There is a massive spirit of fear over the world, Australia and even the church. As we learn to identify what this Spirit is and how it influences how we live, we can go back to the Word of God, the Bible, and seek to understand what God had written about how we are to live out our faith in these very challenging times.
We always must start by understanding who God is and, secondly, our identity in Him. As we know He is our Creator, we read in Colossians 1:16 that he created all things and FOR Him. When we understand this truth, we can start to have faith that even though Satan and his helpers feel in control, God's plans and purposes WILL happen as all things were made for Him, even when they think they are not! Even when the circumstances look like God is not in control.
16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. Colossians 1:16. NKJV
As we understand this, we are also encouraged when we find that God is calling us not only to be His children but to be His sons. (This term means position, not gender.) As we are growing and maturing, God is calling us to grow up and develop into sons. As we do this, we are in tune with the Holy Spirit and not only hear but obey what the Spirit is saying. I can see that being a Christian is like being an ocean liner. Reading the Word sets us in the right direction, but the Holy Spirit gives us small direction changes as He guides us. If we want to get to where God wants us to be, both are essential! The Word and Spirit must work together, so we are not misled!
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:14 NKJV
There are seven critical stories from the Word of God that are encouraging to read as we struggle with hard times. All accounts show something about how to walk in the Spirit.
Story 1: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego (Daniel Chapters 1-4)
I do not know how it felt for these young men to be taken from their families, homeland and all that was familiar and placed with the king who gave a command that they were to eat from his table. I am not sure what I would have done, but obeying the king would have been on the top of my to-do list. However, these men decided right from the beginning of their time in this new land that obeying God was more important than following man. By not eating the king's fancy food, they would not be defiled and therefore remain holy before God. When other things arose, including not praying to God and bowing down to a statue of the king, they did not have to make a decision but did what they chose to do right at the beginning, which was to put God first. What was interesting was at each challenge, God promoted them when they obeyed Him. It is worth a read.
20 Daniel answered and said:
"Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. 21 And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding. 22 He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him.
23 "I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; You have given me wisdom and might, And have now made known to me what we asked of You, For You have made known to us the king's demand." Daniel 2:20-23.
Decide to obey God no matter what the circumstance. Often what you are going through is a test that, when you pass, leads to a promotion.
Story 2: King Jehoshaphat and the Three Armies (2 Chronicles 20)
If you have not read this recently, it is worth a read. Jehoshaphat and the people had three armies coming to destroy them. He feared and immediately went to God and prayed a beautiful prayer:-
6 and said: "O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? 7 Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? 8 And they dwell in it, and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your name, saying, 9 'If disaster comes upon us—sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.' 2 Chronicles 20:6-9
God not only heard their prayers, but the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel, a prophet, who prophesied and said, "Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God's" 2Chronicles 20:15b. We read that they went out early to battle the following day and put the worship leaders out the front. As they started to worship God, the armies began fighting each other, and by the time Jehoshaphat and his army arrived, the three troops were all dead. It took three days to clear the loot, and all the people around them refused to fight them because they witnessed the protection of their God. What looked like an inevitable disaster became a time of blessing and incredible peace over them and the land.
This battle is God's, not yours! So keep praying and turn up to the battle, but He will fight it for you!
Story 3: Jesus in the boat in the storm (Luke 8: 22-26)
This is only a short account, but it tells so much about the confidence Jesus had both of the protection He had from His Father AND that nothing Satan could do to stop the plans and purposes God had for Jesus. The disciples were terrified, but Jesus was calm and had complete faith. Not only did He not worry, but He could also sleep deeply when everything was going crazy around Him.
24 And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!"
Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 But He said to them, "Where is your faith?" Luke 8:24-25
Jesus knew God's plan for him could not be stopped by Satan. He was able to relax and sleep during the great storm. Trust God, relax and look forward to the great adventure God leads you into.
Story 4: Peter chained between two soldiers and destined to die (Acts 12)
Although considerable prayer was being given for Peter, He was having his last night in prison, chained to guards and behind several locked gates, and it appears that he was about to have his head removed in the morning. Not sure I would be able to sleep, but Peter was. It seems he was content about whatever would happen. I loved the exchange with Rhoda at the door when he arrived where the disciples were praying. God intervened miraculously, and he was able to escape. Even the ones praying could not believe that their prayers were answered!
6 And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison. 7 Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, "Arise quickly!" And his chains fell off his hands. Acts 12:6-7
Pray for breakthroughs and expect God to come through.
Story 5: Esther (Esther CH 1-10)
If you want a great story, read the book of Esther! God placed Esther in the King's court, and even though Hayman had his evil plans in place, Esther humbly asked her people to fast and bravely expose Hayman's plans. As a result, instead of being destroyed, the Jews could attack and destroy their enemies. One day they were looking at being eradicated, and in a short time, many people wanted to become Jews, so they were safe!
"Hayman'sYet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Esther 4:14b
Maybe the "Good Works' God has made you for (Ephesians 2:10) will come through the situation you are in that looks impossible.
Story 6: Joseph
Not sure what Joseph was thinking as he was given a dream from God and then had a long period where he went through a series of events that would cause the most robust believer to question God and what He was doing. Being hated by his brothers, thrown into a well, sold as a slave, thrown into jail because he refused to have a physical relationship with his master's wife. Then it appeared God forgot him in prison. What he said in Genesis 50 was remarkable and took many years for him to come around and understand …. But he did! God does turn around the evil that people do in our lives, and He turns them around for His good! In Colossians 1:16, we read that all things were made by and for Him.
But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Genesis 50:20
God has good plans. What they mean for evil, God means for good. So wait on God, listen to Him and see what He will do for you in your situation!
And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace. Exodus 14:13-14.
Story 7: Jesus
This is the most incredible story you will ever hear. The one who created the universe and formed man from the dust of the earth became one of us. He was not recognised for who He was, but the religious leaders hated him and those He came to save. Jesus was beaten, mocked and nailed to a cross where He gave His life for us. Even now, as I picture this scene in my mind, I am horrified at what we did to our Creator, God and King. Jesus wrestled with this path God had for him in the Garden of Gethsemane and sweated blood, signifying the incredible agony He was experiencing. Despite knowing the path His Father had for Him, Jesus chose His Father's will not his own. The death of Jesus has brought us total victory over the plans of Satan.
42 saying, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done." Luke 22:42
Being a follower of Jesus requires submitting our wills to God and following what he calls us to do, no matter the cost.
As we walk through tough times, we are encouraged through reading what God has done in His Word in the lives of His people. From the stories we have learnt:-
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego chose to obey God before they were tested. When the decision needed to be made, they had already decided what to do.
King Jehoshaphat went straight to God and reminded Him of His promises. He was given a strategy, and God fought his battle and not only gave victory, but long term peace also came as a result.
Jesus was asleep in the boat in the storm as He knew Satan could not stop the plans God had for Him.
Peter could sleep even when he was to be killed the next day. So when we pray, expect the impossible.
Esther was born "for such a time as this" and had the courage to expose the evil and save her people from being annihilated after asking her people to fast.
Joseph realised that evil was not an obstacle for God. Even though it looks impossible, God is still working for His plans to work.
Jesus wrestled with God and submitted to His will. As a result we are able to have an eternal relationship with God. So trust God and do what He says and see what unfolds. You will be amazed!
Finally, God's heart is to have a relationship with His children. Use the tough times to seek God and grow closer to Him. Understand not only how awesome God is but how much He loves His people, including you. Learn to be led by the Spirit, grow in your ability to trust Him and live a life of faith. God is good, so we can trust that all he does will end up "good" despite what we see now! Do not fear; choose to listen to God through His Spirit and continually grow so you can walk fully as a son of God.
Hang on and enjoy the adventure He has for you! The ending will be worth the struggles!