is the one that takes us away from God. Like the prodigal, you leave home saying, “Give me.” If you’re fortunate to come to your senses you’ll come back home saying, “Forgive me.” God loves you. Everything we need He provides.
2. He left his father’s house. The Devil will do whatever it takes to get you out of the influence of God and His protection. He’ll put a restless spirit in you so that nothing makes you happy.
2 areas he’ll work hard to generate discontent:
A. Your marriage. That’s why you constantly need to be working on it. Your marriage isn’t just a covenant before God, it’s a shelter for your passions and dysfunctions.
B. Your church. Who feeds you spiritually? Would you let your children stay home from school because they don’t like the teachers? We need to be a part of a fellowship where we are learning AND giving.
I’ve always loved Reinhold Niebuhr’s “serenity prayer,” which is a humble submission to God, giving up the things we can’t control and trusting Him to provide what we need. I (and others) often pray this when things are out of control.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
And yet this is only part of his original prayer. It continues:
“Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.”
Now, those are fighting words.
1 John 4:18 (NLT), “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”
When we are faced with fear, do we seek the love of our God or seek the solution in ourselves?
One moment in the presence of God can eradicate a lifetime of fears because God IS love. He did not create or form love. He IS PERFECT LOVE. Faith is realizing that it is better to be in the eye of the storm with Jesus than on the shore without Him.
Everybody ends up somewhere in life. Few end up there on purpose. So where do you want to end up? What are you doing and who are you being to get there?
You have a destiny to fulfill. God has placed before you opportunities and responsibilities that are brimming with divine significance. He has given you gifts, talents, and relationships that are waiting to be exploited on behalf of His kingdom.
This will require patience, investigation, and planning. It requires faith in God’s ability to work behind the scenes.
There will be seasons when you feel like you making little if any progress. In those times it will be easy to get distracted. This is when you must join with Nehemiah in declaring, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down” (Nehemiah 6:3).
I know very few people who practice “self-examination.” Self-examination is a spiritual inquisition, a bringing one’s self to trial.
Self-searching is a heart anatomy.
The rule by which a Christian must try oneself is the Word of God.
This is a difficult duty because:
- It’s a work of self-reflection. It is hard to look inward. External acts are easy to achieve. The eye can see everything but itself. It’s easy to spy the faults of others, but hard to find out our own.
- It’s difficult because of self-love. Ignorance blinds but self-love flatters. We often think the best of ourselves. In the mirror our virtues look greater and our sins lesser.
- We are conscious of guilt and we don’t want to look at it because it troubles us. Why look into our heart if it may cause nightmares?
- We have foolish hopes. We presume ourselves good. We are confident in our salvation, yet never examine our title to heaven.
- We rest in the good opinions of others. Yet no one suspected Judas until the end. Others can see our outward behavior but not those that are private or inner.
- We don’t believe Scripture. Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things.”
But it’s necessary because without self-examination:
- We can never know how it is with us. Socrates said at his death, “I am now to die, and the gods knew whether I shall be happy or miserable.” But we don’t want to face death ignorant of the state of our eternal being.
- If we will not try ourselves, God will try us. Why wait for God’s judgment to ask the same questions of ourselves?
- There are secret things in our heart which cannot be found without searching. Augustine called it “hidden pollution.”
- We miss a great advantage! If upon examination we find the grace of God, we may take comfort in it. And if not, then we know that we need to ask for and accept.
Prayer is simple. It is supernatural, a mysterious moral working of the Holy Spirit, but it is not logical. To anyone not related to our Lord Jesus Christ, prayer looks foolish, seeking someone who is unseen. However, we know that He hears us.
It has been said that no one, no matter how great their intellect, is greater than their prayer life. God longs to pour out His Holy Spirit inside of us in such a supernatural way that we want to run to Him every day and be with Him in prayer, to praise and worship Him.
What is our first reaction to a disappointment, crisis, tragedy, or success? Are we trusting in God all day, every day, or only when there is disappointment, crisis, tragedy, or success? Do we pick up God in the morning and remember Him at night before bed?
Progess, not perfection is what we’re looking for. Let’s start by looking at normal, every day opportunities to pray and then how to build a life of continual prayer from there.
In the morning do you say, “It’s morning, good god,” or “Good God, it’s morning?”
Driving/commute time: Get ready for the day in God’s strength. Pray, “Father God, in the name of Jesus, please use me today to make faith come alive in someone’s heart, somewhere. Lord, please help me share your love with somebody today.
Before any meal: Bless the food certainly, but then pray/intercede for someone else.
Everytime you hug your spouse, children, or whoever: Pray a blessing upon their lives in the name of Jesus.
Everytime you hear a siren or see the lights of a first responder: Pray for them and who or what they are rushing to.