Choose a section below to read Andrews writings about the Christian Survival Kit:
Chapter 1: Don't Panic — Believe
What is the first thing you should do in a crisis situation?
One day as I was reading John 14, 15, and 16, the Lord began to give me the answer to this question. In John 16:1, Jesus says, "These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended." According to Mark 4:17, when a person is offended, Satan takes the Word of God from them.
In other words, when you are offended, the Word of God stops releasing its life-giving power in your life. When you take offense, when you get hurt, the Word stops operating. The Lord said, "These things [John 14, 15, and 16] have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended."
Jesus said this to His disciples the night before His crucifixion. In John 13:32-33, Jesus said He knew all things that were going to come upon Him. He knew all things that were going to come upon His disciples too. He was totally aware of the situation. He came to His disciples to give them some last-minute instructions before the most trying time they'd ever experienced in their lives. It surpasses anything that you or I ever have or ever will encounter.
These disciples were literally the people Jesus was going to use to establish His church and overthrow Satan's kingdom. Therefore, I believe Satan threw every bit of discouragement, doubt, confusion, and torment he had against them. It was a crisis time. They had forsaken families, careers — everything — for Jesus. And they were in a situation that was going to test their faith, that Jesus was the Messiah even.
Jesus said, "I'm speaking these things to you that you should not be offended." In other words, if the disciples had taken heed to what Jesus told them here, they would not have been offended. They could have rejoiced during that very trying time.
So John 14, 15, and 16, in capsule form, is everything you need to know in a crisis when your faith is being tested. If this doesn't apply to you at this moment, hang on — it will. Every one of us needs to know this. We need to be schooled in these precautions before the crisis hits. When a crisis hits, your very first reaction — the first thing you do when Satan attacks — usually determines the outcome.
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Not long ago, I was reading a book called Terror at Tenerife.
It reminded me of what we're talking about here. This man, Norman Williams, was in the accident on the Canary Islands in which two huge 747s crashed on the runway and burned. Only a few people out of 500 or more escaped. The rest were killed.
It was miraculous how Williams got out. He looked at the people on either side of him, and it was so hot, the flesh just melted off of them. They became skeletons instantly. He said that people who were normally nice — little old ladies sixty or seventy years old — yelled things so vile it was unbelievable. He couldn't describe it. The things that were hidden deep in their hearts came out in a crisis situation and bothered him more than anything else.
But what came out of his mouth was different — he'd been seeking the Lord. He had agreed with his mother before he left on the trip that he'd be safe. The first thing to come out of his mouth was his faith that God would protect him. He had a huge fireball come right at him, but he wasn't burned. Then a landing gear came flying at him. He just caught the thing and threw it off. There was an explosion right above his head, and the plane, ten feet high at that point, was torn open. He jumped up right through that hole, even though he was fifty years old and overweight. God supernaturally delivered him.
Norman Williams didn't have time to sit back and ask, "Now let's see, what should I do in this situation?"
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Your first reaction is going to determine the outcome in a crisis situation. Seldom do we have the luxury of sitting back and looking at things. The attitude you have when Satan comes against you is going to determine the final result. If you can get a hold of this truth, it will revolutionize your life. I've been teaching this everywhere I go, and I've seen more results out of it than anything I've ever taught. It's based on simple truths from the Word, but if you get established in them, they'll keep you from being offended, and the Word of God will produce in your life.
In John 14:1, Jesus says, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me."
Now this is so simple that you can miss it. It's very profound, however. The first thing you have to do when Satan comes against you is to make the decision that you are not going to let your heart be troubled.
If you were to diagram this sentence, the understood subject is "you." You let not your heart be troubled. God gave you the choice. God gave you power over your heart.
Again, this is so simple we often miss it. The vast majority of people I deal with who are attacked by Satan don't really understand this. A lot of them believe that in a given situation, there is no way that they can help but to be depressed and discouraged. They justify emotions that are contrary to God's Word. But this is a command as much as any other command in the Word — as much as "thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, and thou shalt not kill." It is a direct command from the Lord!
So the very first thing you have to do is say, "I am not going to let my heart be troubled."
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As I travel, the biggest problem I encounter in the body of Christ is discouragement and depression. At least three-fourths of the people I deal with constantly battle these emotions. There is no excuse for it — there are reasons, but no excuses.
We've gotten to the point that we think these kinds of emotions are normal. A lot of people try to resist and walk in victory, for a brief period of time. They have bounds, or limits, to how far they'll go in believing God. When certain things happen, such as someone dying, they say, "Well, how could you expect anybody not to be discouraged or not to grieve?"
Well, I guarantee you the Lord Jesus Christ has borne our sorrows and carried our griefs! That's not to say that you don't miss a person, but there is no justification for getting into grieving which becomes destructive.
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We have an authority as believers that most Christians have missed. Satan doesn't have any control over your heart and circumstances — he cannot control you unless you let him. In Deuteronomy 30:19, God speaks through Moses, "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live."
If you were to diagram this sentence, "you" is again the implied subject: therefore, you choose life. God gave you the choice over your heart. This is powerful, but again, people have missed it and have allowed themselves to justify feelings and emotions that are contrary to God's Word.
For example, we say, "Sure, I'm supposed to love my brother and sister, and I'm supposed to walk in love." We try to do that at church and sometimes in the world. But everybody has one person who really gets under their skin. So we justify feelings that are contrary to what God commanded us to do. We say, "Well, God can't expect me to love that person."
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In my marriage counseling, people invariably say to me, "But look what this person did," and they begin to tell me all the terrible things their mate has done. The purpose of this is to justify their feelings. They say, "I know I'm not supposed to be depressed and discouraged. I know I'm not supposed to be angry, but look what they did."
What they're really saying is, "Well, this justifies my feelings, this justifies my depression, this justifies my actions." But there is nothing that justifies our being less than what God called us to be.
It doesn't matter what comes your way — death, physical problems, financial problems, relationship problems — whatever the devil is fighting you with. God has given you the ability to overcome it. But you have to choose. If you identify with discouragement, doubt, and depression, you set a precedent that will enslave you the rest of your life.
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You can take all I'm ministering in John 14, 15, and 16, you can learn about faith, you can learn about confession, you can learn everything the Bible says. Yet, in your heart, if you've taken offense, if you've been hurt, if you submit to feelings of depression or discouragement, you'll wipe out everything good. Nothing is going to work.
That's why some people can take all the steps people outline for them, memorize them and carry them out, but if their hearts are discouraged to begin with, it won't work. They never were standing in faith.
Again, the first thing you have to do is grab a hold of your emotions and say, "In the name of the Lord, this thing is not going to get me." You have the ability to do that. The Bible says that He set before you a choice. He even tells you which choice to make. So, obviously, we have the ability to choose. It's a lie that you cannot control your emotions.
Our generation has been saying that you can't pen up feelings and emotions, you need to vent these things and let them out. This psychology has had a greater impact on the church than most of us realize. I agree that you aren't supposed to bury things and let them fester. But you are supposed to get delivered of them, reject them, and resist them. Giving vent to emotions that are contrary to what God tells you is not a positive thing. It's a negative thing that allows Satan to have freedom in your life.
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Proverbs 23:7 says that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. Are you depressed? You've been thinking about things that depress you. Are you sick? You've thought about things that make you sick. Are you discouraged? You've been thinking about things that are discouraging.
You may not have said, "Well, I want to be sick." But your thinking is sick, and that's the reason you are sick. You may not have said "I want to be poor," but your thinking is poor, and that's the reason you're poor. You may not have said "I want to be depressed," but you're thinking on depressing things, and that's the reason you're depressed.
We are 100 percent what we have chosen to be. It is vital that we understand this. You cannot say that a person is 100 percent a product of their environment because I can show you people whose parents were alcoholics or drug addicts or child abusers, and they chose to go the other direction and live victorious lives. As a matter of fact, some of them say, "Whatever happens, I'll never be what I've seen." And they do it.
Therefore, our experiences are a results of our choices, not our environments. Environment is a factor, but our choice is the deciding factor.
Unbelief, fear, and panic are choices. Wrong choices. There may be many reasons we have been taught to respond that way, but ultimately, the decision is ours.
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You can react two ways when a crisis hits you. You can choose to be encouraged or discouraged. You do not have to be defeated in a crisis. You do not have to fear. You do not have to be depressed.
Even many churches preach that you have mountain tops and valleys in your relationship with the Lord — up and down, up and down. But you don't have to be that way. If you're not having a great time with the Lord, if your relationship isn't a constant upward trend, it's not because God makes it that way, it's because you've followed wrong thinking. You believed a lie, and you allowed your emotions to go up and down. You're following your emotions instead of following your faith.
So the first thing you have to do in a crisis situation is grab a hold of your emotions, grab a hold of your heart, and set it in the direction you want it to go. Don't allow circumstances to dictate how you feel and how you're going to react. That's pivotal. It's important that the moment something comes against you, you make a decision right then.
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That decision does not have to be based on how you feel. You may feel hypocritical in saying, "I'm going to praise God even though I feel depressed." You may think, "Well, I'd be a hypocrite if I went ahead and acted like everything's okay."
You're actually a hypocrite when you go on your feelings because the true you, your spirit (the born-again part of you), is rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory all the time (1 Pet. 1:8). There is always love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance in your spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
So the decision depends on which self you consider to be the real you. If you consider the emotional part of you to be the real you, you're a hypocrite for acting differently. But if you see yourself in Christ Jesus, recognize that you are a new creature, and look at yourself through the word of God, the true you, the spirit, will come out.
Your spirit never gets depressed, it never gets discouraged, it never gets fearful. If you feel anything contrary to that, you're a hypocrite — from God's standpoint — if you go by those feelings. For example, somebody says something that hurts your feelings. What are you going to do? You've got a choice. You can either get down and gripe and complain about it, or you can grow up and forgive the person.
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That's what we're really dealing with here — growing up. The same principles used for child training apply here. Most of us never grew out of doing whatever we felt like as children. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Take children, for example. We give them certain responsibilities and they do them. We don't care whether they feel like doing them or not. There are some things you just have to do. You just have responsibilities. I teach my kids that.
We've adopted that attitude as far as work goes — we have to get up and go to work. There are other things we have to do — pay taxes, obey the law, pay our bills, etc. But in our relationship with the Lord, we've gone back to being like children in a lot of ways.
You don't feel happy? Well, grow up! Who cares how you feel? Stop caring how you feel — you are blessed (Eph. 1:3). You've got the joy of the Lord inside of you. You can choose to be happy if you want to be happy. You can choose to be blessed. You can choose to be excited about the Lord if you want to be.
Some people may be thinking, "Now, wait a minute. You don't know my situation. I agree with what you're saying, but sometimes you just can't overcome." Well again, you're putting your experience, your natural feelings, above what God's Word says. God gave us a command to not let our hearts be discouraged, to not let them be troubled. You can do that. God would be unjust to command us to do something that we don't have the power to do.
In Deuteronomy 28:45-47, the Lord said He was bringing judgment on the children of Israel "because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things." He held them accountable for their emotions!
In John 16:33, Jesus said, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." In this one verse Jesus made it clear that His command to be of good cheer was not just for the good times. But even in tribulation, be of good cheer!!
You can and must control your emotions!
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You've got to recognize that God has given you power over any situation. A lot of people can walk in faith if they have a cold or a cough, but if it's cancer, that's different. But there is no difference in the sight of God. If they tell you that you are going to die of cancer, you can make a choice not to let your heart be troubled.
I could give testimony after testimony after testimony of people who have done this. Any situation that you find yourself in, I guarantee I can find somebody who has faced the same situation and has come through it with flying colors. And if you don't know somebody, you can go to God's Word and can find someone in a situation that was equal to or worse than yours, and yet they came through.
If you're depressed, if you're discouraged, no matter what's happening to you — and I make that statement without any reservations — it's because you've chosen to submit to those feelings. You've made the wrong choices.
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Now some people will think, "Well, that condemns me." But it shouldn't. It should convict you and encourage you at the same time because if you're the one who made the wrong choices, you can change everything by making the right choices.
This doesn't condemn me. It blesses me because if some things are just too big for God, I'm in bad shape. All I can do is learn to roll with the punches, have people show pity for me, and feel sorry for myself. But if God has an answer, and if the only reason I'm experiencing the difficulty is because I made wrong choices, that blesses me — because I can change me. I can't change God, but I can change me.
When you ask some people how they are, they immediately begin to tell you every bad thing that has happened to them — "I don't feel so good and the kids are sick and my rent's late" and on and on. What they are doing is justifying their feelings. They actually get some kind of glory out of telling you how bad they feel. A person like that is never going to break out until they make a choice that they're going to be different.
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Instead of being a weakling, you can choose to be strong in the Lord. Joel 3:10 says, "Let the weak say, I am strong." You can choose victory. You can identify with victory. Isaiah 54:17 says, "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD." If that's the truth, then how can we justify being defeated, or justify the fear we feel? We cannot justify it.
The answer is to recognize that we've made a wrong choice. The answer is to repent and to begin saying that it's not the problem, it's not these people, it's not that circumstance, which is causing all of my problems. That's the "Adam syndrome," where Adam said it's that woman that God gave him. He pushed the blame off on Eve, then tried to put it on God (Gen. 3:12).
Some people do the same thing. "Well, it's the flu season," they say. "The bug's going around." In other words, it's that bug's fault instead of your fault for making a wrong choice. Or, to put it another way, it's God — "God, why have you allowed this thing?"
God did not allow the problems in your life. The bug is not your problem. Other people are not your problem. Your mate isn't your problem. The people at work aren't your problem. The economy is not your problem. You are your problem.
I was teaching on this one Sunday in church. When I said "There is no justification for your depression," a woman sitting behind one of the pastors said "Unless you have a chemical imbalance." Some people try to push it off on chemical imbalances in the body. That's not your problem either.
If you have a chemical imbalance, then get healed! There is no justification for being less than what God told us to be. It is my opinion that even those who really do have a chemical imbalance have thrown that balance off through wrong thinking.
Again, there is no condemnation in this. God loves you. You can go to be with the Lord depressed, defeated, and discouraged if you want to. God still loves you. He is not condemning you — and neither am I.
I'm saying that if you want victory, it's available. But it starts with you making a choice. It starts with you recognizing that no weapon formed against you can prosper, unless you choose to let it prosper (Is. 54:17).
God gave you the choice over life and death. If you are experiencing death instead of life, it's because you made a wrong choice. God will not make the choice for you. Satan cannot make the choice for you. If you aren't healthy, happy, and prospering, it's because you've made wrong choices.
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Like any ministry, we've had financial problems from time to time. But I live by the same thing I'm teaching you. I don't think I brought these problems on specifically by what I did, but as I grow older in the Lord and get wiser, I'm sure I'll make better decisions that will avoid many of these problems.
However, I've made some critical choices, and one thing I've chosen is not to let my heart be troubled. People on my staff have come to me saying, "You must not have gotten the full picture — you don't understand how bad this is," because it hasn't bothered me.
But I understand exactly how bad it is.
If you begin to walk in these principles and choose not to let your heart be troubled, I guarantee you it's going to upset people. People will think you're a "brick short of a load." Your elevator doesn't go all the way to the top. You're one donut short of a dozen. They'll think something is wrong with you because you aren't acting normal.
But praise God, we aren't supposed to be normal! God made us to be a supernatural people.
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When a crisis hits, you need to be prepared. You need to have your heart ready. I've been meditating on a scripture lately in 2 Chronicles 12. This is the story of King Rehoboam, Solomon's son. He started out good. He started seeking God, but he turned out bad and actually got into idolatry. It says, "And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD" (verse 14).
Rehoboam didn't want to do evil. He started out doing the right thing, but he gravitated toward evil because he didn't prepare his heart to seek the Lord. He didn't commit himself. He had a desire to do it, but his heart was on other things. It wasn't single upon the Lord.
When you come into a crisis situation, if you haven't chosen to seek the Lord, if you haven't already made some decisions, your heart is going to gravitate toward fear. It's going to gravitate toward depression, toward negativism, toward defeat. You've got to commit yourself. You've got to fix your heart so that no matter what the devil does, you're going to walk in victory. You're going to keep your eyes on the Lord.
Your attitude should be, "Satan, you can't do enough to keep me from thinking on the Lord!" If you haven't made that commitment, you're a problem waiting to happen — and it's going to come.
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When I went through the service, I only heard one good thing from a chaplain the whole time I was there. Most of the chaplains I had weren't born again. The day we got our orders to go to Vietnam, grown men began to cry. It was a tragic situation.
This chaplain came in to console everybody. He said that the Army and its experiences, including Vietnam, was a fire. It will melt you. But you'll fit into whatever mold you've picked for yourself. That was a true statement.
Because I had already set my heart on the Lord, I was determined that I was going to go all the way for God. All the pressures, all the horror I went through, drove me that much more to the Lord. When I came out of Vietnam, I was stronger than horseradish! I was walking with the Lord, the joy of the Lord was in my heart, and I was a thousand miles further in my Christian walk.
A lot of other soldiers didn't have that experience. There were many who weren't necessarily evil. They probably had never done anything bad to speak of back in the States. But put under that kind of pressure, with no restraints upon them, with everybody else doing it, these good, moral people, these churchgoers, these upstanding citizens, went the other route.
One after another, I saw them go in to prostitutes, get drunk, take dope, and do every other terrible thing. It was because their hearts weren't already fixed. They hadn't prepared them.
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In Psalm 42, the writer is talking about all his problems. He says that as the deer pants after the water brook, so his soul pants after God (verse 1). He says that he desires only God, and the reason he desires God is that things aren't going well for him. In verse 5, he says, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance."
In other words, right in the middle of his complaint, he says, "Why am I discouraged, why is my soul cast down? I can hope in God. I've got a covenant with God. He's on my side. Why should I be discouraged?"
Then he goes back to complaining and ends the chapter with "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God."
In chapter 43, he complains again. Finally, in verse 5, he says, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God."
Here is the writer of these psalms talking about all the frustrations that are coming his way, but he had to constantly remind himself, "Why am I discouraged?" You need to ask yourself that same question.
Why are we discouraged like people who don't have a God? How could we ever go back to the level of discouragement and despair we had before we were born again, after God has done so many great things for us?
We need to recognize that it's not God who doesn't have power. It's not God who is not faithful. We are the problem.
We've missed it in the very first thing Jesus commanded His disciples to do — we've let our heart be troubled, and we feel justified in doing it. Then we wonder why we aren't prospering, why we're sick, why we're depressed. We haven't even chosen life. We've chosen death.
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In 1 Samuel 30, David had been anointed to be king thirteen years before the text was written. For thirteen years, David had prospered. God had used him to kill Goliath. The entire land of Israel was seeking after him — they were crying that David had killed tens of thousands, while Saul had killed only thousands.
David had the support of the entire nation. He had been anointed by God and called to be king.
Saul had lost the anointing of God. He was tormented by an evil spirit. Saul was doing everything wrong, costing the children of Israel much bondage and hardship because of his disobedience.
During this period, David had been anointed to be king, but instead of doing anything to further his cause, David humbled himself. God supernaturally delivered Saul into his hands. Saul went into a cave where David and his men were hiding, to take a nap during the heat of the day. David's men told him, "God has delivered him into your hands — kill him!"
But David wouldn't do it. Rather, he submitted himself to Saul, caused himself a lot of hardship, was driven out of his country, and had to live among his enemies. Once, in a foreign land, his enemy said, "This is the one they say is king over the land."
So to protect himself, David had to act like a crazy man, letting spit run off his beard and scratching on the walls like an animal.
The king said, "This man is crazy. How can he do me any damage?" Can you imagine how David felt? He was probably tempted to say to himself, "So you're the great man of faith, the one who has the anointing of God. You're the one God has called to be king, and you're having to act crazy just to save your life!"
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David had been through discouragement after discouragement while running from Saul. He had 600 men who had come with him — all criminals, convicts and murderers who had to flee Israel to save their lives. He had the scum of the earth as his army.
Satan could have discouraged David in a big way.
Once, in the midst of it all, David and his men came back to his town of Ziklag to find that the Amalekites had invaded his city, taken away the women and the children, burned the houses, and carted off everything valuable as spoil.
Think of it. For thirteen years, David had been faithful to God. He hadn't done anything wrong, and yet adversity struck at him over and over again.
When we've done something wrong, most of us think we deserve our problems. We brought it on ourselves. But when we've done well and the devil hits us broadside, most of us feel justified in griping, complaining, and having a "pity party."
But that's just the opposite of what David did.
He could have felt justified in being depressed. In 1 Samuel 30:3-6, it says "So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives. Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David's two wives were taken captives... And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters."
On top of losing his wives, children, and home, David was getting ready to be stoned — by the very people he had been responsible for, the people he had fed for five years, those he had faithfully taken care of. They were going to stone him for something that wasn't his fault!
Most of us would have said, "That's the last straw. I quit. I'm going to have a pity party." We would have felt justified in doing that.
But look at the rest of verse 6, "But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God." If David chose to encourage himself in a situation like that, we can choose to encourage ourselves no matter what comes against us.
David chose to do it. And notice, it says he encouraged himself.
He didn't just say, "Lord, I'm asking you to send somebody to encourage me."
You need to recognize that God has given you authority over your own heart. You can choose life or death. You can choose to be encouraged or discouraged. You're the one who makes the choice. David chose to encourage himself.
The first step — and nothing else can happen until this — is to choose life. Nothing else will work until you do this. Nothing else will work until you say with the psalmist, "Why am I discouraged? Why am I cast down? God is on my side. I choose God. I choose life. I'm going to come through this thing somehow or other."
Until you make that choice, no other choices can be made.
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Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego made the choice. In Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar said in effect, "Okay, I'll give you one last chance — bow or burn."
They said, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter" (verse 16). In other words, "You haven't intimidated us one bit. We don't care. Our God is able to deliver us, and He will deliver us, but if even He doesn't deliver us, we aren't going to serve your God." Their hearts weren't troubled.
In Daniel 6, Daniel was thrown into the lion's den. There is no account of him screaming or yelling as he was thrown in, clawing to get out. His heart wasn't troubled. It was already fixed.
People who say "Well, I know I'm supposed to walk in love, but look at what they did" will always be in a mess because Satan is constantly going to send people across their paths to do something wrong. If you say certain circumstances justify walking out of love, being discouraged, being depressed, then you're going to be unloving, depressed, and discouraged the rest of your life, because Satan will always have someone or something to send your way.
Hanging on the cross, Jesus turned to the very people crucifying Him and said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Stephen, in Acts 7:60, did the same thing. He said "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" when they were stoning him to death. If they can do that, we can do that. The Lord has given us that ability.
You can choose to love the very people who hate you. It doesn't matter what has been done to you. It doesn't matter how you were brought up. It doesn't matter how you've been abused. There is no justification for being discouraged and depressed. There are reasons for it, but no justification.
That's good news. That puts the responsibility on you. It may not feel good, but if you'll think about it a little bit, it will feel better. It will grow on you. After all, you can do something about yourself.
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Chapter 2: What's Your Perspective?
Let's review for a moment what we covered in the previous chapter. I believe that in John 14, 15 and 16, the Lord has given us a brief, concise summary of what we need to do in a crisis situation to win.
In John 16:1, Jesus said, "These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended." In other words, He spoke these things so that the Word of God would continue to work. This correlates with Mark 4:17, where the Lord told His disciples that if they became offended, the Word would stop working for them.
The Lord told His disciples what to do in their crisis situation, and it also applies to ours. We started with John 14. The first part of verse 1 says, "Let not your heart be troubled." The second part says, "Ye believe in God, believe also in me." We talked about taking control of your emotions, how not to panic. The first step is to grab a hold of yourself, to make the decision, "I am not going to be troubled by this thing." You do that by believing in God, by exerting your faith.
What we'll deal with in this chapter, John 14:2-3, is what I believe to be the next step in the process. It is what allows your faith to operate.
It says, "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
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First, let me reiterate that the Lord gave me this teaching because I'd been dealing with people in crisis situations. I found that John 14, 15 and 16 was exactly what I had been telling them. The Lord had condensed everything that we need to do in these trying times and put it into these verses of Scripture.
I was excited about these scriptures, but frankly, I had to skip verses 2 and 3 at first because they didn't "click." I didn't know what the Lord was saying. I could relate to the first verse, "Don't let your heart be troubled. You have the authority, so believe in God."
Then, in verse 6, it says that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life in our crisis situation. That means you have to put emphasis on the Word of God, on a personal relationship with Him. After that, it talks about the ministry of the Holy Spirit, how to abide in Him, and so forth.
Everything fit except verses 2 and 3. Did they mean that the Lord was preparing the disciples for defeat, talking about heaven, "pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by" and "Further along, we'll know all about it."? That didn't seem consistent with all the other things that the Lord was sharing with them. I didn't understand.
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Part of the reason I felt that way was because the church I was brought up in had prejudiced me on the subject. They didn't believe in victory in this present life. All the victory, they said, was going to be in the future when we went to be with the Lord. But in this life, they were sick, they were poor, they were defeated. They suffered the same things the world did and believed that all the Lord did was to comfort them in it. There was no victory.
So we sang songs like "When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing it will be." We talked about the "sweet by and by," but the "nasty here and now" had no victory at all!
Because of that, I reached the point that when we talked about heaven, I felt it was a kind of escape. It was in effect saying, "Well, we aren't going to make it down here, but someday, it'll all be worth it." I came to resent that kind of thing, and I rebelled against it. (Eventually, the Lord helped me realize that even though that message was abused, there was still a truth in it. In 1 Thessalonians 4:18, for example, Paul talks about the resurrection and our gathering together unto the Lord in the air. He says, "Wherefore comfort one another with these words." It can be a comfort.)
So as I read John 14:2-3, it looked like, instead of preparing them for battle and overcoming the devil, the Lord was preparing them for defeat by talking about heaven. I couldn't grasp it until I saw that what the Lord was really talking about here was perspective.
Let's read it again. John 14:2 says, "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." Verse 3 says, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
Remember that in John 14:1, Jesus told them, when they enter into a crisis situation, they must make a decision: Do not let your heart be troubled. Take the authority you've got and control your emotions, instead of letting them control you. Believe in God. Operate in faith. That's the victory that overcomes the world.
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But right in the midst of that, He refers them back to heaven. The Lord showed me that the purpose of that was so that if they couldn't see anything positive in their circumstances now, they could turn their attention to something that was positive.
He was encouraging them to look to the promises of the future. He wanted them to have hope so that regardless of what they encountered now, they would not lose their perspective.
In other words, "What if I fail? What if my faith doesn't work? What if I'm not healed?" In a crisis situation, Satan will always hit you with that kind of "what if?" thinking.
The average person trying to operate in faith will not confront these thoughts. They'll try to ignore them. They'll say, "No, I'm not going to think about defeat."
But the Bible doesn't teach us to ignore the devil; it teaches us to resist the devil, and then he'll flee from us (James 4:7). I've found, in dealing with some people, that it actually does them good to sit down and say, "All right, what if?"
"What if I don't receive my healing? What if I lose all my money? What if I die?" I clearly say to them, "It is God's will to heal you, but what if you don't respond properly? What if your faith isn't at the place it should be?"
It shocks people at first. But the truth is, if you die, you win. If you live, you win. You can't lose for winning. When you look at it that way, it takes the bite out of the fear Satan is tormenting you with. I believe that's what the Lord was telling the disciples in this crisis.
They were plagued with thoughts like, "What's going on? What do all these things mean? What's going to happen to us?" Jesus said, "Look, just take your attention off of that, and think that if worse comes to worse, even if you're totally defeated in this life, you've got a place assured in heaven."
This will cause the peace of God to settle in. It will cause what the Lord instructed us to do in John 14:1 to come to pass — not let our hearts be troubled. You'll think, "This isn't such a big deal. If worse comes to worse, even if the devil kills me, I've still got salvation. I'm still going to miss hell. I'm still going to heaven." That's not bad.
If you could stop and think about that — that it doesn't matter what you go through in this life, you've already been delivered from the worst thing — it would settle your heart.
You could rejoice in that. You could take comfort in it. It could help still your heart and let the peace of God return to you. In other words, what you're doing is putting things into perspective.
Satan loves to blow things out of perspective. He loves to make you think that yours is the worst problem anyone has ever faced in this life. He loves to make you sing that old song "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen."
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Somehow, Christians take pride in thinking their problems are worse than anyone else's. When I go to some cities, people tell me, "This place is bad. It's hard to minister the Gospel here." They'll tell me things like, "This is the occult capital of the United States. There's more witchcraft and demonic stuff going on here than anywhere else." The amusing thing is that every place I go, the Christians tell me that!
Christians seem to rejoice in thinking that their town is the worst place on earth. We don't consciously think this, but I believe it's because it gives us an excuse for being ineffective! Of course, Satan loves it. He loves to make you think that you're in a hard situation. He loves to make you think your town is unreachable. He loves to make you think that your financial crisis is the worst since the dawn of history. He loves to make you think that your cancer is so bad that no one has ever been healed of it.
This is the reason testimonies can be so encouraging and build your faith. They show you that there's another person who had the same thing you do (or worse) and yet lived through it. You start to think, "If it will work for them, maybe it will work for me." It changes your perspective.
Instead of becoming so "tunnel-visioned" that every time you see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel you're convinced it's another train, you begin to have hope of a better day. You begin to consider other things.
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One of those other things is: If worse comes to worse, even if you fail, you really haven't failed if you're standing on the Word and believing God. There is no disgrace in going down fighting. I've had to consider this in my own ministry.
The Lord called me to the ministry, and I've been sharing His Word since 1968. I've been traveling and on the radio since 1976 and on television since 2000. We've had some great things happen, but we've also had a lot of attacks. I've had a lot of financial problems, which I'd like to say didn't exist. I wish I had a different testimony, but the truth is that we've been on the verge of closing down several times.
There was a time I had so many problems in my ministry that I turned it over to several businessmen. One was my pastor, who had a net worth of over $1,500,000 before he was 30. I just turned it over to them. They came in, set up some sound business procedures, and began to find out what was wrong.
After a few months, they reported to me, "It's all over. You can't make it. It's even beyond God's help." They told me I was going to have to shut the ministry down. It just failed.
I couldn't handle that. I didn't want to consider that possibility. I had fears and doubts about failure, but I didn't want to face them. Yet it was finally presented to me in a way that I couldn't avoid. I had to make a decision. I had to consider my options.
The most important thing to me was my relationship to God, then my relationship with my wife and family, then after that, the ministry. I realized that the ministry really wasn't the most important thing in my life. I had been happy before I was in ministry, and I could be happy without it if I had to face that.
This set me free. I discovered that there could be life after ministry. I could be happy. I could still lead people to the Lord. It really didn't matter. I wasn't tunnel-visioned, thinking only about the ministry, I had a relationship with God. I had a good relationship with my wife and family.
I began to consider what life would be without the ministry, and I actually got excited. I began to think, "This would be great. I wouldn't have to deal with all of these people's problems. I wouldn't have to deal with financial crises. I wouldn't have to travel and be gone so much. I wouldn't have to go through all the pressures. I could just be loving God."
I realized that my relationship with God and my family would have skyrocketed without the ministry! I actually got excited.
Of course, the Lord told me that wasn't what He had called me to do and that we were going to make it. So I stood and believed God. That was around 1985, and I'm still in the ministry. We are prospering now. We are growing. We still have challenges, but we're meeting them.
What I'm saying is that it helped me to confront the question "What if?" I began to put it all into perspective. I've touched more people in the last 10 or 15 years than I ever thought I would. I've made an impact. Even if I were to fail, I wouldn't have failed because I was doing what God told me to do. It ministered peace to me.
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I believe this is what the Lord was saying to His disciples in John 14. He's giving them commands that seem so unreasonable. How could you keep your heart from being troubled in a crisis situation? How could you have faith in God when everything is caving in around you, and your world is falling apart?
Well, if all else fails and you can't see anything positive in your situation, just sit back and start thinking about the promises God has given you about heaven. Start thinking, "Devil, if you kill me, praise God, I'm going to be with the Lord."
When the Salvation Army lists obituaries in their newsletter, they say that people like Colonel so and so and General so and so were "promoted to glory." That changes the whole perspective. It makes it a positive statement like, "Hey, they got to go be with the Lord — that's what it's all about."
Paul had this perspective in Philippians 1:23-24: "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you."
If the devil had come to him and said "Paul, I'm going to kill you," he could have replied "So what? Big deal." As a matter of fact, he even said one time, "But we had the sentence of death in ourselves" (2 Cor. 1:9).
In other words, he had already died to himself. He was so alive to the Lord, so ready to meet Him, that if you said "Renounce your faith or I'll kill you," that would have been no pressure to him at all. He had things in perspective. He recognized that to die and go to be with the Lord was better.
Let's say you're fighting a terminal disease, and Satan says, "I'm going to destroy you, I'm going to defeat you." First of all, that is not so. You've got promises that can overcome that. John 14, 15 and 16 will help you overcome, but you also need to sit down and consider those fears Satan is fighting you with.
Instead of ignoring your fears and denying that they exist, just sit down and say, "All right, so what if I do die? I've got promises that God is going to receive me." If you fail financially, so what? If your ministry collapses, so what? If you lose your home, so what? You believe that God is going to transcend all those things and bring you to heaven.
God looks at things differently than men do. We're so carnal at times that we don't even take into account a person's heart. God is not like that. I believe the Lord looks at some of things we consider failure and, from heaven, cheers us on.
He would be clapping and praising some people just because they tried. It's better to try and to fail than to aim at nothing and hit it. I'd rather shoot for the stars and, if I miss, make the moon. I'd accomplish more than someone who says "I don't want to do anything because I might fail" and never gets off the ground. I believe that God views things that way.
When we begin to put things in God's perspective, suddenly everything changes. It begins to dissipate fear.
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Fear, of course, is the opposite of faith. Fear opposes faith. Just a tiny amount of faith is enough to supply any need you have. It doesn't take big faith to receive miracles from God, but it has to be pure. It cannot be mixed with anything else.
Many people have to build up huge amounts of faith because they have so much unbelief, fear, and doubt warring against them. If you allow those levels of unbelief in your life, then it will take a huge amount of faith to overcome. An easier way is to simply pull the plug on unbelief! When you do that, you'll find out that a little mustard seed of faith is enough for anything that you need. It doesn't take great faith, it takes pure faith, with nothing counterbalancing it.
For example, if the doctor suddenly tells you you're going to die, and those words generate fear in you, you have to deal with that fear, or your faith won't operate. It's not that it doesn't work, but it's counterbalanced. That's the reason that when Jesus raised Jairus' daughter from the dead, He told Jairus, "Fear not: believe only" (Luke 8:50).
In other words, "Get rid of your fear and just believe."
Many of you have released your faith and yet nothing happened. It's perplexing when you know that you really have faith. You know that God heals, and yet you don't see your faith work. One reason that happens is that other things neutralize your faith and keep it from producing.
Very seldom do people deal with unbelief. They just try to build faith. You have to work on both angles. You can't allow fear to run rampant in your life and expect faith to overcome it. That's not the way that God intended you to function.
When a crisis hits, the first thing Satan does is try to put fear on you. Fear comes up and says, "You're going to die. Did you hear what the doctor said?" You've got to be able to deal with that fear before your faith will operate.
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One way of dealing with it is to do what Jesus told His disciples to do — think about heaven. If you do that enough, you'll say, "So what? What if I do die? Big deal." When you look at it from God's standpoint, life on earth is very short.
What's really important? The most important thing is your soul. Jesus said, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36).
What does it matter if you have all of this world's goods, excellent physical health, lots of friends and everything else, if you die and go to hell? Those things really don't matter in the end.
If you look at the flip side of that coin — the positive side — you can ask, "What does it matter if for some reason I don't get healed and I do die? I'll go to be with the Lord. I'll be better off."
If you think about heaven, you can actually reach a place where, like Paul, you'll say, "I really want to depart and be with Christ, but I guess I'll stay around for your sake" (Phil. 1:23-24).
How many of us have ever reached a point where we long to be with the Lord so much that we have to use faith just to stay here? Not many. Why is that? Because not many of us have gotten God's perspective.
When you're really walking with the Lord, the thought of having no more inadequacies, of knowing all things as you are known, of being totally in the presence of God. All of that should be more appealing to us than living on this earth.
Now I'm not minimizing living here or reverting to the old mentality that "I'm just suffering for Jesus, and it's all going to be worth it someday." I believe that we're to live a victorious life now. I live in victory now. I'm having a great time now. But living now, as good as it gets, isn't as good as it will be in heaven. When you put things in that perspective, it will take fear away.
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I was dealing with a man once who was afraid he was going to die. I told him, "You aren't going to die. God's Word says you'll live. By His stripes you're healed." But his fear still remained.
Finally I said, "All right, what if you do die? You get to be with the Lord. What's wrong with that? Why are you afraid of going to be with the Lord?" We started talking about heaven and about what it would be like. All of a sudden, that fear was gone.
That didn't mean he stopped believing. You're still supposed to believe, but fear leaves when you consider the options. It's not as bad as Satan makes you think.
If you're dealing with financial problems, Satan will try to tell you that you'll be a failure the rest of your life.
Nearly every millionaire I've read about had more than one bankruptcy. They failed. But it was only temporary.
People who really succeed big also fail big. Babe Ruth, the home run king, was tremendous in hitting home runs. But he also had more strikeouts than anyone else. He didn't bunt or go for singles. It was either a home run, or he would fall flat on his face. That's one reason he made so many home runs — he wasn't afraid to fail.
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Luke 22 is a powerful lesson about failure. This one involves Peter. In verse 31, Jesus says, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat" (That's the New Testament counterpart of Job). Verse 32 says, "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou are converted, strengthen thy brethren."
Notice that Satan had desired to sift Peter like wheat, but Jesus prayed for him. Do you think Jesus' prayers were answered? Do you think Jesus ever prayed for something that didn't come to pass? I believe His prayers were answered.
But Peter denied the Lord three times. So, was Jesus' prayer unanswered?
No, I believe Peter failed by our standards, but not by God's. I don't believe God measures failure in the same way we do. Peter failed, but his faith didn't fail. His actions failed, but his faith didn't fail. He still retained his faith in the Lord.
Many times, Satan will tell you that you're going to fail. But what is failure? Is it defeat?
In the military, you can lose a battle without losing the war.
We've become totally success-oriented, but the world measures success opposite the way God does. The world measures it by what you can see, what you can put in the bank, what you can drive down the street. But God doesn't measure success that way. I believe God looked at Peter's heart, and even though Peter failed outwardly, God didn't consider him a failure.
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When you're facing a crisis, that's the acid test. You need to put things in God's perspective and say, "So what if I fail? I haven't really failed in God's eyes."
When I considered having to shut the ministry down, I sat down and thought, "Well, the ministry isn't everything God has for me. I could quit this. I could go back to pouring cement and lead people to the Lord doing that. I'd still be blessed."
That was a tremendous victory in my life. I didn't tie success to things. My success was in having the Lord. I began to look at the broader picture. I still had the Lord, I still had love, I still had joy.
I enjoyed the Lord when I was just pouring cement. We led many people to the Lord. It was just a tremendous time. I could go back to doing that right now. I don't have to be a preacher to minister. That's powerful, because it defines success as it really is.
What is success? Success is knowing the Lord.
If you're born again, if you have the hope of eternal redemption, if you know you're going to be with the Lord, if you know all your sorrows and tears will be wiped away, Satan can't defeat you. He can't dangle that fear of failure over you.
Regardless of what he does, you're going to win. It's important to put things in the perspective of eternity.
I've seen people who had miraculous conversions. They were alcoholics or drug addicts, their spouses had left them, they'd lost their jobs, their lives were falling apart. Yet God did a great miracle and brought them completely out of it.
Then two to three years later, they get caught up in some problem, say, a $100 bill they can't pay. Now they're ready to renounce their faith. Their whole world is coming to an end. They can't stand it.
That's not rational. Someone like that shouldn't fall apart after God has done such great miracles in their life. Their present problem shouldn't taint everything else. They've lost their perspective.
In my denominational church, we used to sing a song: "Count your many blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings, see what God has done." Its purpose was to put things into perspective.
Sometimes we get so zeroed in on one negative fact that we forget all the great miracles God has done. Satan gets us to thinking that this is the greatest problem that ever existed.
Yet, if you'll draw back from it and look at it in perspective, it's nothing compared to what God has already done in your life. If God has already healed you of cancer, a cold should not defeat you.
If God has delivered you from hell, you should not struggle with doubt that He won't deliver you from the problems of this life.
Failure to put problems into perspective will give you tunnel vision. You can't afford that. One way of overcoming it is by thinking about eternity and recognizing that our big problems really aren't that important. A thousand years from now in eternity, everything will look different.
It's like adolescence. Do you remember when you first had puppy love? It was earth-shattering. It was a huge thing. You'd just die if it didn't work out. Yet when it was all over, you found out that it wasn't really big or important at all. That's one of the problems of adolescents — they blow things out of proportion. They don't see things the way that they really are. It's the same with adolescent Christians.
One thing you can do to counter that is to keep things in the perspective of eternity. When you do, it will take care of fear.
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Again, take the crisis in our ministry. When I considered it, one of the fears I had was that I was going to be labeled a "failure."
I didn't want to be a failure. I certainly didn't want other people to perceive me as a failure. This was a real pressure on me.
Then the Lord asked me, "What were you when I got a hold of you?"
Boy, I was a failure. I was a college dropout, I was going nowhere, I had nothing. Any good thing that's happened in my life, I can attribute directly to God. I haven't earned anything. I don't deserve it. I'm not trained. It's all been what God has done in my life.
Then God said to me, "So what have you got to lose? By yourself, you're already a failure." That set me free!
I'd allowed myself to think I'd attained something, but in reality, I was a failure. It was God in me who made any success of my life whatsoever. He had done it before, and He could do it again if that was His will. When I saw that, it took all the pressure off.
I didn't have to fear being a failure — I already was. That put things into perspective.
A young woman, who was a friend of mine, had been told by the doctors that she was going to die of cancer. When she first told me about it, I began to laugh. I said, "Cancer's no problem with God! It's no harder to heal cancer than it is to heal a cold."
She knew all of that, but she was so "zeroed in" on her problem that things had gotten out of proportion. She had forgotten that God already had done great miracles of healing in her life. This cancer had become so big, it looked bigger than God.
By my laughing about it and comparing it to a cold, it put things into perspective for her. It shrunk the problem down to where she could handle it. All of a sudden, the fear was gone. Her faith worked, and she was healed of it completely.
The doctors had told her she would be dead in just a few weeks without surgery, and even with surgery, they only gave her a 50 percent chance of living. That has been ten years and three children ago, and she is doing fine.
In a crisis situation, you've got to put things into perspective.
Many of you are facing a crisis right now. If you'd look back, you'd see the great things God has done in your life already. Maybe you've been healed of a terminal disease. Maybe you've been delivered out of a terrible financial crisis. Maybe your marriage was on the rocks and God resurrected it.
If you'd think about what God has already done, it would make your current crisis seem small in comparison. I've experienced that in my own life. I have doctors' reports to prove that I was healed of incurable diseases. I've seen God heal others. I've seen Him open blind eyes. I've seen Him raise the dead.
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Yet there are times when, somehow or other, I'm caught off guard. Satan or someone else will hit me with a problem, and all of sudden it looks big. It blows itself out of proportion. So I'll go back and remember how God handled things bigger than this, and soon it shrinks that problem down to size. It puts it in perspective. All of a sudden I see that this is nothing for God.
It's ridiculous for someone who has been healed of an incurable disease to despair of being healed of the flu or a cold. If you compare the two, it just doesn't make sense. Yet it happens. I know people who've seen miraculous interventions of God suddenly stumble over something insignificant because they don't put it into proper perspective.
In 2 Peter 3:1, Peter says, "I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance."
Putting yourself in remembrance is a way of keeping perspective on things. Few days go by that I don't think back to 1968 when God supernaturally intervened in my life. I could spend weeks telling you the miracles that I've seen. I think on those things, and it gives me a better perspective on current situations. I think, "This is nothing! It's a piece of cake compared to what I've been through."
Several years ago, a good friend of mine came to be the general manager of our ministry. He had managed several banks, so he was well-acquainted with financial problems. Then he came and saw all the bills that we had.
Our income can fluctuate as much as $40,000 a month! We don't sell our materials — we give them away. Our finances depend solely on people's giving, and that can vary greatly. It's totally beyond our control.
When he saw the situation, he was overwhelmed and nearly lost his faith! He was bothered. He would tell me about the situation, and I'd say, "Well, God is going to supply." He didn't feel like I was getting the picture. If I really understood the situation, I'd be more disturbed about it. Finally, I had to sit him down and say, "Look, I understand your concern, and I understand this is something new to you. It looks like a gigantic figure to you." (At the time we needed about $12-15,000 — immediately.)
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"It looks impossible," I told him, "but I can remember when we had a board meeting, and there was nothing to discuss! It was all over. We'd have to turn out the lights if God didn't provide a miracle. So we didn't discuss anything, we just asked God for a miracle.
"Right then, my mother called and told me that a church of 300 people had sent us an offering of $60,000! It didn't solve all of our indebtedness, but it took the pressure off. It was a miracle from God."
I said to him, "I remember that. I've seen God come through many times. I'm not saying that we don't have a crisis, but I know it'll be taken care of."
The reason I remained calm was because of my perspective. I'd already been through this. He didn't have that track record. He didn't have the same reference point I had. But after several years in the ministry, he was able to handle things better.
Again, the first two steps are found in John 14:1, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me." But to exercise those areas, you must put things into perspective.
One way to do that is to look back and see the many miraculous things God has done in your life. If you take your focus off the problem and think about what God has done and how blessed you are, it will make the current crisis seem like a piece of cake. You'll know that God is well able to handle it.
But what if you're in a crisis that supersedes anything you've ever dealt with, and you can find nothing to draw on? You can always go to God's Word. It will show you people who've been through much worse things than you're going through now. You can draw on the Word. That's another way of changing your perspective. If you look at the lives of these people in the Word of God, it will help.
And if you don't have either past experience or knowledge of the Word to draw on, just do what John 14:2-3 says — think about heaven. Think, "It doesn't matter what I'm going through. If worse comes to worse, I still win because I'll go straight to be with the Lord."
Start looking at scriptures about heaven and the reward.
Moses used this in his life. Hebrews 11:26 says, "For he had respect unto the recompense of the reward."
That is the reason he was able to suffer affliction and identify with Hebrew slaves rather than cling to a position of royalty in the household of Pharaoh.
The word "recompense" means to pay back. In other words, whatever you suffer down here, even if your faith fails, there will be a time when you're going to stand before God and be rewarded.
I believe God will reward you even if your effort wasn't 100 percent, even if it didn't get you the success you were promised in this life.
It is no disgrace to die believing God. It is no disgrace to have financial failure or be sick or have your life fall apart — as long as you're standing and believing God.
None of us is perfect, and I believe God judges things differently than we do. So have respect unto the recompense of the reward. Put things into perspective.
It will seem like all the sufferings of this present life are not worthy to even be compared to the glory that is going to be revealed in us (Romans 8:18). When you do that, it's impossible for your heart to be troubled.
You need to do that in a crisis. You need to look beyond your current situation.
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When you're using a camera with a manual focus, you could be looking at a flower or another object. You can focus on it, or you can point your camera in the same direction and focus beyond the flower, or this side of the flower.
You can watch that flower blur and fade out so that even when you're pointed directly at it, you can see other things. You can see the background or foreground. Using this same technique, you can actually take a picture through a wire fence and cause the wire to disappear by focusing on the object in the background.
In the same way, there's a right way to look at your problem, and there's a wrong way. You can focus on that problem so much that you lose sight of everything else. You can forget that God is alive, that God can intervene in your situation.
You can become so zeroed in on that problem that it brings doubt and unbelief upon you. Or you can look at the same situation, put it into perspective, change your focus, and see God, who is able to handle that situation.
There's an example of this in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. Here Paul gives us tremendous insight into his own relationship with the Lord and how he was able to respond to crises. He says, "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
Paul said a mouthful here. In verse 17, he says "our light affliction." Why did he say his affliction was light? Is it because he didn't have problems?
Some people think that. They think that if you're really walking with the Lord, you won't have problems. Actually, it's the opposite.
Look at Paul. He said the Apostles were set forth to be the least of everyone. They were set forth unto death (1 Cor. 4:9). They had more problems, more afflictions, and more persecutions than anyone else.
In this same letter, Paul talks about the problems he was having. In 2 Corinthians 11:21-23, he says, "I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more."
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In other words, he is talking like a lost man would talk. Since they weren't listening to the Spirit, he'd reason with them in the flesh.
In effect he's saying, "I'm talking like a lost man would. Since you want a list of my qualifications, I'll give them to you." And how did he verify his qualifications? He began to list the things he had suffered for the cause of Christ.
He says in verse 23, "In labours more abundant, in stripes above measure."
Now remember, this is some of his "light affliction" he was writing about in this same book. He had stripes above measure. That means beyond his ability to count.
Have you ever been beaten so many times you couldn't count them?
He goes on to say, "In prisons more frequent."
How many times have you been thrown into prison?
In Acts 16, Paul was beaten mercilessly in Philippi, cast into prison, and put in stocks like a common criminal. When did that last happen to you?
Then he says, "In deaths oft."
He doesn't expound on that, but I believe this is in reference to Acts 14, where he was in Lystra and Derbe. Paul was stoned and left for dead. The scripture doesn't say that he was dead, but he was so close that those who were trying to kill him were satisfied that he was dead (verse 19).
The disciples stood around him and prayed that God would raise him up — and God didn't take six months to do it! The next day he walked something like twenty-two miles to the next town and began to preach the Gospel. That was miraculous.
In verse 24, he says, "Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one." In other words, he'd received thirty-nine lashes five different times.
"Thrice was I beaten with rods," he says in verse 25.
They took rods and beat the bottom of his feet and legs, often to the point that bones were broken. If God hadn't supernaturally healed him, it could have maimed him for life.
Then he says, "Once I was stoned." (This was talking about Lystra or Derbe, which I just cited.)
Verse 25 continues, "Thrice I suffered shipwreck."
He was a prisoner onboard a ship when he suffered shipwreck. He knew it wasn't God who did it, yet because of his stand for the Gospel, he was forced into it anyway.
Next he says, "A night and a day I have been in the deep."
In other words, he literally had to float out on the open ocean for one-and-a-half days.
In verses 26-28, he says, "In journeying's often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches." He didn't even explain the emotional stress of being responsible for the churches!
Whatever you and I have suffered, Paul had it worse. Yet, in 2 Corinthians 4:17, this man says, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment."
How could the man say it was a light affliction? Again, it's his perspective.
It is not because he didn't have problems. Paul was more justified in being discouraged, depressed, upset, and angry than you and I have ever thought of being.
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We all know people who, when you ask then how they are, they just dump on you. It seems like they always have such a heavy burden, such a rough time in life, such a terrible ordeal. It seems like they never have anything go their way. They are negative, negative, negative.
Perhaps you're like that, and you say, "But it's the truth. I just can't help it. That's the way it is."
Paul had circumstances that were worse than yours, and yet he said his afflictions were "light." How can we scripturally justify talking about our heavy burdens, our great loads, our huge problems, when they're actually less?
There is no justification. You may find justification in the eyes of man, but not from God's perspective.
If you say that you have anything but a light affliction, your perspective is wrong. Your faith is wrong. Your focus is wrong. You're looking at the problem instead of the answer.
Paul sets the example to show you how the Lord can deliver you. God can become real in your life. You can put things into perspective and start realizing that nothing is impossible with God.
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I had an experience with the Lord on March 23, 1968, when I was eighteen years old. It revolutionized my life, and I fell so in love with the Lord. The Lord became so important to me. It was like focusing on that flower — I just zeroed in on the Lord, and He was all I could see. Everything else was blurred. My focus was on Jesus.
Jesus was the totality of my life. He still is today, but emotionally this was such a dramatic experience it just overwhelmed me.
It was just a short period of time later that I got drafted and sent to Vietnam. I had some hard times there and suffered a great deal of loneliness. I had a great desire to be used of God, but I saw so much ungodliness that I felt like I just wasn't effective. I had to deal with that, but as a whole, I came out of Vietnam unscathed. I came out a thousand times stronger in my relationship with the Lord. I came out without any of the psychological problems that other people had.
Over 58,000 U.S. soldiers died in Vietnam. Since that time, over 79,000 Vietnam vets have committed suicide! This is the largest suicide rate of any segment in our society. Vietnam vets have over a 95 percent divorce rate. And the statistics go on and on.
Yet I had no negative effects at all. I actually grew in the Lord tremendously during the time I was in Vietnam. I knew I was blessed, but I didn't realize just how blessed I really was until nearly twenty years later.
In about 1988, a man in Chicago gave me a copy of a book about Vietnam. I had never read anything about the Vietnam war. I just wasn't interested. This book had twelve testimonies about people who went through horrible, horrible experiences there but found complete freedom through the Lord when they got home.
The man who gave me the book had his story in there, and he autographed the book for me. So I read it.
I really became interested in the book because three of the soldiers mentioned in the book were in the same division I was in! They were talking about places that I had been. I was actually on one of the landing zones (LZ's) just a few days before the experience that one of these men was relating in the book. This hill was overrun by the Viet Cong, and this man related the horrifying details very vividly.
Although I missed the worst of the experience, the day I was there, we took something like twenty mortar rounds in an area no bigger than eighty feet long and twenty feet wide. I was in the thick of this fighting, yet it didn't even register with me.
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Do you know what I was thinking about during that time? I praying for those men. I was trying to share the Gospel with them, thinking about them instead of myself.
I remember another situation where we were on red alert when it looked like our hill was about to be overrun by the Viet Cong. We could see muzzle fire from the enemy weapons coming up the hill. I briefly thought about being killed, but my thoughts immediately went to the North Vietnamese soldiers.
I began to think, "God, I know where I'm going, but in all probability, the Vietnamese who were fighting us would go directly to hell if they were killed."
I had no fear of death whatsoever. I found myself praying for the Viet Cong who were coming against us. "God, somehow reveal yourself to them," I asked. I knew they were experiencing fear just like the U.S. troops were, and I was praying for them.
That kind of attitude won't make you a very good soldier, but it certainly did keep me from dwelling on my own problems.
Because of my perspective — because I was so zeroed in on the Lord — I felt as if I were in a bubble. I didn't experience the same emotions, the same terror, and fear, yet I was in the thick of the fighting. I wasn't in it as much as some of the "grunts," the "ground pounders" who were always out on patrol, but there were a lot of times I could have been killed in the fighting.
I saw in the book the perspective of a man who was in the same location I was, at the same time, recounting the same circumstances, yet he was an unbeliever at that time. The terror, the fear, the anguish that he felt came across in that book. I only felt it twenty years after I'd been there — reading this book! I was overcome with emotion. I suddenly knew what others must have gone through. It began to dawn on me how supernaturally God had protected me.
I just wasn't conscious of things the other people were. Do you know why? It was the fact that I was completely focused on Jesus. I was thinking of Him so much that I honestly didn't think about myself. I didn't think about the situation. I was thinking of other people.
It was my perspective.
If I had sat down and thought about being on the opposite side of the world, uprooted from the people I love, facing death, I would have been as depressed and terrified as anyone. But because I was focused on Jesus, my thoughts didn't run in that direction.
That is what Paul is saying. Paul went through adversity that you or I can't imagine, yet he was able to say it was a "light affliction."
I am not saying this to condemn anyone. Please understand that. But if you feel that your situation is terrible, if you are overwhelmed with a feeling of tragedy in your life, you have lost perspective. You aren't looking at things properly.
From God's perspective, there is no problem. He doesn't even have to lift His hand to solve your problem. God can move one little finger and deal with your situation!
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Someone might be saying, "Then why doesn't He do it?" It's because He's going to flow through you.
Ephesians 3:20 says "According to the power that worketh in us."
That doesn't mean that the burden of producing victory is on you, but you do have to believe. When you're operating in fear, you're really thinking that your problem is bigger than God. How do you avoid that? By not letting your heart be troubled. You can recognize that God gave you a choice. You have authority. You can exercise it. You can believe God and put things into perspective. You can think, "This no big deal."
One of the scriptures found throughout the Bible is "And it came to pass." This isn't a true application of that scripture, yet it ministers to me. I just say, "Satan, it's going to come to pass."
In other words, the reason it came was so it could pass! It's just temporary. It's not going to last. That helps me put whatever it is, into perspective. I think about all the other times it looked like there was no way out, yet I came through, and it helps me.
That's what Paul was doing. He says in 2 Corinthians 4:17 that it was a light affliction. Then he gives us two reasons why it was a light affliction. In verse 17, he says it is "but for a moment."
This is exactly what John 14:2-3 says. Paul is thinking about eternity, about heaven, about forever. The life we live down here is so short compared to eternity. Yet because of the pressure, because of the afflictions, some people are willing to renounce their faith in God and go in a different direction because they just can't stand it. It's dragged on too long, they say.
A person who says something like that has lost their perspective.
One of the things you need to do is remember that it doesn't matter if Satan fights you from now until the day you go to be with the Lord. No problem — it's just a moment in the light of eternity.
Get that perspective. Begin to reference things from God's viewpoint.
I've talked to some people about getting into the Word of God and building their faith up.
"That's going to take a year!" they say. "That's unacceptable".
So what do they do? They don't get into God's word. They don't build themselves up, and two, three, or four years from then, they've still got the same problems, if not worse.
If they'd put things into perspective, they would have said, "So what if it takes a year? It's worth it." And in a year's time, they would have been there. They would have been experiencing victory. You can't get there any faster than by starting right now!
One reason that Paul could say his affliction was light was because he recognized that it was but for a moment. It just was a brief period of time compared to the eternity he'd be spending with God.
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Many times our problem is bigger on the inside of us than the outside. It's the way we view it that's the real problem, not the physical thing itself.
I've talked to many people who were in a crisis and could see no way out. It was because they were held captive in their own thoughts, that is, in their fears, in their imaginations. Once I shared these truths with them, they got free on the inside. Then handling the problem became almost incidental.
But until we see it as an easy problem, it is big. It's a stronghold. But it's a stronghold first on the inside of our minds before it's a stronghold in the physical realm.
If you can deal with that inner image, if you can gain victory there, then victory in the natural is assured.
The second thing that Paul used to put his afflictions into perspective is found in verse 18: "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
He didn't focus — or look — upon the problem. Paul makes it very clear that anything you can see — a tumor on your body, what's in your checkbook, or your child in trouble — is temporal, that is, temporary or subject to change.
That means that all of your problems are subject to change. But the things that you can't see — things in the spiritual world — are eternal and not subject to change.
Jesus is eternal. Truth is eternal. The Word of God is eternal. Paul chose to focus on these things instead of physical things. You can look at a situation in a positive way if you can see the promises of God concerning that situation.
For example, let's say you're faced with a divorce. Instead of focusing on the problem until it becomes bigger than God, you need to see God's promises that He will comfort you, that you can intercede to sanctify your mate, that you can believe for reconciliation. All of those things can be found in the Word. And they are eternal.
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You need to look beyond your problem and see the eternal spiritual truth. This is what gave Elisha peace in the midst of his crisis (2 Kin. 6).
The king of Syria had come to kill him. He woke up one morning, and he and his servant went out on the walls of the city (Dothan). The king of Syria had massed his army around the city. Thousands and thousands of soldiers surrounded them, and here were Elisha and his servant just staring down at them.
It looked impossible. They knew why the armies were there. Elisha, by prophecy, had been giving the king of Israel secret battle plans of the king of Syria, and he'd been found out.
So there they were, on the wall of the city. Elisha's servant Gehazi looked at the things that could be seen, the army with all its horses and chariots, and his reaction was one of panic: "Alas, my master! how shall we do?"(verse 15), or "What in the world are we going to do?" He threw up his hands. It was hopeless.
Do you know what Elisha did? He was in the same situation. He saw the same armies, the same horses, the same chariots, and yet he saw something that Gehazi didn't see. He saw the spiritual world, and he said, "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them" (verse 16).
Someone who operates only in physical truth, in temporal things, would say, "That's a lie." You could count the Syrian army out there by the tens of thousands. Then Elisha counted himself his servant and said, "One, two."
Most people would say "You're crazy, Elisha. You're not dealing with a full deck."
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That's the reason that when you confess that you're healed, yet everyone sees that your nose is running, your sinuses are stopped up, and you're coughing and wheezing, they'll say "You're just fooling yourself. This positive confession stuff is nothing but a lie."
In fact, it is a lie if you see only the things that are temporal! But the truth is that there is a whole other world of spiritual reality out there.
True, some people have misused confession and thought, "If I will just say that it's so when it really isn't so, then it'll become so." Now that is wrong thinking. That's denial.
However, if you don't deny that you have physical problems but speak the greater spiritual truth, then the physical problem will have to bow to the spiritual reality.
If you're using it that way, positive confession is not a lie. It's the truth.
In the face of this hopeless situation, Elisha said, "They that be with us are more than they that be with them." Gehazi had a major problem understanding this, so Elisha said, "LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see" (verse 17). The Lord opened up his eyes so that he could see into the spiritual world.
The armies of Syria were still there (the problem hadn't disappeared), but there were also chariots and horses of fire surrounding them on the mountains! In other words, the angels of God were encamped around them.
Now when did those angels arrive? When the young man opened his eyes and saw them? No, they were there before, but he didn't have the ability to perceive it. Elisha hadn't seen the angels either, but he believed the promises of God and knew that they were there.
That's why Elisha could say, "Fear not." In other words, "This is no big problem, Gehazi. It's just a light affliction. Having a hundred thousand men come to kill you is no big deal."
He was looking at things that couldn't be seen. He was standing on the promise of God that the angel of the Lord encamps around about those who fear Him and He delivers them. David had already written that in Psalm 34:7. He was standing on the Word of God. Because of that, it didn't matter if the mightiest nation on the face of the earth came and tried to kill him. They couldn't do a thing.
Elisha walked out, raised his hand up and prayed to the Lord, "Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness." (verse 18) The Lord blinded the entire army of Syria.
Then Elisha told them to take each other by the hand and walk into captivity. Thus, a single prophet captured one of the most powerful armies on earth — all because of his perspective. He was able to see things that weren't in the natural, but in the spiritual.
That's what Paul is saying in 2 Corinthians 4:17. One of the reasons he could say that he had a "light affliction" was because he didn't look at what everyone else was looking at. He didn't acknowledge only the physical world, but he looked at the unseen, spiritual world, recognizing that it was eternal. Everything you see here is just temporary.
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If you have a physical problem, it's just temporary, it's subject to change. But the truth that "By whose stripes ye were healed" (1 Pet. 2:24) cannot change. It is the Word of God. It is settled forever (Ps. 119:89). Heaven and earth will pass away, but God's Word will not pass away(Mark 13:31).
When you begin to get that perspective, you're on your way to a miracle. You will see the power of God manifest in your life.
Faith is more than attitude, but it begins with an attitude. If your attitude is one of fear, you're not going to see the power of God manifest in your life.
You've got to deal with your attitude. It begins by putting things into perspective.
Stop looking at things and saying, "Oh, this is terrible. My whole life is ruined. What will I do?" Recognize that it's just for a moment.
Look at what God has already done in your life. Look at the Bible's positive examples. If all else fails, look at heaven, and think about how God is going to bless you for all eternity. Look not at the physical things but at the unseen things, the promises of God.
Find a promise in the Word of God that counters the negative circumstances you're in and dwell upon it. Focus on it. Remember that "as he [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7).
What you focus your attention on is what you will be dominated by. If you look at natural truth alone, you may intellectually acknowledge the power of God, but if you aren't focusing on it, your problem is going to dominate you.
You can't focus on something without it having an inroad into your life! If you aren't thinking on God's promises, it's impossible for you to operate in faith. You are going to be the way you think.
Think on the negative, the problem, and you're going to be full of the problem. Think on the answer, and you'll be full of hope, full of faith, full of love and joy and peace. You'll be able to say with Paul that it is a light affliction. Get your attention off the problem and onto the answer.
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We call a lot of things prayer that aren't really prayer.
Sometimes when people come into a crisis, they've been conditioned to tell God every rotten thing that's happening to them. I've heard people pray like this in churches: "O God, I need help — the doctor said says I'm sick and that I'm going to die." They go on and on about how bad their situations are.
Or they say, "O God, what's going to happen to my children? They'll be on drugs soon. God, what's going to happen to my mate? He's so bad. O Lord, we don't have any insurance. They can't even bury me. I'm so poor." And on and on and on.
They recount every negative thing in their lives. They spend forty-five minutes talking about the problem, then end up by saying, "O Lord, help me in Jesus' name, Amen."
In other words, they spend forty-five minutes on the negative, five seconds on the positive, and then they wonder why prayer isn't working. That's not prayer. That's complaining.
Charles Capps was praying once, and the Lord spoke to him, "What are you doing?" He said, "I'm praying." God said, "No, you're not. You're complaining." It really set him straight on what prayer is and what it isn't.
Prayer is not an opportunity to tell poor, misinformed God about your terrible situation. You don't have to tell God what the doctor says. You don't have to tell God what your bank account is. You don't have to tell God how your kids are rebelling. You don't have to recount every negative thing in your life.
God knows what's going on with you more than you do.
Prayer is an opportunity to ask for help. You should spend five seconds stating the problem and forty-five minutes praising God for the answer.
God has a provision for your problem before you even had the problem. Jesus already died to produce your healing. By His stripes you were healed — that's past tense (1 Pet. 2:24). God already made the provision, whatever your need is, before you ever had the need.
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Some of us would be better off to stop praying the way we pray.
Prayer is not wrong. But what we often call prayer is wrong because it makes us focus on the negative and gives the devil more opportunity in our lives.
Prayer should be an opportunity to commune with God in faith, talking about what He can do instead of the negative circumstance.
That's what the Lord was telling His disciples in John 14:2-3. Perspective is critically important. If you continue to think about the problem, meditate on the problem, talk about the problem, pray the problem, you're going to have the problem — because as a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Prov 23:7)!
You'll have that principle work in your life whether you want it to or not. Even though you've made the decision to not let your heart be troubled and to believe in God (John 14:1), you are going to be what you think on.
If you continue to think on the problem, it will negate the power of your faith. You will be unable to fulfill John 14:1 unless you get your attention off the problem. You've got to focus on the Lord.
Again, I'm not saying to ignore the situation, I'm saying exactly the opposite. If the devil tells you that you're a total failure, that you're going to die, that it's all over, just say, "So what?"
Think about it for a moment, and if worse comes to worse, you'll have a mansion in heaven. The Lord Jesus has promised to make one special for you. Whatever you have to endure down here, whatever the devil fights you with, you'll win anyway.
Get that kind of attitude. Then whatever problem Satan is fighting you with, you'll overcome.
Rom 8:6 says, "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."
What I'm talking about here — focusing on the Word of God instead of your problem — is being spiritually minded. If you do that, the Bible says it will be life and peace to you.
You can't die thinking positively, praising God for His provision. To die, to have Satan defeat you, you have to be stayed on the negative circumstances. If you look beyond the problem and focus on your answer, it will produce victory in you.
When I reach a place where all my care is cast over on the Lord (1 Pet. 5:7), it really won't matter. If I win, that's great, that's what I expected. But even if the devil beats me, it's no big deal because there is life after my problem. I'm going to make it. Even if it means physical death, I'm going to be with the Lord.
If your perspective is right, 1 Peter 5:7 will show it. Is all your care cast on the Lord? Or is it heavy, oppressive and burdensome and resting on you? If it is — and I'm not saying this to condemn you — you have not yet gotten a hold of this message. You don't have it in perspective.
If you are fretful about it, worried about it, anxious about it, if you are telling people how bad it is, you haven't put it into perspective.
Begin now to move from a position of defeat, focusing on your problem, to a position of victory where you recognize that in Christ Jesus, you are more than a conqueror (Rom. 8:37).
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Chapter 3: Knowing God
I'm confident that if we took the things the Lord ministered to His disciples in John 14 and implemented them in our lives, there'd be no reason for us to succumb to problems — ever. We may not be able to prevent problems from coming, but we can prevent them from winning! We can be more than conquerors through Him that loves us — in every case.
Paul said, "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ." (2 Cor. 2:14). The Christian life is, or should be, a life of victory. It's not victory without effort, however. In fact, once you become a Christian, there will be tremendous effort. The stronger you become in the Lord, the stronger the battle becomes. If you haven't realized that, I may be bursting your bubble, but it needs to be burst.
You must recognize that God didn't call us to avoid the devil. You should be seeking out the devil to destroy him and his works, not avoiding him. You should go on the attack. If you are looking for a place where there is no opposition, you need to die and go to heaven. But here on earth crises will hit.
The first thing you do when a crisis hits is to let not your heart be troubled. You need to get a hold of yourself and recognize your power of choice. The second thing is to put things into perspective. That's what Jesus was doing when He talked about heaven. He was saying, "Look, guys, if you choose life, then build yourself up in faith. That should do it. But even if it doesn't, even if you lose, you'll still win. One way or another, you're going to come through this thing victorious. All the problems you've had down here will be nothing compared to the glories God has waiting for you."
I believe these teachings are some of the most needed things in the body of Christ today. Our surroundings, our nation, our world, are so negative. They are defeat-minded, depression-minded, criticism-minded. If you don't have a positive attitude to counter that with, these things are going to overcome you. You can't just ignore them and have them go away. You literally must take the truth and oppose doubt and unbelief with it.
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We shared a tremendous amount of truth in John 14:1-3. The next thing Jesus said to His disciples is verse 4, which says, "And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." Jesus knew people better than they knew themselves. The Bible says that the Lord knows what is in the heart of man (1 Sam. 16:7). Jesus proved on innumerable occasions that He saw right into a person's heart. Jesus knew His disciples. He knew that their thinking was still muddled. He knew they weren't acting correctly.
When He said "And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know" (verse 4), that was a true statement, because they knew Him. Then Thomas said to Jesus, "Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?" (verse 5). Then, verse 6 says that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, but He knew that they didn't understand this.
I believe Jesus was talking about God, about faith, and about how a lot of people throw away their faith. Many people think they're operating in faith, when the truth is they aren't operating in faith at all. A lot of us are simply going through the motions. We're dead inside.
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Stop and think about this. In a church meeting, we all come, supposedly to believe the Lord. We come to hear from God. We put our best spiritual foot forward when we're at church. We believe — or we pretend that we believe. But out in the world when the devil attacks us, we respond differently. If we're honest, we'll admit that we've done the same thing Thomas did many times.
Thomas, in effect, was saying, "Lord, what you said isn't true. It's a lie. We do not know where you're going, so how can we know the way?" We think, "That's terrible. How dare Thomas contradict the Lord Jesus and say He was wrong!" But how many times have you said something like, "Well, I know God's Word says that by His stripes I am healed, but I'm still sick." That's different, right? Wrong! The only difference is that you said it instead of Thomas, and we're more lenient on ourselves than others in circumstances like this.
It's the exact same thing Thomas did. The Lord has said certain things in His Word. For example, He said that Jesus became poor so that we through His poverty might be made rich (2 Cor. 8:9), that He blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3), that nothing shall by any means harm us (Luke 10:19). These things have already been done. They're in the Word.
God said it, but what do we say? We say, "Lord, that's not right. Anybody can look at my bank account and tell I'm not rich. Anybody can see from these symptoms that I'm sick. Anybody can look at my circumstances and tell that I'm not blessed." That's calling God a liar...nothing less.
Everything the Lord ever said is 100 percent true. But because Thomas couldn't perceive it in the physical realm, he rejected it and said, "Lord, what you're saying isn't true." We do the same thing.
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One thing we must recognize in a crisis situation is the difference between what is true and what is truth. Certain things are true from a physical perspective, but there is an overriding spiritual truth. This is what Jesus was ministering. People always go by what's happening in the physical realm. If all you do is acknowledge that, you'll never be able to operate in the truths of God's Word because they'll always cross each other. They'll be contrary to each other a lot of the time, usually most of the time.
The world of the flesh and the world of the spirit are enmity against each other (Gal. 5:17). They're at war.
We often make the mistake of exalting physical truth over spiritual truth. We hold what we can see, taste, hear, smell, and feel to be more real than what God's Word says. But one of the things you must do in a crisis is go back to God's Word, humble yourself, and say, "Father, forgive me for exalting natural "truth" over your truth. Whatever your Word says is true. If I don't understand it, please explain it to me."
But that's not what the disciples did. Thomas countered Jesus, saying, "Lord, we don't know where you're going, so how can we know the way?" Then Jesus turned to him and said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him" (verses 6-7).
Then Philip said, "Lord, shew us the Father, and it will suffice us" (verse 8). Philip did the same thing Thomas did. He said, "Lord, what you say is not true. We haven't seen the Father." Jesus just said that they had seen the Father, and this time Philip contradicted Him.
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Later, in verse 22, it says, "Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou will manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" This is the third question, but the questioner wasn't rebuked this time. The Lord simply explained it. There was a difference in the intent of the question. Two of the questioners had said, "Lord, you're wrong. How could that be?" Although phrased as questions, they were still motivated out of unbelief. It was rebellion, opposition to what God had said.
The third question, asked by Judas, was simply, "Lord, I don't disbelieve you, but how will you do this?" It was for information. Those kinds of questions are good. When you have a crisis, questions usually come fast. What's happening? Why is it happening? What will the outcome be?
You must make sure you never question the integrity of God's Word, God's faithfulness to you, or the things God has spoken to you. God has said He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). So don't ask, "God, where are you?" That's unbelief. You aren't going to get a positive response from God out of that. You'll be rebuked. Similarly, the Bible says that only good and perfect gifts come from above (James 1:17) and that Satan is the one who brings problems (John 10:10).
So don't say, "God, why did you do this?" or you're headed for trouble. The Bible says Jesus became poor so we could become rich (2 Cor. 8:9). So don't ask, "God, why am I poor?" That's doubt and unbelief.
However, if you question it by saying, "God, what is going on? I know you're faithful. I know your Word is truth. I know you'd never do anything wrong. Is there something I haven't learned?" If it's that kind of question, for information, that's positive. There is a godly type of questioning.
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When people come into crises, one of the first things they do is start questioning the things they've held as foundational truths. For instance, if you believe in healing, if you've been professing healing, if you've been telling other people about healing, if you've prayed and been healed yourself or seen others healed, and suddenly sickness comes upon you, then Satan will try to broadside you. You try to release your faith, you pray, you quote the Word, but if you don't see the sickness leave in thirty minutes or an hour or a day, you begin to question.
You think, "This isn't working the way it should." Then there are questions. Is this really true? Is it really God's will to heal every time? Have I been wrong in what I'm saying? Questions like this are going to come. If you don't know how to handle them, your faith can be shipwrecked (1 Tim. 1:19).
How do you deal with these questions? You must make a commitment. In Romans 3:4, it says, "Let God be true, but every man a liar" You need to get to a point where you can exalt spiritual truth over physical truth. You need to exalt what God's Word says, taking it as a more sure word than what you can see, taste, hear, smell, and feel. That's easy to say, but not easy to do. It is a lifetime process. That's maturity in the Christian life.
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When you enter a crisis, if you haven't been applying yourself to the Word of God, if you're waiting until the storm hits before you try to build your house, you're going to be in trouble. That's all there is to it. Sometimes the storm is so severe that you can't build your house in the midst of it. You have to run next door and find someone who's already built their house and weather the storm there. Sometimes you're going to need help to survive. You'll have to wait until it's over and start re-establishing yourself in the Word of God.
You need to make a decision that God's Word is greater than what you can see, taste, hear, smell, or feel. In other words, what you experience in the physical realm. What I'm talking about is a simple principle in God's Word, but few Christians ever get a hold of it. Most of us are more dominated by the physical than we are by the spiritual. Yet you can soften your heart, you can sensitize it to the things of God so that what God says becomes more real to you than what you see.
For some of you, this may sound far out. You may think, "I'm not sure this guy is dealing with reality." It depends on which segment of reality you're talking about. If all you acknowledge is physical reality, you may think I'm crazy. But when you begin to look at things from God's perspective, it's just common sense. Everything we can see was created out of something we can't see, according to Hebrews 11:3: "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."
Things that are seen — this book, your chair, the walls of your house — come from something that you can't see. They didn't come from nothing. God didn't make something out of nothing. God took spiritual substance and made physical substance out of it.
Isn't that simple? There's a spiritual world out there, but because we can't see it or contact it through our physical senses, we don't acknowledge it. The Word of God is a perfect representation of spiritual truth, what's already there in the spirit realm. If you don't understand this, you can't operate in faith.
Because people don't understand it, a lot of them think that you have to confess the Word to release the ability of God. They say, "I'm saying that it's so when it isn't so in order for it to be so." They think that through confessing something, they actually make it happen.
Confession doesn't make anything happen. All confession does is take something that's already present in the spiritual realm and, by speaking it, release it into the physical realm. You aren't creating it. You aren't making God do something. If you say "By the stripes of Jesus, I am healed," that will not make God heal you. No, you've already been healed, according to 1 Peter 2:24. It's an accomplished fact. It's already done. Your confession just brings what's already a reality in the spirit realm into the physical realm.
God did it 2,000 years ago. It's already provided. It's already there. But it's in the spiritual world, and your body is in the physical world. It doesn't do you any good as long as it stays in the spiritual realm. Your body is physical, and it needs physical results. So how do you get it from the spiritual world to the physical world?
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You believe. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," according to Hebrews 11:1. It doesn't say faith is the evidence of things that don't exist! Faith is the evidence of things that do exist; they just exist in the unseen world. They are spiritual reality. Faith takes from the spiritual world and brings it into the physical world.
Jesus said in John 14:4, "Where I'm going you know and the way you know." But with their little minds, the disciples couldn't comprehend what He was saying. Since they didn't understand it, they said, "Jesus, you must be wrong." You need to recognize that God's Word is smarter than you'll ever hope to be. If you live to be 110, you'll never begin to approach the wisdom of God. You need to make a decision: "God, your Word is true."
When God says that you are healed by the stripes of Jesus, is that a true statement or not? Some of us say, "I know the Word says that, but my body says I'm not healed. Oh, I wish I could be healed." Are you saying that? Then you're calling God a liar. It's simple — it's is so simple you have to have someone help you misunderstand it!
We've come up with elaborate ways of rationalizing our failures so that it doesn't throw the blame on us. But when we make these statements of doubt, we're basically calling God a liar. We're doing the same thing Thomas did because we're exalting our own reasoning, our own feelings, our own senses, above what God's Word says. If you do that, you're never going to prosper or have your needs met or get healed or make it through a crisis, because Satan always will put emotions and events on you that make it look like God's Word isn't true.
You must get to the place where you exalt God's Word and believe it more than you believe the physical realm.
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The Bible says in Hebrews 5:13-14,"For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age [this is talking about maturity], even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
These scriptures say that you can actually reprogram your mind, your senses and your emotions to discern good and evil, instead of constantly having them go in the other direction. When your feelings say "I hurt. Who cares what God's Word says?" you can actually get them to acknowledge God's Word. You can renew your mind so that it doesn't always have to drag you toward the devil and away from God's Word. You can even renew your senses so that they will begin to start bearing witness to God's truth.
Of course, until you get a renewed body, you can never totally trust your senses so that they become the leading part of your personality. But you can get to the point they aren't constantly screaming doubt and unbelief at you.
How do you do that? There are several ways, but the two primary ways are found in Matthew 17:19-21. Jesus had just cast a demon out of a boy, and the disciples asked Him, "Why could not we cast him out?" Jesus said, "Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." Finally He says, "Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."
Jesus is not saying that this kind of demon goes out only by prayer and fasting. There are no demons who need more than the name of Jesus to be cast out. You can fast and pray until you wither to nothing, and it will not increase your power against the devil one iota. Faith in the name of Jesus alone is what accomplishes the miracle. But fasting and prayer will cast out the kind of unbelief Jesus was talking about. It will eliminate what I call human, or natural, unbelief.
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There is an unbelief that comes from a heart being hardened toward God. For example, let's say someone had a bad experience with Pentecostals. At one time, they were exposed to preaching about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, miracles, etc. But then they saw some Pentecostal do something really wild, something irresponsible, something that offended them and they rejected it.
So they hardened themselves and said, "I hate that. I don't want anything to do with it." They turned away from tongues and gifts of the Spirit altogether. Now they're in a state of unbelief, but it's an unbelief by choice. They hardened themselves, so it's actually a rebellious kind of unbelief. It can eventually wreck a person's life.
But say another person is seeking God with their whole heart, believes in the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and desires it. It's not that they're rebellious; they long for it, but they can't seem to get it. Some people have been tarrying for the Holy Ghost for thirty years! That can come through wrong doctrine. Or it can come because a person never gets beyond the realm of feelings. They're hung up on their feelings, waiting for an experience. And because they haven't felt or seen anything, they can't believe.
Their physical senses have become so dominant over them, they can't get beyond that. They can't believe for anything they can't see, taste, hear, smell, or feel. That's what I call a natural type of unbelief. Everybody has it. Nobody naturally believes God. You have to exercise your senses to believe God. It's like a muscle. You have muscles in your body, but none of them are naturally huge and bulging. If you leave them alone and do nothing, they'll atrophy. They don't naturally grow, they decay.
In the same way, your senses will dominate you if you don't make a deliberate effort to exercise them.
This natural type of unbelief is what the Lord is talking about in Matthew 17. The disciples believed that God could do miracles — they had cast out demons themselves. But in this case, they weren't able to see deliverance. I believe the reason the disciples had unbelief was because the epileptic boy fell on the ground, wallowed, and foamed at the mouth (Luke 9:42). If you've ever seen an epileptic attack right in front of you, it will send goose bumps up and down your spine. Fear will assault you.
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It made their senses stand at attention. They said, "It's not working. This guy is getting worse instead of better." Their senses dominated them. They had a natural unbelief that stopped them from seeing a miracle. Jesus said to them, "All you need is a little bit of faith, but your unbelief was opposing it." He said, "You can't get rid of this kind [in other words, this kind of natural unbelief] except by prayer and fasting."
Now why does prayer and fasting work? Basically, it works because it brings your senses under control of your spirit and exalts spiritual truth above natural truth.
Your body is not the way you may have pictured it. It is not as strong as you think. Your body literally does what you tell it to do. It is not evil in itself. Likewise, your emotions and senses are not evil in themselves. Satan will tempt them, and if you yield your senses to him, they can become instruments for evil. But your body and your senses in themselves are not evil or good. They're amoral. They're natural.
God gave you your body and senses. It's the way you use them that corrupts you. It's like a child. A child has certain tendencies to be self-centered, pleasure-seeking, rebellious, etc. Those things in themselves aren't bad unless you let them become dominant. You've got to direct them. You've got to channel them in the right direction. Your body, your carnal nature (what the New Testament calls the flesh), is the same way.
So how do you bring it under control? One way is by prayer and fasting.
But most people have the wrong impression here. For example, people fast as an act of law, to make God do something. Typically, it goes like this: They pray and nothing happens. Then they think, "I don't know why the Lord hasn't heard my prayer, but I've prayed and nothing's happened yet." Then they go to church and get somebody to agree with them. Still nothing happens. So they say, "If all else fails, I'll go on a fast until I get my answer." What they're saying is, "I don't know why God hasn't answered my prayer, but He'll answer it when I get into a fast.
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In other words, a fast becomes a lever or a pry bar on God. People think, "I don't know why God is not budging, but this'll do it. Fasting will get Him. When He sees me about to waste away, I know that regardless of how upset He is with me, He'll have mercy. Surely He'll move on my behalf when I'm about to die." We play on God's sympathy.
That kind of fasting will get you nothing but hungry. It does not accomplish a thing. Fasting doesn't give you any more "pull" with God — He doesn't love you a bit more if you fast or don't fast, or if you pray or don't pray. If you never fasted or prayed again, God's love toward you would still be the same. He doesn't change. God doesn't keep a chart with the hours you've spent praying and fasting and then, when you reach a certain level, He assigns you "priority mail" and has to answer your prayer!
God doesn't operate that way. You don't influence His attitude or actions toward you through your acts. God loves you because He is love. Prayer and fasting don't move Him.
But prayer and fasting does move you. Suppose your senses dominate you to the point that when God's Word says "By whose stripes ye were healed" (1 Pet. 2:24), your body rebels and says, "No, I'm not healed. I hurt." How are you going to get that body to submit itself to greater spiritual truth?
Some of us are totally dominated by our bodies. Our bodies say, "Eat!" and we say, "How much?" We do whatever it tells us to. Most of us can look in the mirror and see more than enough evidence that we're not doing well in this area (there are some skinny gluttons out there, too). If your body has dominated you, if you indulge your flesh, remember what Hebrews 5:14 says — that by reason of use we have our senses exercised to discern both good and evil. You've got to exercise your senses. It's by reason of use.
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If you've been living a self-indulgent life, if you've given your flesh everything it asks for, and then suddenly the devil puts cancer on you so that fear, panic, and pain set in, you may say, "All right, I'm taking authority over you, body and emotions." Then your body responds, "Who are you to tell me what to do? I tell you when to eat, how much to eat, what to eat — and you do it. And now you're going to control me?" Your body's going to rebel. You're going to have warfare. It is possible to win if you're desperate enough, but if you haven't been disciplining yourself, most of the time you'll lose.
How can you deal with that? A fast is a tremendous way. Your appetite is one of the strongest drives you have. People will kill over hunger. Eating is one of the temptations the devil used against Eve. It's a strong urge.
When you start on a fast and your flesh hasn't been brought under subjection, it will rebel. You may have heard someone talk about seeing three angels and five visions and getting words from God and all these things during a fast. You may think, "This is wonderful. I'm going to fast. I want to see angels. I want to have visions. I want to have God do something special for me."
So you go on a fast, and by noon the first day, you're cranky, you're irritable, you're headachy, you feel like you're wasting away. You think, "Some vision this is!"
Of course, medically speaking, it doesn't hurt you to fast. One day a week is actually good for you. It will purge your body of poisons. If you're drinking water, you can go forty days or more before you begin to starve. Before forty days, it's your appetite, not your body, that is starving. If you thought you were dying of hunger before sundown the first day, you were wrong. That was your flesh rebelling.
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So your body begins to rebel. It cries out, "Give me some food, or I'm going to die!" What do you do now? You have to start drawing on the spirit man to sustain you. When Jesus was tempted by the devil, He told him, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4, where he quotes Deut. 8:3). When He said that, He was not just spiritualizing a scripture. Your spirit can actually give physical strength to your body.
Of course, that's not a long-term solution. God made your body to be fed by eating. But the spirit can literally quicken your mortal flesh (Rom. 8:11). The spirit can give you physical strength when your body and emotions are going wild. But you'll have to deny the flesh and draw on the spirit man. The spirit man literally begins to sustain you physically. It begins to sustain you emotionally. It begins to sustain you mentally. You literally live off the reserves in your spirit man. You take your focus away from the physical realm.
Every time you lust for an apple pie and you deny it, you're taking your attention off the physical realm. You cannot think of food all day long and succeed in a fast. You can't go about your normal business all day long and succeed in a fast because your normal business constantly draws you back to indulging the flesh. The only way to succeed on a prolonged fast is to withdraw, take your attention off food, off things, off problems, and put it on the Lord. When you do that, you're denying the flesh.
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The flesh begins losing its grip on you. If the flesh says "You've got to feed me, or I'm going to die," you say, "Nope, we're going three days." Your flesh says, "Three days? I can't!" You say, "Shut up or I'll raise it." "Oh, I'm going to die!" "All right, four days." "Four days! I'm going die for sure." "Five days." Soon, that flesh will be quiet. It will say, "I'd best shut up."
You'll get to a point that your spirit man says "Jump," and your flesh will say "How high?" When your spirit man says "Raise your hands," instead of saying, "What's everybody going to think of me?" you'll raise your hands. When your spirit man says "Stay awake and pray" and you want to go to bed, you'll stay up and pray.
You'll literally break the control of the flesh through a fast. When you first go on a fast, you feel terrible — all your irritability, carnality, and anger rises to the surface. You think, "This is the pits. I was better off before I started. I was better off being carnal than this." When you experience those things, that's when a fast is doing the most good! That's when you're flushing that poison, all that carnality, all that fleshliness out of you. If you want to persist, you'll have to work through all of that. You'll have to put the flesh down.
But when you come through it, you'll have ten times as much power as you had before. There are going to be results.
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The same thing is true of prayer. If you pray a godly prayer, it denies your flesh. Your flesh does not enjoy praying. To persist in prayer, you have to put down your desires in the physical world. You have to become spiritually minded.
In a teaching entitled Hardness of Heart, I show how your heart becomes sensitive to whatever you focus your attention on. If you focus your attention on the spirit man through prayer, fasting, studying the Word, etc., it becomes more real to you than the physical. You'll reach a place that when God says He supplies all your need according to His riches in glory (Phil 4:19) but your bank book is overdrawn, you'll question the physical before you question the Word. You'll say, "This can't be true," because the spirit realm has become more real to you than the physical. You'll realize that what God says is more true than anything you can see.
Many think that's just a pipe dream, that it's not dealing with reality, but it is. God and what He says can become more real to you than what you see. That's the way a victorious Christian walks.
When God says you're prospering, you're prospering. When my wife and I started in the ministry, we were poor as church mice. We were so poor we couldn't pay attention. We didn't have any food — we were literally starving. Yet God's Word said that I was blessed, that all of my needs were supplied. When we didn't have two pennies to rub together, someone would ask us how we were doing, and I'd say, "We're blessed!" I believed I was blessed. I talked like I was blessed. I expected to be blessed.
We could have gone on food stamps many times. When Jamie was eight months pregnant with our first son, Joshua, we went for two weeks without food of any kind. All we had was water. Imagine a forced fast at eight months pregnant! The devil was telling us, "You're going to kill that child."
I couldn't explain it in the natural. I couldn't tell you why we were in that situation, but I knew it was all subject to change. I was looking at the things that couldn't be seen, and we just kept going. And praise God, we came through it.
Sometimes I lose patience with people who say things like, "I tried to believe God, but it's been two weeks, and I haven't got my answer."
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Faith does not come without effort. There were times when I literally had to shut my mind off because if I let it think, it would have flooded me with unbelief. There was nothing in the natural that even remotely lined up with the Word of God. Once, when Jamie and I were at the breaking point, I literally thought we couldn't go for another twenty-four hours. We were ready to renounce the Lord, our faith, everything.
I'd been in the house praying several hours that day, waiting on a miracle in the mail. When the mail came, I ran out and looked. There were only bills. I knew that if I allowed my mind to think freely, I was going to reject prosperity. What did I do? I started praying in tongues, because when you pray in tongues, it is your spirit that prays not your mind (1 Cor. 14:14). I wasn't going to let my mind pray. I was going to let my spirit pray.
So I started praying in tongues, but my mind was still thinking. I literally had to start screaming at the top of my lungs. I screamed for over two hours in tongues. If my mind got louder, I'd get louder. I finally just out-yelled my mind! After two hours, my spirit finally gained pre-eminence. People often say, "I tried that and it didn't work." But they didn't really try hard, or it would have worked.
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My associate minister, Don Krow, is a good example. He came to Seagoville, Texas, when I was ministering there. I had first met him at a Bible study a year or two before. He received the baptism of the Holy Ghost through some other people and, for a while, went back to Oklahoma. He got sick, and while he was in the hospital, he had a high fever and literally lost his mind. He lost his ability to remember. He wasn't able to think or focus. He was addicted to the drugs they had given him.
The devil told him there was no hope, that he'd never be worth anything again. He came back to Seagoville, and I spent two weeks just spoon-feeding him the Word, day and night, day and night. Finally, he said, "Well, I know that but...." He was threatening suicide.
After two weeks, we rented a house and put him up. I said, "You know what the Word says. It's up to you to choose" (Deut. 30:19). And I said, "You either kill yourself, or get on with it. I'll be back in three days to check on you." I walked out. He got mad. For three days he prayed in tongues. He didn't eat. He didn't sleep much. He made a decision that he was going to believe God. And God supernaturally healed his mind. He came out stronger than horseradish, ministering to everything that moved!
Don chose life. He renewed his mind. He got to the point that it didn't matter what his mind was telling him. He couldn't even remember from one moment to the next, but he knew God's Word was true. God restored his mind.
Don is a walking miracle today. But for three days and three nights, he went through torment, speaking in tongues and submitting his flesh to the things of God. He said, "I am healed. I don't care what the doctor says. I don't care what I think. I don't care what I feel. God says I'm healed and that's it!"
It worked. We all can do that. We can exalt God's word above all things.
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When we come into a crisis situation, we need to go to God and say, "God, I have a lot of knowledge in my head. I know intellectually that by the stripes of Jesus I'm healed, but I don't know it in my heart. I'm having trouble with it. God, I want to know you. I want to know your Word."
A lot of Christians know Jesus, but they don't know Jesus. If we really knew the Lord, we wouldn't be susceptible to so much doubt and fear.
Do you know why we're afraid we're going to fail? Because we don't really know God. If you had a true revelation of God, it would be impossible for you to doubt that God was going pull you through. A person who's having problems with doubt is a person who's having problems knowing God. You may not identify with that, but it is true.
I may know you as an acquaintance, but I don't really know you. I don't know what you'll do under pressure. I don't know what you'll do in a crisis. But there are other people I know. I mean I know them. I could tell you what those people would do. For example, if you told me that my wife was out cheating on me when I'm out of town, you're just barking up the wrong tree, because I know my wife.
Some people think, "You're crazy. You can't know for sure what your wife is doing." They may think that because they didn't know their wives (or maybe they do know their wives, and they aren't like Jamie). But, I know Jamie, and I know what she'll do in a given situation. You can't discredit Jamie to me because I know her. She has some weaknesses, but that's not one of them. I know her.
When Satan comes up and says "God isn't going to heal you," the reason we fall for it so easily is that we don't really know God. If we understood the love, the compassion and the mercy of God, we could never, never, never doubt Him.
People who say "I've asked God to heal me, but I'm not healed" have said a mouthful. They've said they don't really know God. They've said they don't have a revelation of who God is. They've said they need to go back and just come to know God.
We need to get to the place where we exalt spiritual truth above natural truth. We need to get to where we know "the God of the Word" instead of just the Word of God. We need to let the Word of God paint a picture for us of who God is and, through that revelation, have fellowship with Him and know Him.
If you do that, I guarantee Satan will not be able to hit you with discouragement and depression. Once you get a heart revelation that God loves you, you'll be able to resist the devil.
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I was teaching in a church one time. A man was there with his daughter, who was in a wheelchair. She was 12 years old. I was teaching that it was not God who put troubles on us, made us sick, kept us poor, etc. This man got mad and left the service. The people who brought him said to him, "At least wait and talk to this guy and ask him what he meant. Maybe you misunderstood him."
So this fellow stayed after the service. I went out there to talk to him. Boy, he was hot . He started saying, "You're saying it's the devil who made my daughter like this? But it was God! God made her like this. It was God's will. He's getting glory out of this situation."
I know why he was saying this. It was a defense mechanism. It absolved him of any responsibility. He wasn't able to cope with it. He couldn't just ask, "Is there something that we can do? Are we really believing God? Are we wrong?" Rather than confront that, he pushed off all the blame on God. A lot of people do that.
I was trying to be compassionate toward him but he was mad. He'd quote scriptures to show that God had put this on her. I'd quote scriptures to show that he hadn't. We weren't getting anywhere. It was an impasse. I finally figured I had nothing to lose, so I just said, "What's the matter with you? Don't you love your daughter? What kind of father are you? Do you want your daughter to be a paraplegic, just sitting in a wheelchair not conscious of anything for the rest of her life?"
He was mad before — now he got furious. He screamed, "I'd give anything to heal my daughter! If I could, I'd sell everything I've got. I'd do anything if there were an operation that could cure her. If I could, I'd become like she is so she could become like me." He started crying. He was really upset.
Then I said, "And you think God, who has all power and all might, loves her less? That's exactly what God came to do. He became what we were so that we could be what He is. You don't know the love of God." That man could argue doctrine with me, but when I started talking about the love of God, he didn't have a leg to stand on.
If this human father, whose love is corrupted, would literally die for his daughter and take her place, how could he doubt the willingness of God to heal her? How could he think that God had put that thing on her to teach her something? He couldn't — it's just inconsistent.
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That lie would be totally unbelievable if people knew God. Satan couldn't discredit God if we had a revelation of who He is. We're operating in intellectual ideas instead of a heartfelt experience, a revelation of God. We need to get a revelation of who God is. We need to come to know Him personally.
That's what Jesus was saying in John 14. "Guys," He said, "you think you know the way. You know the way, but you don't know THE WAY. I am the way." They wanted to see the Father, and the Father had been living with them, eating with them, and sleeping with them for three-and-a-half years! They hadn't perceived Him. They had missed Him because He wasn't in a form they recognized.
Some of you want a word from God. You say, "O God, speak to me," and the Bible is right there in your hand. God has spoken to you. The written Word of God is a more sure word of prophecy than any audible voice. You couldn't ask for more. We have our Bible on our table and say, "God, where are you?" He's right there, where He's always been! Pick it up, blow the dust off the thing, and read it! The Bible is God speaking to us. It is God's Word. We need to exalt it.
You can do that. You can lose your own life, your own senses, your own wisdom, and get to the place where it's only God's Word that makes sense to you. This carnal world doesn't make sense anymore to me. It's God's Word that makes sense. Everything else is screwed up. It's not God's Word that is screwed up — it's the rest of the world! Get a hold of that.
You can renew your mind to think that way. You'll get to where God's Word is greater than anything — greater than the word of a doctor, the word of a lawyer, the word of a Ph.D., whoever. It doesn't matter what they have — if it's contrary to God's word, it's ignorance. It's a fool who is speaking. We have a lot of educated fools. If they don't speak the Word, it's because there isn't any truth in them. The Scripture says that (Is. 8:20).
We need to get to the place that God's Word becomes everything to us. Through the Word, we'll come into a heartfelt revelation of who God is. If you'll exalt God's Word in a crisis, if you'll fast and pray to get your body under control, if you'll ignore what your senses are telling you, it will deal a death blow to Satan's work in your life.
It may take time to do this, but believe me, it'll be worth it.
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Chapter 4: The Word
In the last chapter, I alluded to the importance of going by the Word of God more than anything else — more than your fears, more than "expert" opinion, more than what your family thinks, etc. In this chapter, I want to stress that truth in a major way.
In John 14:4, Jesus said that His disciples knew where He was going and they knew the way. But Thomas didn't believe this. He knew Jesus, but he didn't recognize that Jesus was the way. He didn't know the answer.
What Jesus said was true. Thomas should have said, "Jesus, you know more than I'll ever know. Explain to me how I know the way. Explain to me what I don't know." That's the way we should approach the Word. We should say, "God, your Word says that I'm healed. I believe it. So why does my body hurt? Please explain to me." God will explain it to you and tell you what to do.
But when you're exalting what you see, hear, taste, smell, and feel above God's Word, you're saying, "God, you're wrong. This is the way I am. I can feel it." If you do that, you're in trouble. And you won't come out of that trouble until you exalt God's Word above everything else.
In 2 Peter, the Apostle is writing to the church at large. He's trying to convince people that what he's saying is not something out of his own heart. He says, "This isn't me speaking. It's God speaking." He's trying to get people to listen to the voice of God. How did he do that?
Not like people do today. People today are so carnal that if someone were to advertise over radio and television "I've had a vision. God appeared to me, and told me to share this vision with you at the First Intergalactic Christian Church on December 5th and 6th," you couldn't hold the people. They'd pack the place out because they'd want to hear something directly from God.
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Peter was trying to convince people that what he was telling them was directly from God. In 2 Peter 1:16-18, he says, "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount."
Peter was referring to the transfiguration. He said, "I was with Jesus — I saw Him radiating light. A cloud came over Him, the Shekinah glory of God like in the Old Testament. The glory came over Him, and an audible voice from heaven said, 'This is my dear Son.'"
Now that's strong. When people first read that, they probably thought, "Boy, we'd better listen to this guy. He was with Jesus. He heard the audible voice of God. He saw things we haven't seen. He's got a revelation." But in verse 19, Peter says,"We have also a more sure word of prophecy." What could be more sure than the visible glory and audible voice of God from heaven?
Verse 20 tells us: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation." The thing that is more sure than an audible voice or a visible manifestation of God is Scripture — the written Word of God. I can't overemphasize this. It's critically important.
We need to exalt the written Word of God above any visible manifestation. If I had a meeting at your church and called you up from the audience and said "Joe or Mary, anything you want tonight, God says He'll give it to you," I guarantee that you'd go out of there excited, telling everybody what God had said. You'd hardly be able to contain your enthusiasm.
Did you know God's Word promises that exact same thing in several places?
However, most of us don't exalt God's Word to that place. If we had to choose between two doors, one marked "visible manifestation" and the other marked "Word of God," most of us would choose the visible manifestation every time. "Give me an experience," we'd say. But did you know that an experience is inferior to the Word of God? That's what Peter is saying. There is a greater blessing on believing the Word than there is on seeing a visible manifestation and then believing.
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In John 20, the disciples were telling Thomas about the resurrection of Jesus. Thomas replied to them, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe" (verse 25). Eight days later, Jesus appeared and said to Thomas, "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing" (verse 27). Thomas fell down saying, "My Lord and my God" (verse 28).
Jesus looked at him and said, "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (verse 29). In other words, Jesus said there is a greater blessing on believing God's word than on experiencing a supernatural manifestation.
I'm not telling you to turn down anything from God. Many powerful men in the word of God had visible manifestations, but their hearts weren't on them. They were seeking God. If God gives you a visible manifestation, don't reject it. But don't seek it. Get to the point that you exalt God's Word above everything else. Until you get to that place, you aren't going to be capable of handling a visible manifestation. It would ruin you. It would destroy you.
That's the reason we don't get more of them. We'd start following visions and just run wild. Satan can counterfeit visions, but he can't counterfeit the Word of God. The Word of God is superior to all of Satan's wisdom, and there is no way he can touch it. He can give you a dream. He can give you goose bumps. He can give you an angelic vision. He can give you messages that can fool you if you don't know the Word, but he can't counterfeit the Word of God.
The Word of God is superior to everything else.
Our senses go against that. In John 14:8, the disciples were saying, "Lord, show us the Father and that'll be enough for us." Jesus replied, "Have I been with you this long, and you still don't know Me?" They knew Jesus, but they didn't really know Jesus. They hadn't fully discerned Him. They didn't recognize who He was. They were looking at Him from a physical, natural viewpoint. They hadn't perceived the spiritual truth about Him. They hadn't had a revelation of who Jesus really was.
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One time, David Engles was preaching at a meeting and I was there. I went up to talk to him after the meeting was over and was standing in line. The fellow in front of me had a huge Bible under his arm. He walked up and said, "Brother Engles, I've just been told I have cancer. Do you have any scriptures or a word from God that He will heal me?" So David Engles rattled off Isaiah 53:5, Matthew 8:17, 1 Peter 2:24, and 3 John 2 to him — all of the major healing scriptures. He said, "I know all of those. Do you have anything specifically for me?"
I thought, "What does this guy want, a scripture with his name engraved on it?" God's Word is God speaking to us. God's Word is the answer for you, it's the answer for me, it's the answer for everyone.
Many times people come forward at my meetings, and I'll pray for them. The Lord often gives me discernment about a problem they have. For example, when a person is just weary and about to give up, I'll say something like, "I see that you're weary, that you're ready to quit and give up." That person will begin to cry and say, "That's of God," which, of course, it is (after all, it's a gift of the Spirit). Then I'll give them Hebrews 12:1-2, but I'll put it into my own terminology. I'll say, "Thus saith the Lord, the reason you're weary is because you haven't been looking at Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. If you keep your attention stayed on Him, you won't be weary." The person will say, "That's a word from God just for me," and they'll go out of there all excited.
All I did was paraphrase Hebrews 12:1-2, which they have available to them all the time. They won't read it, yet they'll receive it if it comes through someone with their eyes closed saying, "Thus saith the Lord." I'll use it to bless people, but that's carnal and immature. We ought to grow up and get beyond that. God will use it, and I don't feel bad about doing it, but it's a shame to have to have spoken over you something that's already in your Bible. God has given you the answer.
The problem is that we aren't taking God's answer, meditating on it, and making it ours. We're crying out to God for something else. Any time you're in a crisis, you'll be tempted to say, "O God, what do I do? I need a special word from you. God, say something to me." We get desperate for a Word from God. The first thing you
should say is "I've already got the answer. It's in my Bible somewhere." Then pore into the Word of God. Take every scripture you've heard of on that subject and look it up. Meditate on it. Don't expect God to speak something special to you when He's already spoken it
in His Word. That's a more sure word of prophecy than anything God could speak to you.
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Sometimes people think, "If only I'd lived in the days of Jesus, if only I'd been one of His disciples, if only I'd seen all those great miracles, I'd have been powerful. You couldn't have stopped me." No, actually I believe it would have been harder to believe in Jesus if you were one of His twelve disciples than it is now. Why? For one thing, familiarity breeds contempt. "A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin" (Mark 6:4). When you're familiar with a person and you know his or her human side, it's harder to believe. It's actually easier to visualize Jesus now, sitting at the right hand of God with all His power and glory, than it would be if He were walking on earth.
The Bible says that some have entertained angels unaware (Heb. 13:2). I think many of us have seen angels and didn't recognize them because they're very plain looking. They can disguise themselves as people. In Phoenix, a strange man walked in during one of our meetings. He looked like a drunk, a derelict. He was huge, he had tattoos all over him, and he rode a motorcycle. This fellow knew more of the Bible than anybody I've ever seen in my life. He could talk to anybody. He'd be over there talking to somebody, then he'd be over here talking to somebody. I didn't see him walk from place to place — he was just everywhere!
He led many people to the Lord that night. He may have been an angel. I wouldn't have thought an angel had B.O., wore a leather jacket, and had tattoos, but I really believe he was an angel. I believe God delights in manifesting Himself in ways that it takes faith to perceive. In Isaiah 53:2, it says that Jesus had no special form or comeliness that we should desire Him. Physically, Jesus was very ordinary. I believe it took more faith for the disciples to believe in Jesus than it does for us because they had to look beyond the physical and see into the spirit realm to perceive who He was.
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I had a dream some time ago. In it, I was one of the Lord's disciples. It was real — I dream in Technicolor! I was there when He raised Jairus' daughter from the dead. I remember the thrill of it — we were just running down the road, so excited. There wasn't any "holy" or religious thing about it. We were celebrating, and our hands were in the air. We had also fed the 5,000. I was right there when it all happened.
Right in the midst of this, Jesus turned around, stuck His finger in my face, and asked, "But who do you say that I am?" This was the same thing He asked the disciples in Matthew 16. I knew the answer. Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (verse 16). But when Jesus asked me that, I just looked at Him. He was as plain as day. I could see the miracles and relate to them. By His actions, by the Word of God, and by the witness of my heart, I knew that He was the Son of God, but my flesh said that He was just a man. When I finally said, "You are the Christ," it took more faith than I'd ever had to muster in my life.
Jesus' disciples knew Him, but they didn't really know Him. They knew Him as a man. In 2 Corinthians 5:16, Paul says that we knew Christ once in the flesh, but now we know Him that way no more. In other words, we knew Jesus once as a physical man, but we didn't perceive who He was. Even Peter, who said that He was the Christ, didn't always relate to Him that way. Peter vacillated back and forth between seeing Him as a man and perceiving who He really was.
The same thing happens to us. We lose sight of the Word of God. We forget how powerful it is. We forget that Jesus is the Word, the Word is God, and the Word created the heavens and the earth (John 1:1-3). The Word created your body, and if you speak the Word in faith, your body has to respond to it. The Bible says that when Jesus comes back, He's going to destroy His enemies with the Word of His mouth (Rev. 19:15). I don't believe He's going to create some kind of nuclear blast. I don't believe He's going to unleash angels to kill everybody. I don't believe He's going to speak anything new. I believe He is going to speak the written Word of God.
When Jesus was being tempted by Satan, He said, "It is written." He could have said "La, la, la," and that would have been Scripture — anything He said would have been Scripture. But He went back and quoted the Old Testament from Deuteronomy 8:3. Why? Because He couldn't improve on it. The Word of God is perfect in every way, and even Jesus could not improve on it. All He did was quote the Word.
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I believe that when Jesus comes again, He's going to quote scriptures from the book of Revelation, and that that will destroy His enemies and bring in the reign of righteousness. The same Word we now have between the covers of our Bible will be greater than all of the nuclear bombs, "Star Wars" weapons, poison gas, or anything else the world can throw at Him. The Word is powerful — we don't begin to recognize how powerful it is. We're sitting here waiting on God to give us something, and it's right in our laps.
We're far below where God wants us to be. People are not meditating on the Word day and night. We all want the benefits of God without getting into the Word of God. We don't take heed to it. We'd rather sit down and watch the bad news on television than to read the good news of the Scripture. Something is wrong when we spend more time in the world than in the Word. God does not intend it to be that way.
You shouldn't ever get out of the Word — that alone would prevent a lot of crises. But if a crisis comes, you need to turn off the television, go back to the Word, and saturate yourself in it. If you're sick, don't lay in bed with your feet propped up, popping pills, and watching television. Get into the Word.
A friend of mine, Joe Ney, was holding a meeting once and was extremely sick. Instead of going to bed and "suffering through," he got up, but he was too sick to stand up too. So he lay on the floor, put his Bible in front of him, and for twelve hours pushed it around the room with his nose, saying, "By the stripes of Jesus I am healed." That's how hard it was for him to do — but he came out healed.
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If that's what you have to do to get into the Word of God, do it. We think, "That's a little fanatical, isn't it? You don't have to be like that." The woman in Mark 5 could have been more reserved, but she wouldn't have been healed. She touched the hem of Jesus' garment and was ridiculed because of how desperate she was. She probably had to crawl on her hands and knees to touch Him. Yet the Bible says that for twelve years, she had wasted all of her money and suffered many things of many physicians (verse 26).
Some medical practices today are barbaric. Yet nobody thinks anything of going through that kind of torture in the name of science. But if it takes any effort at all to pray or get into the Word of God, people won't do it. We put ourselves through sheer agony to follow the ways of men, yet we expect God to work automatically!
I was talking to a man once in Germany. He said, "I don't understand it. Either you're healed or you aren't. It doesn't seem like you should have to stand on the Word of God." But it doesn't work that way in the natural, and it doesn't work that way in the supernatural. There's a place for standing. There's a place for fighting the good fight of faith, to speak the Word of God regardless of what happens.
It begins by getting into the Word. It's going to take some effort. Satan will fight you to keep you out of God's Word. He will give you more things to do than you ever could do. It's never going to be convenient to study God's Word. It's never going to be convenient to know it frontwards and backwards. It's never going to be convenient to pray. If you're waiting for a convenient time, you might as well quit now, because it will never come.
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It won't even be fun at first. But after you get your mind renewed, it will be more fun. It will be more fun than watching the junk on television. For me, it's not fun to watch television any more. I watch it a little bit, but after a while, it just isn't fun. A little bit goes a long way!
After a while, the Word of God will be fun. It's fun to have joy, peace, and the anointing of God. It feels good. Watching people cursing, stealing, killing, and committing adultery is not fun. If you're used to that, if your mind is corrupted by all that, when you start into the Word of God, it's not going to be fun. You'll have to retrain yourself. But you can do it.
A person who has gorged themselves on sweets all of their life won't think anything else is good. But that can change. For a long time, my wife and I didn't use any sweets at home except honey. She even cooked with it. There was no sugar of any kind in the house. We got to a place where we couldn't tolerate anything with sugar. When you change your diet and begin to eat healthy food, you get to where an orange is as sweet as you stand. You can't stand food with sugar in it. You condition yourself to the way you eat. That's where you are.
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Emotionally and intellectually, it's the same way. If you feed on junk all the time, it begins to be appealing. It's the norm. That's where you are. We're so polluted today that if we don't have access to all the garbage on television, we get bored. But you can renew yourself. You can separate yourself. At first, it will be hard, but after a while, the Word of God will begin to taste better and better to you. In Psalm 19:10, it says that God's Word is "more to be desired...than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." You can get to a place where reading God's Word is the most exciting thing you do.
If you haven't reached that place, you haven't begun to mature in the Word of God. You need to reach a place to where God's Word is exciting, where it's your meditation day and night. That's the beginning.
When you're in a crisis situation — especially — shut down everything and get into God's Word. The Bible says in Romans 8:6, "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Spiritually minded is Word minded. John 6:63 says "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." God's Word is spirit and life. So when you're thinking God's Word, you're spiritually minded. The Bible says that will produce life and peace.
If you're depressed, you haven't been keeping your mind on the Word of God. If you're discouraged, you haven't been keeping your mind on the Word of God. If you're defeated, you haven't been keeping your mind on the Word of God. If you're sick, you haven't been keeping your mind on the Word of God. The Word will produce only life and peace. Isn't that simple? As a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Prov. 23:7).
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I used to pastor farmers. I learned some very simple things from those farmers. There are laws that govern their lives: they plant wheat, they get wheat. They plant soybeans, they get soybeans. They plant weeds, they get weeds. Yet, the God who created those natural laws also created spiritual laws. Actually, spiritual law supercedes natural law. Spiritual laws are more accurate, more steadfast, and more certain than natural laws.
Yet most people have the concept that natural laws are absolute and that spiritual things are subject to change. It's exactly the opposite. Natural things are subject to change, while spiritual things are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18). There are spiritual laws. For example, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:7). There are people who say, "I'm sick. I'm having financial problems. I'm having marital problems. But honest, it's not anything I've done. I've done everything right. It must just be God's will." That's not so.
You don't plant wheat and get corn. You don't plant the Word of God and get sickness. You don't plant the Word of God and get depression, defeat, sorrow, anger, and all those kinds of things. If those things are operating in your life, you haven't been meditating on God's Word. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, says Matthew 12:34. If you're speaking anger, strife, fear, jealousy, and things like that, it's because you've been meditating on it in abundance.
Go back and make sure you're sowing the right thing. You shouldn't wait until a crisis situation comes, but if it does come, go back and make sure every thought, every desire, every emotion you've sown lines up with God's Word. Anything that doesn't, pull it up. Root it out.
God's Word is ultimate truth. That's what Jesus was telling His disciples. In John 14:4, He said, "And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." Then Thomas said, "Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?" (verse 5) In verses 6-7, "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him." Notice what Jesus said here. He didn't say, "Wouldn't it be nice to know the Father and see Him? "He said from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him" (verse 7). That's a declarative statement, a statement of fact.
Then Philip said, "Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us" (verse 8). In other words, "Wrong again, Jesus. We don't know the Father." That's a blatant contradiction of God's Word, but we do the exact same thing. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, it says "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
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Notice the word "perfect." That means there is no plan B or plan C. You don't have to learn by "hard knocks." You don't have to get it by special revelation. You don't have to have an angel teach it to you. You don't need anything else. God's Word will make you perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. God's Word will supply you with everything.
Yet, most of us don't believe that. Most of us don't turn to God's Word to supply us with everything. Most of us don't go to God's Word for every answer in our lives. Most of us use God's Word as kind of a foundation, a basic principle, but for day-to-day living, we think we need more than that. That's not true.
God's Word has an answer for everything. Everything you will ever deal with is found in God's Word. Jesus was saying, "I'm everything. If you've seen me, you've seen the Father. If you know me, you know the Father." The disciples said, "No, Lord, that's not enough. Give us one more thing — a visible look at the Father — and that will satisfy us."
If you put a carrot on a stick and hang it out in front of a horse's head, that horse will go for it. But every time he takes a step, the carrot moves. It's always just out of reach, and it keeps on moving. That's the way the devil is. The devil always tells you, "If you just had this or that from the Lord, if you just had this experience, if you just had that vision, if you just had this dream, if God would just do this for you." He's always dangling something in front of you, telling you that you need more. But you don't need anything else. The Word of God will make you perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Let me emphasize that. You don't need anything more than the Word of God!
God's Word has a complete answer for you, whoever you are and whatever your circumstances. The problem is that we don't know what the Word says. And the things we do know, we don't meditate on. We let them slip so that we lose the revelation of it. God's Word is powerful, but it's something you can't understand just mentally. You have to let it soak down inside of you. It has to take root before it begins to release power.
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Again, it's like a seed. You don't just scatter seed and reap a harvest ten minutes later. It must have time to germinate, to put roots down, to get nourishment from the soil. You can't plant it one day, dig it up the next day to see if anything happened, then plant it again. You have to leave it there. Likewise, the Word of God is something that has to abide (John 15:7). You can't get all pumped up on the Word of God on Sunday, then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday go out and root it up, then come back on Sunday and plant it again. It doesn't work that way. The reason most people don't experience victory is because the Word never takes root inside of them. It touches them and they'll get excited about it, but they won't abide in it. They won't allow it to stay and germinate.
The Word of God must become everything to us. It's a more sure Word of prophecy than an angel or a vision or a dream or anything else that may come our way. Paul says in Galatians 1:8 that if anyone preaches anything except the Word of God he preached — even an angel of God — let him be accursed. Then he repeats it. If something is contrary to God's Word, just curse it. God's Word is the only absolute truth.
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Let's look at Matthew 11. John the Baptist had just been cast into prison. John sent two of his disciples to Jesus to ask, "Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?" (verse 3). Now this is an amazing statement. To get its impact, you have to recognize that John the Baptist had announced four times publicly that Jesus was the Messiah. He said this with all the confidence and authority he could muster. He believed it with all of his heart. He had said, "He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost" (John 1:33).
So John not only had the witness of the Spirit in his heart but also a visible sign. God had told him that when he saw this happen, it would be the Messiah. John knew beyond a doubt who Jesus was, and he proclaimed it to the world. When Jesus' ministry began to prosper at the expense of his own, he even said, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).
John the Baptist was a tremendous man, a tremendous example of a servant. Jesus said that among those born of women, none were greater than John (Luke 7:28). In other words, John the Baptist was greater than any Old Testament saint who ever lived — greater than Abraham, David, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Daniel, whoever — not to mention any of the pagan heroes.
John was a powerful man of God, and he knew beyond any shadow of a doubt who Jesus was. So now John is in prison and, by all evidence, had been there at least a year or two. During this time, he began to doubt. He doubted so much that he sent two of his disciples to ask if Jesus was really the Christ or if there was another that they should look for.
This was serious. The greatest man who ever lived up to that point was now doubting everything! For thirty years, John the Baptist had been living in the wilderness preparing for this ministry. He had spent only six months in ministry and then was thrown into prison. In six months he had revolutionized not only the Jewish nation but people from all the nations around it. He literally shook continents in six months' time, proclaiming the coming of the Messiah. The fire of God burned in his heart. For a man like that to be shut up in prison must have been hard on him. It must have grated on him day and night.
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Also, most people did not have a proper understanding of the Messiah. The Jews thought He was going to set up a kingdom immediately — perhaps by force. They didn't understand the church age, the end times, or the "suffering servant" of Isaiah. It wasn't clear. So it's possible that John the Baptist thought Jesus was going to establish a physical kingdom, and now, two years later, it wasn't working out. He probably had a lot of confusion, a lot of questions.
All of these things came to bear on John so that he actually began to doubt that Jesus was the Messiah. When his disciples finally went to Jesus to ask Him, He answered, "Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see." (Matt. 11:4). In Luke chapter 7, the same story, it says that after they asked Jesus this question, He didn't reply for a whole hour. In this hour, He opened blind eyes, unstopped deaf ears, healed lame men, and performed all kinds of miracles. Then, after an hour, He came back to them and said,"Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me" (verses 22-23).
When I first read this, it didn't seem that Jesus' response met John's need at all. John the Baptist had a serious need, and Jesus said in effect, "Just go tell him what you've seen and that he's blessed if he's not offended." It didn't look adequate, especially when Jesus went on and on about John after his disciples had gone. He asked, "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? Somebody wearing nice clothes? You don't find that in the desert. Reeds swaying in the wind? You don't find that in the desert. You went out to see the anointing of God. This man was a prophet and more than a prophet. There has never been a greater man than John the Baptist" (verses 24-28).
He said some powerful things about John. I thought, "Wouldn't it have comforted John if he could have heard all these nice things? Why didn't He send that message to John instead of the one He did?"
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I can relate to that. Once, I was in a convention at Fort Worth. All the big names were there — hundreds of them. Everybody was big except me. Nobody knew who I was. Nobody cared. People were giving money to these big ministries. We needed money as badly as any of them. I was having a pity party.
I was in a huge auditorium filled with 2,000 people. They were singing and praising the Lord. Then they said to go around and hug somebody. Bob Nichols, the pastor of the host church, came directly back to me and started hugging me and just wouldn't let go. It wasn't a "charismatic" hug — this man started crying and telling me that God loved me and he loved me. It was really God. There was no way he could have known what my situation was. He really ministered to me.
I can see that it would have ministered to John the Baptist to have Jesus, whom the whole nation was clamoring after, say something like, "Don't you people know who John the Baptist is? He's a great man of God. No Old Testament saint is greater than John." It seems that would have blessed John a lot more than what Jesus actually said. I was meditating on this, thinking, "God, why did you do this?"
Then the Lord showed me the answer. In Isaiah 35 there is a prophecy about the Messiah. Verses 3-6 tell some of the things that will happen when the Messiah comes. It says, "Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert."
John the Baptist was familiar with Isaiah. When asked who he was he said, "I'm the voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord," which came directly from Isaiah 40. These were some of the scriptures God used to call John the Baptist into the ministry, to tell him what he was supposed to do, and to tell him what the Messiah would do when He came.
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So what was Jesus doing when He didn't give John the Baptist a special answer and just performed the miracles? In one hour's time, Jesus fulfilled everything written in Isaiah 35. Then He told the disciples, "Go back and tell John that you see blind eyes opened, deaf ears opened, the lame man leap as a hart, and streams breaking out in the desert." In other words, "Go back and tell John the Word of God is being fulfilled!" He was saying in effect, "John, you're blessed if you'll believe what God's Word says." He actually gave John the greatest answer He could give — He referred him back to the Word of God instead of giving him some cheap, emotional thrill that would last only for a short time.
He referred him back to the Word of God because that is God's best. Jesus told John, "You're blessed if you'll believe and not be offended." I believe John knew exactly what Jesus was doing. He recognized the Scriptures, and I believe he went out with a shout.
There are times you and I come crying to the Lord for an answer when God's Word already has an answer for us. God's Word has everything we need, but we close it up and pray, "O God, speak to me." I believe it is love that God isn't speaking to us. I believe God wants us to get to the point that we don't live off milk. He wants us to get into the meat of the Word. God is trying to get us back to the Word of God. It is mercy that He's not speaking to us and giving us what we ask.
When I first got turned on to the Word, I heard stories about Kenneth Hagin having had a visitation from God. He had fire burn in his hands, and when he put his hands on other people, the fire jumped onto them. Others saw angels come into the room. I heard about these things and began seeking them. I started praying, "God, I want to see angels. I want to see visions. I want you to do something special for me."
Then the Lord began to show me that the Word of God is more powerful than all these things.
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In Matthew 8, a Roman centurion came to Jesus for his servant to be healed. Jesus said, "I will come and heal him" (verse 7). The centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it" (verses 8-9).
The Bible says that Jesus marvelled saying, "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel" (verse 10). Only two times in the Word of God did Jesus marvel — one time at this man's faith and the other at His disciples' unbelief! He marvelled that people could be so full of unbelief and that they could be so full of faith. This man's faith didn't have anything to do with the physical. He didn't have to see anything, feel anything, touch anything. All he needed was a Word. "Jesus, you just give the word and it's done," he said.
That's the highest form of faith there is. Contrast that with John 20:27, where Thomas had to physically see Jesus' hands and side before he would believe.
The highest way God will ever communicate with you is through the written Word of God. That is a more sure word of prophecy than an angel, a dream, a gift of the Spirit or anything else. Yet most people have not elevated God's Word to that status. We're making the same mistake that the disciples made — we have the Word with us, but we don't recognize the importance of the Word.
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Many of us who have had God's Word revealed to us don't meditate in it the way we should. We aren't planting it and letting it germinate inside us. You must reach a place to where God's Word literally dominates and controls you. If that seems out of character for you, if it seems impossible, then you won't prosper. You must see that it is possible for you.
When I say that you have to be dominated by the Word, that needs some explanation. You do not have to be reading the Word day and night. I spent a few hours reading the Word today, but there are some days I don't read the Word at all. But that doesn't mean I'm not in the Word. I've put so much of the Word inside of me that I meditate on it constantly. I get some of the greatest revelations I ever get from God without opening the Bible. You can be in the Word all day long no matter what you're doing.
Of course, you can't do that until you first put the Word inside of you. You can't bring back to your remembrance what you never put into remembrance! You need to begin to meditate God's Word. It's not how much you know. Sometimes, I've taken one verse and read it over and over for a month's time. It just ministered to me so much I couldn't read or think about anything else. I got more benefit out of reading that one verse for a month than many other times when I read chapter after chapter after chapter. It's not how much you know. It's how well you know what you know.
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When I first got turned on to the Lord, He showed me some visions. These were not open visions but simply desires of my heart, what it was like to serve God and how He wanted me to change people's lives. Here I was from Podunk Corner, Texas. I had left college, and everyone told me that I'd be a total flop. I was drafted as soon as I quit school. It looked like I was going to die in Vietnam. I had a vision of God using me, yet it looked like I was a million miles off.
I remember kneeling at my bed one day saying, "God, what shall I do? How do get from where I am to where I'm supposed to be?" It looked impossible. Then the Lord spoke to me, "This Bible has everything you need to know." I flipped it open and found that it makes me perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:17). I based my life on that.
I'm still not where I need to be. I haven't arrived, but I have left! I know I'm going in the right direction. The Word of God works. Everything you need is in the Word of God. If you're ignorant of the Word of God, you're going to be a failure. There is no excuse for being ignorant. We just haven't elevated God's Word to its proper place.
In John 14, Jesus was ministering to His disciples about the importance of understanding and recognizing what they had — He was the Word made flesh and dwelt among them. Jesus is the Word.
God's Word says you're healed. Your body says you're not. Sadly, we often believe our bodies more than we believe God's Word. We need to reverse that so that God's Word is more real to us than what our bodies tell us. You can do that. I've been in so many places where everything in the natural says it wouldn't work. Yet God's Word had become more real to me than the natural. I just said, "I can't understand it. That can't be because God's Word says this." I literally could not believe it because it didn't line up with God's Word. It worked. God brought me through it. Once, I had an incurable disease, with a doctor's report to prove it. Two days later, the same doctor confirmed that I didn't have it. I knew God's Word, and I knew that was not what God promised me. I just couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe I was sick because God's Word didn't say I was sick.
I've seen it work for me on many, many occasions, and it will work for you. But it all starts with putting the Word of God first place in your life.