While creating man God in His perfection did not leave any chance for him to be unsuccessful in any venture that he undertook. Despite our disobedience God fulfilled His promise of never leaving nor forsaking us. Whenever we try and attempt something, howsoever big or small it be, is either sinful or our ego and pride guiding us into a state of sure failure. The repeated assertion of the Son of God was about doing everything as His Father in heaven and that is the way to be successful.
Reason for slow changes in a believer’s life – Ark of the LORD was captured by the Philistines but the presence of the Ark with them did not result in any blessings to them (1 Samuel 4-5). In and around Ashdod, the city where the Ark was taken, people suffered tumors and Ekron, the next city also suffered the same fate till finally the Ark was returned to the Israelite territory of Beth Shemesh. Presence of God with us does not ensure our success but our being with God, who promises to be with us, ensures that. The ‘right to become children of God’ is based on two conditions; first, to receive and second to believe in His name (John 1:12). We receive the Lord by surrendering to Him and accepting Him as Lord of our life and living in obedience to Him. Confession of God’s Word strengthens our faith and in obedience to His Word we remain strong in faith, not wavering. ‘Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God’ and hearing is more than using our ears (Romans 10:17).
This is the command of Moses to the Israelites ‘Shema, O Israel’ where Hebrew word ‘shema’ is much more than mere listening (Deuteronomy 6:4). Shema is ‘to listen, understand and perceive the sense of what is said’. During transfiguration of Lord Jesus the cloud of ‘Shekinah’ glory of LORD overwhelms the Son of God and ‘a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’ (Matthew 17:5). The Greek word ‘akouete’ translated ‘to hear’ comes from ‘akouo’ meaning ‘to hear, understand and perceive the sense of what is said’. Lord Jesus told the disciples the reason of speaking in parables for the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are not for everyone for many ‘seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear’ (Matthew 13:11-13).
Apostle James, the brother of our Lord, warned the believers, ‘You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and tremble’ (James 2:19). The demons fear Him but do not receive Him. The chief priests and the Pharisees said, ‘what shall we do? For this Man (Lord Jesus) works many signs.’ In verse 53, ‘then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death’ (John 12:47 & 53). Believing without receiving is of no use even Satan believes.
The process of rewarding by God is clear for He searches ‘the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways’, according to what their deeds deserve (Jeremiah 17:10). God needs a circumcised heart, a heart open to Him after removing all reservations, coverings, secrets and unbelief (Deuteronomy 10:16). The process of opening the heart cannot be done by an individual on his own but this can only happen under the urging and guidance of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Apostle Paul clarifies this process as carried out by Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit who sanctifies (sets apart) and cleanses ‘with the washing of water by the word’ (Ephesians 5:26). Success is not assured immediately after one professes his faith in Lord Jesus as his Savior but depends on the closeness and depth of the relationship with the Lord. Once this happens then success itself loses its value. Apostle Paul could thus say, that in lack and abundance he had learnt to be content (Philippians 4:12).
How does a believer ensures success?- The very word believer provides the key to this. Late Dr R.C. Sproul, a great philosopher and preacher has said, ‘The issue of faith is not so much whether we believe in God, but whether we believe the God we believe in’. Blessings for a believer include restoration of all that Adam had lost to the devil due to his disobedience. This restoration is, first, lost position as ruler over all creation on the earth; second, lost place in the grace of God in the Garden of Eden; third, lost fellowship with God; fourth, God no longer his Provider but to sweat and toil for provisions and fifth, lost life of abundance without disease, thorns and thistles.
Man was created by God to live under the guidance of a superior authority and not the body or the five senses. Adam accepted the authority of the devil by obeying him and rejected God’s control. The new master (Satan) created in mankind dependence on his kingdom which is not a system of creation but reusing what is God created thus suffering perpetual lack and control by a few. Lord Jesus has restored all that was ceded to Satan and His indwelling Holy Spirit guides a believer in prayer according to God’s will (Romans 8:27) for He knows that and God’s mind. God has ‘delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love’ (Colossians 1:13). As a child of God ‘our citizenship is in heaven’ (Philippians 3:20). Lord Jesus told the Pharisees ‘The kingdom of God does not come with observation….. For indeed the kingdom of God is within you’ (Luke 17:20-21).
What is the ‘kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven? – It can be described as ‘a process, a sequence of events, whereby God begins to govern or to act as King or Lord, an action by which God manifests His being–God in the world of men’. Joseph had a dream seeing his brothers and his father bowing down before him but he was sold as a slave but what sustained him during that time was his insight into Divine Providence. He could see a plan unfolding in which he was just one of many characters and he could say to his brothers, ‘It was not you who sent me here, but God’ (Genesis 45:8).
How do we receive from the kingdom of heaven? – Lord Jesus has ‘redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us’ (Galatians 3:13). The law required regular action and toil on our part to seek forgiveness from God for our sins. Lord Jesus has fulfilled what was lacking for us by leading us into God’s rest (Hebrews 4:9-11) that was given after completion of the work of creation and to cease from our works and be blessed (Genesis 2:2-3). This rest is not about doing nothing and waiting for God to do everything but stepping forward in faith to succeed. Great persons are not, who never fail but who survive failure and refuse to be defeated. The climate always changes but before that many simply give up. Our faith and character is tested in such times and since we are created in God’s image and likeness, we are to be like Him.
God was disappointed with human race but gave another chance through Noah; He was disappointed with the Israelites and wanted to create another nation through Moses; He even brought a plague on the Israelites after David ordered a census but He never gave up despite knowing all about us. Ananias did not want to go to Saul to help him but God changed the one who hated the believers into the greatest evangelists ever and one who interpreted God’s Word for believers through His Epistles (Acts 9).
God ensures our blessings by two means, first, by revelation, Adam was asked by God to name all animals and birds etc to show him the level of wisdom given by God to him and he did not need any other source of knowledge and wisdom (Genesis 2:19-20). Second, Transforming us since the first of the Beatitudes is ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:3). The blessed state is for the present and not for the future, the word poor means someone who recognizes his own spiritual poverty, one who is bent over or folded or utterly destitute, meaning complete dependence on something/someone other than one’s self. The one who is fully surrendered to the Lord is the one to be rewarded. Such contact with God is not about what I have to give, but what I do not have and without this emptiness of spirit filling from God is not possible. God cannot give what He desires to give for He will not try and fill an already full vessel.
The Prophet declared God’s intent, ‘For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones’ (Isaiah 57:15). The difficult part is to let go, for by nature we want to control the situation and the final outcome, even while seeking God’s help for overcoming the same. We ask for prayer and immediately thereafter request the pastor to keep the issue in prayer in future for we are not sure of an answer.
Becoming poor in spirit – Lord Jesus is the Vine and by faith we are grafted into Him and become one with Him. The binding factor of this oneness with Him is proved only when we who claim to ‘abide in Him’ also ‘walk just as He walked’ fully dependent on God the Father (1 John 2:6). Man is created by God as a spirit, with a soul and living in the body. Before sin entered, the body was under control of the soul and the spirit, with God present in, and communicating with the spirit of man was in fellowship with Him. After sin, Satan inhabits in the body while God is in the spirit and soul is in between. Lord Jesus warned that ‘no man can serve two masters’ and every believer has to keep making a choice at every stage and situation (Matthew 6:24). One can listen to the devil’s lies and attempt with own efforts presuming it to be a small matter within my capabilities and fail. The second option is to reject this lie and turn to God for His guidance and help in complete surrender. It is natural for man to try to be independent but in this he is obeying the devil who always tries to step in. God on the other hand desires those who ‘ask, seek and knock’.
The disciples while facing the storm saw Lord Jesus walking on water towards them and only Apostle Peter sought His permission to walk up to Him (Matthew 14:28-29). Lord Jesus answered the father of the deaf and mute boy, ‘All things are possible to him who believes’ (Mark 9:23). All the twelve disciples were in the boat but only Peter stepped out in faith. In any storm that we face, it is easy to walk on the water for in that it is not mine but our Lord’s power that works. Difficult is to dare to ask and then step out of the security of the present position or the boat, which in any case is already stuck without God’s help.
Apostle John rejoiced in the love of the Lord to say, ‘If we say we have fellowship with Him (Lord Jesus), and walk in darkness, we lie’ (1 John 1:6). He has revealed the Son of God as ‘life’ and that being ‘the light of men’ (John 1:4). Who can and cannot fellowship with God and enter into His Divine presence are also identified – ‘He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be His God and he shall be My son’ and he will be part of God’s family. ‘But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murders, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death’ (Revelation 21:7-8). These are the ones who deliberately reject the forgiveness available through the Messiah and only those who realize their position of nothingness, go to Him.
Perfection of kingdom of heaven exists perfectly in heaven and God’s Son brought this blessed life of perfection to humanity by putting on humanity over His divinity. He taught us to pray, ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as in heaven’ as it is done by the angels and saints in heaven (Matthew 6:10). Since this kingdom is in us we are also required to strive for perfection under God’s hand (Luke 17:21). Our Savior Lord’s command is clear, ‘Therefore you shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ and the route to this perfection is through failures (Matthew 5:48). Apostle Paul was chosen and suffered exceedingly at the hands of opponents of the message of the Gospel but he could still declare, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13). The Jews stoned Apostle Paul at Lystra and left him as dead but God resuscitated him and he continued with preaching the Gospel (Acts 14:19).
Apostle Paul was a scholar of the scripture and could declare what was said by the prophet, ‘Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me’ (Micah 7:8). We truly fail when we do not try to get up and quit whereas success might just be within reach but we decide that it is not working. God is always near and like a loving Father ready to pick us up when we fall and fail and help us to strive again. The secret of success is only to persevere in faith in His power. Our faith is not on what is seen but in the invisible God and walking in obedience to His will we are assured of success for He has already finished all the hard work and toil for us through His walk on the cross.