If you read through the book of Acts (and through the rest of the Bible), you will see that sometimes miracles happened and sometimes they did not. If you look at the world today, you will see that sometimes miracles happen, and sometimes they do not.
Why are the miracles we long for sometimes a reality, while at other times they are not? The quick and easy answer to that question is that God has a plan and a purpose that is far beyond what we can comprehend in this life. He is in control and at work in a way that is sometimes clear and sometimes not as clear.
What do we do in response to miracles, then? What do we do in response to a lack of miracles? In both cases, I believe we are to follow Jesus and help others to follow Jesus. Miracles are to point people to Him. Difficulty is also to point people to Him (to help us see our need to depend on Him).
If we only follow Jesus when all is well, then where can we turn when the hard times come, which they have and/or will for all of us in this life? If we only turn to Jesus when times are difficult, then who gets the credit when things are good?
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Acts 8:4-25 on “Miracles for Purpose” (the message should be available HERE Sunday afternoon). In this message, I hope to challenge my hearers to embrace the purpose of God’s miraculous provision and respond rightly when miracles happen and when miracles do not happen.
Responding rightly is trusting God in faith and walking with Him in obedience to His Word. Responding rightly is following Jesus and helping others to follow Jesus, in the good times and in the difficult times.
The greatest of all miracles is one we can all experience – a changed heart and a changed life (restored by, with, and for God) for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord. Only then will you find the purpose and meaning you were created to have. Only then will you embrace the purpose of God’s miraculous provision. To God be the glory!
What is God’s will for your life? How can you know? What should you do to find out?
Contrary to what people might say or how you might feel, God’s desire is not that you walk through life aimlessly and confused about His will. Rather, He has revealed Himself to us through His Son Jesus Christ and through His Word – the Bible.
The problem we have in learning God’s will is not with His plan but rather with our pursuit.
God’s plan is perfect. Our pursuit, though, is flawed. We are sinners, and when we find ourselves confused, uncertain, scared, or uncomfortable, we tend to look everywhere except to God and His Word for answers. Yet, His desire is that we pursue and trust Him.
What is His specific will in your specific situation? You will only find the answer with the proper pursuit. Above all, pursue the Lord in two of the most basic but important ways possible…
1. PRAY TO HIM
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will continue my sermon series through Acts and preach through Acts 1:12-26 on “Prayer & Provision for Our Purpose” (available before Monday HERE). One of the most important things we can learn from the early church in the book of Acts is the importance of uniting together in prayer.
Seek the Lord by praying to Him. Pray to Him with your family. Pray to Him throughout your day. Pray to Him with your church.
Sadly, we are tempted to only resort to prayer before a big decision when we are unsure what else to do. Why not begin with prayer and continue in prayer?
Wrongly, we are tempted to think of prayer as a last resort when everything or everyone else has failed. Why not begin with prayer and continue in prayer?
Let us continually depend on the Lord in prayer, seeking and trusting Him for His provision. He is faithful, and what He said is true: “You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13).
Are you seeking God with all your heart? Are you surrounding yourself with others who are seeking God with all their hearts? A sincere pursuit of God in prayerful dependence on Him is worth the regular, continuous commitment.
2. LISTEN TO HIM
While sincerely pursuing God in prayer, you might hear from Him through the conviction of His Holy Spirit, an overwhelming sense of peace and direction, and/or a clear desire He places on your heart. Are you listening to Him?
Most importantly, though, how we listen to God (and can be certain we are listening to and hearing from Him) is by listening to His Word – the Bible. Are you spending regular time in God’s Word? Are you talking with others about God’s Word? Are you listening to the preaching of God’s Word? Are you studying God’s Word? Are you praying God’s Word back to Him?
We are so incredibly blessed that God has preserved His perfect word for thousands of years so that we can know Him and follow Him!
So often, the very simple answers to our questions about God’s will are found in God’s Word. Pray for His help to understand, and listen to the truth of His Word.
Far more often than not, when people come to me for pastoral counsel and advice, the answers to their questions and concerns are abundantly clear in the Bible. Of course, I am grateful for that because I know that God’s Word is perfect and true, so any advice I give by sharing God’s Word is great advice because it is not from me.
Sure, there are plenty of questions we have that the Bible does not address, but the Bible does address the most important questions (Who is God? Who are we? Why are we here? Who are we to be?). For everything else, if you are sincere in your pursuit of God, you will not regret the results.
“Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires” (Psalm 37:4). Are you delighting yourself in Him? Are you depending on Him in prayer? Are you listening to Him through His Word? Are you seeking the counsel of godly friends and leaders who are listening to Him through His Word?
What is God’s will? His will is that you “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Praise the Lord!
When I was a kid, one of my favorite songs was “I Just Called to Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder. I am unsure if that is something about which to be embarrassed or proud. Depends on your taste in music, I suppose. I had that song memorized, though, and I loved listening to Stevie Wonder sing.
In life, we get a lot of calls, especially now, right? We carry our phones in our pockets and set them on our desks while we work. There are days when it seems like I spend more time responding to text messages and phone calls than anything else. Now, I am a pastor, so to some degree, that comes with the territory, and I am grateful for technology that allows me to respond so quickly to prayer concerns and ministry needs. No one has ever “just called to say, ‘I love you,'” though. But, I think I am okay with that. 😉
When it comes to the most important calls, however, we want to make sure we are available, do we not? If we know something really important is likely to come, like the birth of a child, important medical news, the result of a spouse’s job interview, etc., we want to be ready for those calls.
How much more so should that be the case for God’s call on our lives? While He does not, as far as I am aware or have heard, use cell phones for such communication, He does indeed call us. The only way we can be certain of His calling, though, is by seeking Him through His Word. Knowing His Word is the only way to know His calling on our lives.
On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Galatians 1:11-24 on “The Calling of Grace.” I believe we can learn some lessons from Paul’s apostleship that apply to all who are called to follow Jesus. Have you heard and responded to that call? Are you fulfilling your calling as a follower of Jesus?
God does love you and proved that love by sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins. God did not “just call to say, ‘I love you,'” though. He called to say much more.
By the grace of God according to the Word of God, we can understand and follow His gracious calling on our lives. To do so, however, we must be in His Word, serving in His church, and living according to His mission (being a Christ-follower who is helping others to be Christ-followers). How are you doing? How are you helping others? Let us hear and respond to the most important of calls!
When was the last time you held back saying something to someone, though you knew you should have, because what needed to be said would have been hard to hear? We have all been there, right? Perhaps we even hold back sharing truth under the supposed act of “love” for that person. We might say or think something like, “Well, I love them and don’t want to hurt them, so I’ll just look the other way [(or accept them as they are) or (let them live their lives)].”
To be clear, though, that is not love. Love demands truth.
You cannot claim to love someone, for example, while at the same time being okay with them playing Russian Roulette. If you know what Russian Roulette is, you know that “dangerous game” is an understated description. Furthermore, if someone continues to play Russian Roulette, they will eventually “lose” (and die). Love, then, demands we share the truth with them.
To say something foolish like, “I know playing Russian Roulette makes you happy, and I want you to be happy. If that makes you happy, play on,” is not a loving thing to do. No, the loving thing to do is to beg and plead with them to put the revolver down and live. Do not take such chances with your life. Please!
As dangerous and devastating as Russian Roulette can be, how much more dangerous and devastating is the eternal death that comes as a result of sin. It is the death we all deserve because of our sin, but God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to “take that bullet” for us. Now, everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
Refusing to turn from sin and surrender your life to Jesus, though, is like playing the ultimate horrifying game of Russian Roulette. The consequences are so much worse than a bullet to the brain and the end of physical life. The consequences are eternal death.
We cannot be sure when this life will end for any of us. We cannot be sure when Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. And, once this life is over, the chance for repentance and faith will be too late. That is why God’s Word appeals to all, “‘Don’t receive God’s grace in vain.’ For God says: ‘I heard you in an acceptable time, and I helped you in the day of salvation. Look, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation‘” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).
Do not play Russian Roulette with your spiritual life. Do not be content with any plan other than God’s plan for you (according to His Word). And, do not think that the loving thing to do is to sit by while others play Russian Roulette with their spiritual lives. We cannot take the gun out of their hands, but we can love them enough to tell them of the consequences and plead with them to surrender their all to Jesus and let God “take the gun.”
We discussed in our adult Bible study with our church family last night the calling of Jesus on our lives – “Whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them — this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
If you were so blinded from the truth that you thought Russian Roulette was the right thing to do, would you not want someone to tell you? Would you not want someone to do whatever they could to get that gun out of your hand and help you experience hope and healing? Of course you would! To love someone is to act on that love. To love someone is to speak the truth into their lives.
God alone saves. He alone has the solution to our eternal problem. Have you surrendered your all to Him and begun to experience that solution? Do you love others enough to tell them?
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood, misused, and misapplied passages in the Bible is Jesus’ declaration in Matthew 7:7-8 (“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.).
That promise from Jesus is not an open invitation to get whatever we want from God. In the context of what Jesus was explaining, He was talking about seeking God in prayer and receiving from God what He wills for our lives.
The more we seek the Lord and find our hope in Him, the more we desire what He desires for us. The more we know His Word, the better we understand His will (and thus know how to pray and what to pray for). Only when we know and follow Him according to His Word can we experience the life He has for us. Only then is our identity in Him.
If you are trying to live your life with some other purpose, it is like you are stealing the identity for which you were created. When you try to find hope and meaning outside of the Lord, you will only be disappointed (sooner and/or later).
On Sunday morning for our Resurrection Sunday worship celebration, Lord willing, I will be preaching through 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 on our “Resurrected Identity” when we live in the light of Jesus’ resurrection glory. To experience that resurrected identity and live with a purpose and satisfaction that endures, we have to know and follow Jesus Christ and continually depend on Him. To do anything else is to steal your God-given identity.
Even good things (family, career, hobbies, etc.) can be used for evil, and if we find our identity in those things (or anything besides Jesus), then we are committing a form of idolatry. We are settling for far less than God’s best for us. We are not “asking… searching… knocking” rightly (biblically) and will thus fail to find and receive what God has for us.
Are you finding your identity in Christ, or are you stealing your identity for your own purposes? Do not give in to the temptation to think any other identity will fulfill you. It will only fail you.
Our oldest four children had their last day of school Thursday. Another year in the books! I am thankful for their school and for the education they are receiving. I am also thankful, though, that they don’t find their purpose and meaning in their education.
After talking about our need for following God’s direction according to His Word, Solomon said, “But beyond these, my son, be warned: there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body” (Ecclesiastes 12:12).
The reality is that if we try to find purpose and meaning in anything or anyone besidesour Creator, not only will be be disappointed; we will fail miserably and for eternity.
“When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands, because this is for all humanity” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
This morning I preached on the “Futility of Life,” challenging those in attendance to look to God’s Word for their purpose and meaning. You can listen to the message and/or others by clicking HERE.
In what or whom are you finding yourpurpose and meaning? You’ll never be satisfied, and more importantly, you’ll never be right with the One who createdyou with purpose and meaning unless you surrender to and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.