Saturday, December 31, 2016

Don't Whine! Rejoice!

Acts 5:39-42

39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.

It has been an interesting year for me. So much has taken place in my life and in my ministry, too much to list. There have been many up’s and downs, but I can see the hand of God in it all. I think that one of the most profound things that I have gleaned is learning to accept life on God’s terms. I know that may seem like an odd statement, but allow me to explain.

Every day I start off by asking God to show me His will and to give me the strength to walk in it. I have prayed that same prayer every day for several years, but it’s just been recently that I have learned to pray it with sincerity. Most of the time I was fine with walking in God’s will, if “God’s will” was comfortable and everything went the way I thought that it should. If everything was “roses and daffodils” I was good, but allow a little suffering to come my way and it was “woe is me” time.

The minute that the slightest little hiccup in “my” plans occurred, I was on my knees singing, “I went to the enemy’s camp and I took back what he stole from me.” Great song, don’t get me wrong – I love that song and I love the inspiration that it brings when we are under attack from the enemy. It’s just that I have discovered that sometimes we make it too easy for the devil to steal from us. Sometimes we forget to lock the door, sometimes we leave the gate unguarded, and he just walks right in and rips the joy right out of our hands.

A few years back my home was broken into while I was at work, my neighbor called me and told me that my front door was wide open. I left work immediately and when I arrived at the house I discovered that the door had been kicked in, the door jamb was splintered and my home was wide open. The weird thing is that nothing was stolen. The police speculated that the thieves had been interrupted and scared off by something.

The Word of God says that the devil is a thief and that he comes only to steal kill and to destroy. It also says that he prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. I wonder this morning how often the devil is interrupted and scared off in the process of trying to steal from us? How often is he put to flight when he tries to devour us? How often are his plans thwarted in our lives by prayer? How often does the presence of the Holy Ghost in us send him packing with his tail between his legs? The answer, if we’re honest, is most likely – not often enough. Too many times he has his way, he comes in and takes what he wants because we haven’t taken the time to secure God’s presence, we haven’t surrendered to His will so that His power may rest on us.

As I read the above passage recently one verse struck me “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.”

They rejoiced because they had been found worthy to suffer for Jesus. Tears filled my eyes when God convicted me over this verse, because I whine at the slightest little inconvenience in my daily routine.  They had been thrown in jail for preaching and so they rejoiced, and we go on the internet and rant for 10 minutes because Starbucks didn’t put a Christmas theme on their coffee cups. They were beaten and they rejoiced that they were worthy to be beaten, and we get vile because the greeter at Wal-Mart said “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” They suffered real persecution and they rejoiced, and we lose our witness because someone cuts us off in traffic on the way to church. Shame on us!

The thief has come to steal, and we’re letting him. Why? Because even though we lie and tell ourselves that we want His will, we don’t, most of the time if we’re honest with ourselves we just want our way. We don’t pray enough, we don’t go to church enough, we don’t spend enough time in the altar sacrificing our will and asking for His. We don’t spend enough time dying, so that He can live!

I have discovered that the only way I can ever find the strength to walk in His will is when I admit that I am weak so that the “power of Christ may rest upon me.” The only thing that can interrupt the thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy is presence of an Almighty God.

Jesus also said that he came that we might have life, and that it would be a life that was abundant. He didn’t say perfect, He didn’t say it would be on my terms, but He said that it would be abundant. Abundant doesn’t mean that I have everything I want, it means that he will supply all my needs. Abundant doesn’t mean that I will never face the storm, it means I face it with the One who calms the storm. Abundant means that if I seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, that I can dance in the fire, sleep like a baby in a den of lions, that I can face the giant unafraid, and that I can rejoice if He finds me worthy to suffer for His Name!

This Christmas someone got a hold of my checking account information and they took most of my money, but I didn’t freak out. A few years ago, I would have. What’s the difference in my life now? Why could I have joy and peace at Christmas this year amid being robbed. Because I have taken the time to shore up my spiritual house. My prayer life is good, my relationship with God is good, and even though the thief tried to steal my joy, he was stopped at the door by the presence of the Holy Ghost.

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