“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NIV
Faith allows us to have a deep dependency on God. We abide in Christ to receive His fortifying protection from the continuous spiritual warfare that many believe will produce the destitution of Defeat.
Satan can only be successful in his ploys to defeat us when we help him. Sounds crazy? Distractions are his proven strategies to bait and switch our focus from Christ to our circumstances.
Loving and Trusting Jesus allows us to receive His never-ending power. Jesus is our only Hope. Human Effort plus Divine Intervention equals Victory!
Devotional–Heaven is Not for Everyone from The Struggle of Sanctification by Sonya Johnson
Two concepts are truth: People know when they intentionally hurt someone who loves them and Christians know whether or not they are living a faithful and obedient life.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the [a]gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
Satan has deceived us into believing that God understands our sinful desires and that His grace will prevent us from the consequences of sin. Yet, Obedience to God is not an option!
How often do we think of Jesus who is Divine, commanding legions of angels, every breathing organism, and the natural elements, yet, when He came to earth, God required Him to learn obedience and become subservient to the human beings He created? Jesus obeyed His earthly parents along with the governmental laws. Even to His death, Jesus obeyed the will of God, His Father. If God required His Divine Son to learn obedience, then God does not and will not understand the disobedience of us living outside of His will and plans for us.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10)
The prophet Jeremiah tells us of the natural condition of our hearts–deceitful and desperately wicked. We cannot self-evaluate or judge our sinful hearts. Only the Holy, Righteous and Perfect God can search our hearts and reveal our secret sins. God has set righteous standards that all who desire eternal life in heaven must obey without compromise. “…Be Holy, for I am Holy” (1 Peter 1:16).
God will judge each person according to His standards. He is the Righteous Judge who determines who will receive the reward of eternal life. Still, we play a significant part in our destiny. The Human Effort required for receiving eternal life in heaven is to love God with all of your heart, soul, and mind demonstrated by living faithful and obedient lives on earth, and to love others. “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last” (Revelation 22:12-13).
Because we were born into sin and shaped with iniquity, God lovingly gave his only Son, Jesus for our Redemption. Jesus Christ gave His life willingly for us to be redeemed from our plight of sinfulness. So the understanding that God has is we will not intentionally rebel by disobeying and sinning against his laws. Yet, many commit intentional sins because of the Plan of Redemption which provides us with grace and mercy.
The Apostle Paul asks, “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?” (Romans 6:1-3 NLT)
The profession of love for God includes humility and surrender. Daily confession, repentance, and praying for God to reveal His will is the lifestyle of a Christian. Making decisions without God’s blessings demonstrates rebellion against His Divine authority. It is easy to fall into sin, the slip of the tongue [using profane words], mistreating others, compromising righteous standards when among unbelievers, speeding down the highway, and having vain and lustful thoughts are sins that we easily overlook. But if our true desire is to spend eternal life in the presence of a Holy God, then we cannot live every day according to our desires or feel no remorse for disobedience.
The church of the Laodiceans in Revelation chapter 3 had grown lukewarm and useless. Their hearts were filled with selfish desires of focusing on wealth and culture. Their love for the carnal, materialistic things of the world kept them from living righteously. Yet, because of Christ’s love, they were given a warning of the consequences of being neither hot nor cold.
There is no middle ground. Living a selfish life of disobedience is rebellion against God. The consequence: “For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” Says the Lord of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch” (Malachi 4:1).
We have a choice to make. When we choose righteousness, God provides Spiritual Reinforcement. Our Omnipotent God knows that we are involved in the conflict of spiritual warfare every day. We have a Father who has made provisions for humanity: the Spiritual Team of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and guardian angels who never sleep are the Spiritual Warriors who help and fight for us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.
Yet, the human effort of surrender as demonstrated by faithful and obedient hearts, diligent study of the Bible, and much prayer is required for us to receive the Divine Intervention needed to live as Victorious Overcomers. It is only one way for us to obtain our Heavenly reward. By living courageously with a “Do Right” mindset that shuns evil, and a life that boldly proclaims to all, “I love God and I will not compromise!”
Saul, the ruthless killer being transformed into the Apostle Paul is our ultimate example of the power of salvation on the heart that willingly surrenders to Christ.
35-36 So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.
37 For in just a little while,the Coming One will come and not delay.
38 And my righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.
39 But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved. (Hebrews 10:35-39)
Prayer: God, we confess and repent for our disobedience and wayward life. You have given us everything that we need to live righteously. We ask for forgiveness of sinful rebellion. Please cleanse us from all unrighteousness and fill us with your Holy Spirit. We ask you to reveal Your purpose and calling for our lives. Thank You for giving us the Holy Spirit who empowers us to recognize sin, and to become faithful and obedient. Yes, we desire eternal life. We love You and ask this prayer in the Worthy name of Jesus, Amen.
Devotional—The Struggle of Sanctification—Walking with Courage and Determination
So Jesus said to them, Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20
The speaker relayed that her life was in chaos and her marriage was at an endpoint. She could not figure out what the problem was until her best friend took a trip to Israel and gave her a gift. She looked at the small glass globe with a tiny seed inside. “Thank you, but what is it?” “It is a mustard seed.” As soon as she heard it was a mustard seed, the Holy Spirit spoke to her and said this is the amount of faith you must have to believe in God.
For the rest of the story, God caused a whirlwind of change when she ceased focusing on her inability to change their life. Over time, her marriage was restored and she is now a copastor with her husband in a bible-based church.
What is the spiritual meaning of mountains? Mountains represent the obstacles and tests that cause disruption and sorrow in our lives—trials, hardships, sudden illnesses, rejection from others, loss of relationships, marriages, jobs, and repossession of homes, and vehicles. To withstand the life journey of trials and sorrows, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we must have faith, courage, and determination.
“But without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Without faith, the impossible remains impossible! Our spiritual journey reflects our relationship with Jesus Christ. Where does faith come from? God has given us a measure [a seed] of faith that requires wholehearted belief in Him. Truthfully, we dread the mountains, but hardships produce continuous spiritual growth.
Faith is believing in God’s ability to deliver us in His timing and move our mountains. Jesus says if our faith is as little as a mustard seed, our mountains will be removed.
Our faith is the catalyst that loosens the stronghold! Yet, it is God’s power that removes the obstacle and brings victory. “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea'” (Exodus 14:15-16).
Whether from lack of knowledge or impatience, many believers give up [lose faith] when their obstacles are not removed immediately. God’s thoughts and ways are higher [read Isaiah 55:8-9], therefore, we cannot determine when we will receive Divine intervention. Yet, we can remain confident that God has heard our cry for help.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
It takes courage to have blind faith! God designed us to have the limited ability to see what is beyond today. In our weaknesses, Jesus gives us the strength to move forward in an unknown future. “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Unwavering faith and trust in God give us the determination to keep going. Every day, tell yourself, I don’t know how God’s going to do it, but His promises are “Yes” to which I say Amen!
How will we get to the other side of victory? Do not attempt to figure out how God will provide and resolve your tribulations. Pray and believe! “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17). Put God first! To hear God’s voice, we must reduce the world’s noise. Every day, separate yourself, go into your secret closet and pray for strength and ask for the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work.” (Revelation 22:12)
God is preparing us for a time of great tribulation. Our faith cannot stay the size of a mustard seed. God requires steadfast faith that grows to the point that nothing shakes our faith and confidence in Him. Reflect on your past victories. It was God who brought you through the impossible. Despite the size and number of mountains, we are victorious overcomers when we walk with the courage and determination to trust in God.
Prayer: God, we pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Give us the strength as we move forward with the determination to live faithful and courageously, In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Prayer is the life of every believer. Beware of anything that stops a diligent habit of praying. “Pray without ceasing”— maintain the childlike habit of offering up prayer in your heart to God all the time.
And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. Matthew 24:12
A concept is causing significant dissension and division among Christians–prosperity! When we hear messages based on God promising us wealth, we will react in one of two ways, “It’s a false teaching” or “Yes, Jesus says to ask anything in His name, and He will do it.” Yet, Jesus has told us “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…” Matthew 6:19, first part.
Sin has given us a natural longing to desire the things we do not have. Is it possible for us to be content? The answer of yes or no is an individual one, which reveals our relationship with Jesus Christ. We will explore the response of no, which many hesitate to say. They usually respond with, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19). And the conflict of truth versus error begins.
The Desire–Are you familiar with the phrase, “Some people are their own worst enemy?” We begin the decline into sin by our heartfelt desires. We have entered Satan’s Game of Chance as inexperienced players at this stage. But Pride continually urges us to pursue our dreams. Unsure of ourselves, we seek and select people who agree that we should follow our hearts. We make sure that we keep our strategies a secret, especially from the Saints of God who always say, “Pray and wait on God.” We grow weary of God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11. So, we begin listening to…the Influencers.
The Influencers persuade us to chase our dreams now. Many have become successful in the financial arena. We readily listen to the testimonials of social media’s elite, successful entrepreneurs or peruse the websites of powerful investment companies. JP Morgan advertises, “Set up a call or virtual meeting with a J.P. Morgan Advisor to discuss your investment goals and help keep them on track.”
An unequally yoked relationship is today’s believers’ second most prevalent deception. We have lost control of our senses, especially our eyesight. When children are younger, they are immature and desire the pleasant things they see. Yet, as they mature if taught restraint, they learn that not everything pleasing to the eyes is good for you.
The Rebellion–In these last days, Satan’s two deceptions are causing an internal conflict for first place in our hearts, seeking prosperity and having unequally yoked relationships with unbelievers. Chasing wealth and giving into lustful desires has many “Christians” renouncing God. Because compromise has overtaken the desire to obey God, they worship God with works–attending church or making tax-deductible contributions. But their minds are far from giving God the reverence of total obedience. “For let, not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:7-8).
The desire for what we do not possess has existed since the conflict with Lucifer in heaven. Adam and Eve gave up immortality and face-to-face communion with Jesus in the Garden of Eden for the deceptive lie of having God-like omnipotence–knowing all. We do not care! The Bible provides God-breathed historical accuracy in the Scriptures of fallen humanity and proof of God’s love, grace, mercies, and restoration. Yet, pursuing our desires becomes the driving force, and we willingly become players in the Game.
The Knockingon the Door of Our Hearts–“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).
The Failure–Because our Heavenly Father loves us, He intervenes, and our dreams that we brought into fruition fail. The loss of our financial investment, or the business falters into bankruptcy, and the relationship [no matter how dedicated you loved] is over when the unbeliever continually disappoints or walks away without remorse.
The Choice–God’s Restoration: With heartfelt sorrow, we confess and repent, [leaving the sinful Game] and receive spiritual restoration from the blood of Jesus Christ. “For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight…” (Psalm 51:3-4).
The Choice–Remain a Player: Many become angry and depressed, blaming God for not blessing their pursuits or relationships. They embrace the trending belief, “You can’t have success without failures,” and they decide to develop different strategies and continue to pursue their desires. Pride consoles them as they up the ante, “I’ll develop different strategies or find another individual with different values.” Now they have no need for God’s divine direction. They think of themselves as experienced players in the Game of Chance.
The Apostle Paul has forewarned us in 2 Timothy 3 regarding the condition of the last days. There is no middle ground. The player is seeking earthly rewards. But the righteous believe Jesus’ promise to supply all of our needs. We ask in prayer for God’s will to be done and patiently wait for God’s blessings. “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be My son.” (Revelation 21:7).
Prayer: God, we thank You for seeking us to save our souls when we have wandered away. We pray for forgiveness, not because of the devastating consequences we have suffered. But because we desire to leave the Game of Sinful pleasures. Today, we surrender our hearts and ask to renew our covenant vow with You. In Jesus’ Worthy Name, we pray. Amen.
I have often asked groups of people to nominate whom they believe to be the best example of “faith” in the Bible. Most people favor the familiar heroes of faith: Abraham, Job, Moses, or Elijah. Some mention John the Baptist or David.
When asked to explain their choices, people usually speak of those events, such as Abraham’s offering of Isaac, in which people do remarkable things that don’t appear to make any sense. For many Christians it appears that faith has more to do with blind incredulity than with a life-changing relationship.
Jesus Christ is our best example of faithfulness!
Jesus spoke explicitly of His faith relationship with divinity outside of Himself: “I do nothing on my own authority, but in all that I say, I have been taught by my Father. He who sent me is present with me, and has not left me alone; for I always do what is acceptable to him” (John 8:28, 29, N.E.B.). The divinity that charged Jesus’ life with power and purpose was not His own, but His Father’s.
Prayer: God, we pray for an increase in faith and the desire to obey Your will for our lives. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
We have so much to be thankful for. Yes, God’s mercies are new every day. Great is His Faithfulness! We have provisions, protection, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and God’s overwhelming love, as demonstrated by many scriptural promises. “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with loving devotion.'” (Jeremiah 31:3).
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, for God has said: ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you. I will never leave you or forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5)
Yet, many live with anxiety and worries regarding a situation or the future. And then there are the overconfident individuals who are self-reliant–directing their steps by using prior experience or strategies without ever thinking of asking for Divine intervention. Last, we have people who always run to friends and family to resolve their hardships.
How did believers who Christ says be one with Him become so diverse in our mindsets? It is not surprising that unbelievers do not trust God when they see and hear the inconsistencies [faithlessness] of those who say God is great! We must stop living with fear and self-reliance. We are privileged to serve God and represent Jesus to an unbelieving world.
God never expected us to figure life out. He knows the opposition [spiritual warfare] that we face every day. God promises to take care of us. “God can do nothing for me until I recognize the limits of what is humanly possible, allowing Him to do the impossible.” Oswald Chambers
Seek God first every morning, always praying throughout the day and ending with an evening prayer of gratitude. Pray earnestly for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Decide to fully trust in God by anticipating the fruition of His promises in your life.
Reflect on your life journey and acknowledge that God worked supernatural miracles to bring you through as blessed and highly favored. Live in joyful anticipation of blessings every day! Change your way of thinking by entirely relying on God, our Heavenly Father. Behold, is there anything too hard for me?
God desires that we have cheerful dispositions even in times of hardships. Faith in God gives us inner peace and the ability to possess childlike expectancy. Remember that our living is not in vain. One glorious day we will behold our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Prayer: God, we thank You for loving us, for the gift of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, and for Your long-suffering toward us. We pray for the renewal of our minds. And we praise You with joyful anticipation as You continue to direct our lives. We pray in the Worthy Name of Jesus. Amen.
For the past week, I have been studying the life of the Apostle Paul. The conversion of Saul, a murderer of Christians, to a devout and faithful disciple is evident throughout the 14 books in the New Testament. In his Second Letter to Timothy, Paul was fully aware that the end of his life was near. Paul’s imprisonment was unjust, but the Roman leaders believed that Christianity would phase out with Paul, the agitator incarcerated. The message of a Savior, Jesus Christ, opposed the ancient Roman pagan belief system. Still, their main concern was the impact on the possibility of decreased financial gifts.
But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you. 2 Timothy 4:5 NLT
Paul’s only offense: God designated Paul to preach the gospel to the Gentiles who believed in gods and goddesses. Financial offerings were given by the people, which sustained the greed of the governing leaders. Even so, Christianity grew in leaps and bounds due to the continual witnessing by the Apostle in heavy chains. While imprisoned, he endured extreme suffering for many years. Yet, Paul’s abounding faith was an example of Jesus’ suffering, leading to many Roman guards’ acceptance of Jesus Christ. Bible scholars estimate his age to be between 60-68 at the time of death. The wicked Emperor Nero was responsible for the execution by the beheading of God’s faithful Apostle.
As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8
The Apostle Paul clearly reveals that immortality is not received at the time of a person’s death. Yet, many believers hold on to the false concept that the person is either in heaven or burning in hell at death. Jesus answered, “You are mistaken because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Matthew 22:29.
Jesus’ body was in Joseph’s tomb when He was resurrected. Angels were sent from heaven to roll back the heavy stone. Although the Jewish leaders spread the false news that the disciples had stolen His body, the guards witnessed the event.
Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that He had spoken these things to her. John 20:16-18
The Holy Spirit is truth. The Human Effort of praying for the discernment and guidance from the Holy Spirit is vital to our belief in the scriptures, spiritual growth, perseverance, and endurance. We must decide to believe the biblical truth or to embrace the twisted concepts of our greatest Deceiver. It is a conscious decision to faithfully obey God by asking that His will be done in our lives. Turning our eyes upon Jesus requires wholehearted commitment. We have a Spiritual Team ready 24/7 to assist us in our journey on the Path of Righteousness. Through Christ, we can live holy and righteous lives, witnessing to others with confidence that we have fought the good fight, just as the Apostle Paul.