"Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21

Do Not Err - James 1:16-18

James 1:16, “Do not err, my beloved brethren.”

I. We Don’t Have To Err

  • When God tells us not to do something, it’s not just a command, but it also helps us to understand that we don’t HAVE to do it.
  • Definition: “To wander from the right way; To Commit Error” (from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary)
  • To err, then, is to wander away, or waiver in your faith, away from God’ will; and that waivering leads you to be drawn away of your lust into error.

James 1:17-18, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (18) Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

II. We Err When We Forget God

  • Review: James 1:5-6, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (6) But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”
  • The gifts that God give us of wisdom and provision are in order to accomplish His will.
  • “Of his own will begat he us” – from the point of salvation, we have been equipped to walk in faith instead of in error.
  • We have a purpose – to accomplish God’s will; and he provides the provision. Living by faith is simply seek God’s wisdom and provision to understand accomplish his will in our lives.

Can we be a help to you to encourage your walk with God?

Drawn Away - The Anatomy of Sin

As we continue to the next section of James chapter 1 – verses 13-15, James helps us to understand the fundamentals of sin.

I. God Does Not Tempt Us to Sin

James 1:13 “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:” The first thing we learn is that God does not tempt us to sin. When we are living by faith, yielding to the Holy Spirit of God, we will be drawn TO the will of God, NOT away from it. It is helpful to know that God does not toy with His creation, nor put us into danger of sin, but rather continually draws us to Himself.

James 1:14 “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” Temptation occurs when we are “drawn away.” This begs the question: drawn away from what? For the Christian who is in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, the first step to sin is being drawn away from that position. The verse says that he is drawn away “of his own lust.” Instead of yielding to the Spirit of God, he begins to yield to his own desires.

II. We Fall Into Sin When We Move Our Focus Away From Christ

The focus for the person who is being drawn away changes. Before, he was actively serving God, and asking what the Lord would have him to do in each aspect of his life to bring glory to God. Now, though, the question becomes, “What’s wrong with that?” He is no longer concerned with what is right about his decisions and lifestyle, and whether they honor God and help him to accomplish God’s plan for his life. Instead, he is concerned with his Christian liberty.

Now the stage is set. He is no longer yielding to the leadership of the Lord. He has been drawn away from that which keeps him from sin. Lust is now the enticing bait that catches his eye, like the lure of the fisherman to a trout. Perhaps it is power that entices him. Perhaps it is pride and social status. Perhaps it is the fleshly desires of all kinds of ungodly relationships. Perhaps it is simply the “shiny stuff” of materialism.

James 1:15 “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

Drawn away now to focus only on the lustful options that are in front of him, he has the “freedom” that he thought he desired. He has the freedom to choose. But all of the choices, as beautiful and alluring as they may seem on the surface lead only one place – to death.

But there is another choice – the age-old choice going back to the beginning of the Bible, stated in Deuteronomy 30:19 by Moses, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:”

III. The Answer to Lust is To Choose Christ

As we come to the New Testament, we come to understand the wonderful truth that life is only found in the Person of Jesus Christ. 1 John 5:12 “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” So, then, to choose life, is to choose Christ.

If you find yourself in a life full of lust or alluring choices that lead to death, choose Christ. Perhaps you have never come to know Him as your Saviour. Realize that you are a sinner and accept His sacrifice on Calvary as your substitute and begin a new life in Him today. He has conquered death and Hell once and for all!

Perhaps you are a born-again believer, but you have been drawn away into a world of lust. The answer for you is the same: choose Christ. Abide in Him, and His faith will produce fruit in your life, and overcome the stronghold of Satan in your life.

John 15:4 “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.”

A Reward for Faithfulness

James 1:12 encourages us further on the eternal benefits of living by faith: there is a reward coming! Sometimes, I think that we focus so much in “getting people saved” and their eternal destination changed from Hell to Heaven, that we forget that the whole point is being reconciled to God, and living a changed life more abundant by faith – on that serves Him and is involved in bringing others to Him. Verses like James 1:12 help us to realize that there is much more to the Christian life than simply accepting Christ, and going on with life as before.

James 1:12 “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”

For Those Who Are Faithful to Him, There Are Rewards Coming!

For those who are faithful to him, there are rewards coming! This crown of life is all about Christ living through you, instead of you yielding to temptation. Consider what the Lord told John to write about the crown of life to the church in Smyrna: “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10) Notice again that this reward is all about faithfulness!

Then notice what He said to the church in Philadelphia: “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. (11) Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (Revelation 3:10-11) Notice that staying faithful was again linked to the crown.

We sure serve a wonderful God! We don’t deserve salvation, yet He sent Jesus to die for our sin! We don’t deserve it, yet we can walk and talk with God, as did Enoch! We don’t deserve a way to escape temptation, yet when we walk by faith, and seek Him, He makes a way for us to escape (I Corinthians 10:13). And in all of this goodness that God shows us, and all of this that He allows us to accomplish BY HIS POWER, we certainly don’t deserve a reward, yet there is a reward coming! I like prizes, and I want to remain faithful and receive that crown of life!

Equalized by Faith

James 1:9-11 “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.”

If we aren’t careful, we will remove James 1:9-11 out of the flow of James 1, setting them aside to themselves to become dis-jointed proverbial sayings. But the flow and topic of the passage before these three verses is the same as it is right after, and these verses are right here to help us understand something that is foundational to living by faith: genuine faith is the great equalizer and unifier.

James 1:9 says, “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:” The brothers of “low degree” – these are the humble to which God gives grace in James 4:6. These are the men of low estate in Romans 12:16. These are those of low degree that the Lord exalts in Luke 1:52. These are those that are cast down that God comforteth in II Corinthians 7:6. These are the base, as Paul described himself in II Corinthians 10:1. These are those who are humble; they don’t have much in the physical world, but they have the right heart and right perspective about life.

I. Biblical Faith Overcomes the Inadequacies of the Humble

Notice, though, the present tense of the grammar, here in verse 9: rejoice in that he is exalted. This brother, because of the indwelling presence of Christ inside of him, as he lives by faith, he is brought up out of his low estate to be useful to God. His limited resources and physical conditions don’t matter, because as he asks in faith, nothing waivering, the God of all creation hears and answers His prayer.

The rich, also can rejoice: “But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. (11) For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.”

II. Biblical Faith Overcomes the Ways of the Rich

The subject of concern for the rich man is defined at the end of verse eleven: “in his ways.” When the rich man is walking by faith, living by the power of the Holy Spirit, he will be walking in the way of God, instead of in his own ways. Living for a life of riches, luxury, and prestige will be replaced with the same lowly heart and humility that those of low degree exercise. Such a man will realize that life in the flesh is temporary, but what is done for Christ will last. Then, it is through this focus that his riches no longer make a difference in his life; living by faith for the cause of Christ is what matters.

The rich and the poor; the humble and the proud are then equalized and unified in a common burden. What I have doesn’t matter. My inadequacies don’t matter. What matters is Christ, and what He accomplishes in and through you and me. Biblical faith is the common denominator.

Galatians 3:26-28 “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. (27) For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

But Let Him Ask in Faith

Let’s look now at the next few verses of James Chapter 1. We previously defined faith as “a moral conviction of truth;” all the other terms related to faith, such as belief and trust stem from that conviction. When you are convinced of the truth of God’s Word and the direction of the Holy Spirit, you will live by it, or will be faithful to it.

We left off with the promise of verse 5, that if any lack wisdom and ask of God, it shall be given him. Then verse 6 starts out, “But let him ask in faith….”

I. Praying in Faith = Praying to Accomplish God's Will

Applying the Biblical definition of faith, it’s easy to understand that James was NOT saying, “just believe,” or “you gotta believe hard enough when you pray.” If acting in faith is living according to the truth of the Word of God and direction of the Holy Spirit, then praying in faith is praying for the wisdom and things needed to accomplish God’s will in your life.

II. Wavering = Trying to Figure it Out in the Flesh

He goes on to say, “nothing wavering.” ‘Wavering’ carries with it the concept of doubting and not trusting God’s plan and leadership, but rather trying to “figure it out” in the flesh. Matthew 16:3 uses the same word (translated ‘discern’) to talk about men trying to discern the face of the sky. Romans 4:20 uses the same word (translated ‘staggered’), to say that Abraham “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief” but rather simply obeyed in faith. Then James 2:4 uses the word to describe those who are “partial in yourselves” by judging people based upon what they are wearing and giving the nicely-dressed person the good seat.

The end of James 1:6 says, “For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” Such a man that is not lead by the Spirit of God will bounce around from thing to thing to thing, trying to discern what should be done, and when he prays, it’s not in faith – not to accomplish God’s will, because he doesn’t know God’s will. So James 1:7 says of him, “For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”

Why? If God’s very nature is to hear and answer prayer, why would this man not receive anything from the Lord? Because, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” James 1:8

III. The Promise of Praying & Receiving Is Only for Those Who Ask in faith

God’s blessings are abundant, and He truly does bless those who do not even know Him, but this promise of praying and receiving is made to those who are asking in faith – asking, in the leadership of the Spirit of God, for the wisdom and things necessary to accomplish the will of God in one’s life.

Count It All Joy

I’d invite you to take a look with me at the book of James. After a brief greeting in verse 1, James 1:2 makes this seemingly odd statement: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;”

Now, we’ll come back to how we are to have joy in a moment, but what about these “divers temptations?” What temptations is it talking about? Is it talking about rejoicing when we are tempted to sin, or the working of Satan? No, rather, we can look at the next verse to see that the subject is the trying, or testing, of your faith: “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” James 1:3

What is your faith? In yesterday’s devotion, we saw that faith can be defined as “a moral conviction of truth,” and that you cannot move very far between the word “faith” and “faithful.” Then we took a quick trip through Scripture to see that the Purpose of Faith is Reconciliation to Christ and His Ways; the Premise of Faith is Hearing and Obeying Christ; and the Power of Faith is in the Person of Christ.

Let’s go back then to James 1:3, and apply our understanding of faith. If I am allowing Christ to live through me to accomplish God’s will (faith in action), then I can rejoice when trials come that test this faith, because they are going to strengthen my faith and dependence upon God by seeking Him for Wisdom (verse 5) and develop patience in the process (verse 4).

I. Trials Develop Tools of Service

If we are convinced through His Word that we are obeying God and living by faith, trials will only draw us closer to God to ask for wisdom, patience, strength, and the tools necessary to serve Him greater, and verve 5 gives us a precious promised that helps us to rejoice even in trials: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

II. Trials Lead to Sweet Communion with God

For the faithful person, trials lead to sweet communion with God, Who loves to hear and answer prayer. He loves to give to all men liberally. He doesn’t upbraid or revile or taunt you when you ask. He promises to give you wisdom. When the God of all the Universe, the One Who created all the World and has all resources at His disposal wants to be generous to you, and give you wisdom in the midst of your trial, why wouldn’t you want to “count it all joy,” and why wouldn’t you want to increase your faith and dependence upon Him by fellowshipping more and seeking His face?

Snapshot of Faith Through Scripture

Today we are going to start a series of devotions on the Book of James. James is a very practical book. The theme of James is Living by Faith.

Since the concept of Faith is central to the Book of James, let’s start by looking at a Snapshot of Faith Through Scripture, thereby understanding and defining faith from a Biblical perspective; then next time, we will get into the first few verses of the first chapter of James.

What is faith? If you pick up a good dictionary or concordance, you will find the definition of faith as “a moral conviction of truth,” and that there is a connection and a great deal of overlap between the words “faith” and “faithful.” What does this mean in practical, Biblical terms?

The world around us simply does not understand faith. In life, you are bound to hear the word faith misused and abused, from faith-healers to motivational speakers. From time to time quotes pop up here and there that misapply the word faith. Here are a few that I’ve seen recently:

Someone said “Faith is believing in something when common sense tells you not to.” Whereas that might seem nice and fluffy, there is no basis for faith in such a statement, and if you apply that in life in general, you will believe in the Easter Bunny, UFOs, and playing the lottery as your retirement plan.

Someone else said, “The keys to patience are acceptance and faith. Accept things as they are… Have faith in yourself and the direction you have chosen.” Self-confidence is not the same thing as faith. If you simply have “faith in yourself” or any other person, you don’t understand the concept of faith, and are setting yourself up for destruction.

And then there is this statement that someone made, “The reasons birds can fly and we can’t is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.” No, the reason birds can fly and we can’t is because the Creator designed them to fly, and He did not design us to fly, and it is a misapplication and abuse of faith to say that if you believe anything you want hard enough that you can make it happen “by faith.”

So if those things are not faith, what does the Bible say about faith?

Number 1, let’s look at The Purpose of Faith. If you don’t know the purpose of something, it’s hard to use or apply it properly.

The purpose of faith is reconciliation. First The Reconciliation of Sinful Man to God at Salvation. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

And secondly, The Reconciliation of the Ways of the Believer to the Ways of God. “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Hebrews 10:38

When we first see the word “faith” in the Bible, it is in Deuteronomy 32. Here, Moses wrote a song that recounted some of the history of the Children of Israel and the goodness of God to them. He talked about how they turned to strange gods, worshipped devils, and disobeyed and forgot God, and in verse 20, it says, “And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.”

So we can see from this first mention of faith is the Bible, that there is a connection between faith and obedience to God. Disobedience to God equals a lack of faith. Faith equals obedience to God. The only other time we see the word “faith” in the Old Testament is in Habakkuk Chapter 2, where a contrast is made between the proud transgressor and the just man. It says, in verse 4, “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.”

Faith is a lifestyle for the just man. The man who has received salvation by faith, is to live a life of faith.

Hebrews 11:6 says, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."

Number 2, let’s look at The Premise of Faith. A moment ago, I said that the word “faith” was only found twice in the Old Testament; the concept, however is seen throughout the Old and New Testament, and the great “Hall of Faith” of Hebrews Chapter 11 describes the people who lived by faith like:

  • Abel
  • Enoch
  • Noah
  • Abraham
  • Sarah
  • Isaac
  • Jacob
  • Joseph
  • Moses
  • Rahab
  • Gideon
  • Barak
  • Samson
  • David
  • Samuel

What was it that all of these people, and others who lived by faith throughout history had in common? What is the premise, or foundation of faith? What is the basis and common denominator for faith throughout the ages?

We find it Romans 10:16-17: "But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Faith comes by hearing and obeying the Word of God. All of those listed in the great “Hall of Faith” acted in faith because they were acting in obedience to God.

Faith is a simple process. You hear from God – through the conviction of His Holy Spirit in studying His Word and hearing it preached. You believe Him. You yield to Him in Obedience.

At Salvation, you hear from God, and become convicted by the Holy Spirit of your sin. You become convinced that you cannot save yourself, so you believe on Christ, and yield to Him to forgive your sin and save you.

Then as a believer, you continue the same pattern of believing God, and yielding to Him in obedience. That is living by faith.

You cannot claim to have faith if you do not first hear from God. You cannot claim to have faith if you do not live in obedience to God. You cannot claim to have faith if you do not diligently seek Him.

Finally, let’s look at The Power of Faith. The Bible tells us that faith is a powerful thing. Let’s dive in and see what the Scriptures say about that.

Jesus said in Matthew 17:20 that “…If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."

Then in Luke chapter 17, a similar statement is recorded, this time about uprooting a tree and planting it in the sea. How can it be that “nothing shall be impossible” with faith?

I would like to suggest to you that the power of faith rests in the person of Jesus Christ. We have already seen that the purpose of faith is reconciliation to Christ, and that the premise of faith is hearing and obeying the Word of God, which is Christ, so let’s understand now that it’s power rests in Christ alone as well.

Paul helps us see this in Galatians 2:20, where he says, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

Notice the possessive phrase after faith – “of the Son of God” – the faith that Paul claimed to live by was Christ’s faith. We have the wonderful gift of the Indwelling Christ – as Paul put it, “yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” And as we yield in obedience to Christ – that is faith acted out in our life, we have the power of Christ to accomplish anything that is according to the will of the Father – truly nothing is impossible.

This is how faith moves mountains. This is how Elijah, by faith, prayed that rain would stop; and it did for 3 ½ years; and then it came back as he prayed. It was by the power of God on his life – not his own power.

When we get things in the right order – starting with hearing from the Lord, and seeking to please Him, we can be used by Him to move mountains by faith; because faith is all about Christ, and not about us. It’s not about becoming self-confident, successful, or manipulating others. It’s not about doing magical things like healing or walking on water.

Its Purpose is Reconciliation to Christ. Its Premise is Hearing and Obeying Christ. And its Power is found in the Person of Christ.

Crucifixion Week Timeline

Crucifixion Week Timeline

The Old Paths

It is the last day of a year; tomorrow is the first day of a new year. The saying goes, “Out with the old, in with the new.” In a world that is ever fascinated with the newest, the latest and greatest, and the cutting edge, I would like to challenge you on this New Years Eve to go looking for something old – the old, Biblical paths of the Lord that bring rest to your souls.

Jeremiah 6:16 says, "Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein."

In the old paths “is the good way.” In John 14:6, Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." There are not MANY WAYS to God, but ONE WAY, and that ONE WAY is Jesus Christ. A walk on the old paths centers around a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ – a relationship that starts when you acknowledge that you are a sinner, and repenting of your sin, receive His free gift of salvation.

The old paths require you to “see” and “ask” and “walk therein.” It doesn’t happen by osmosis, but by desiring and seeking for the Lord. This seeking and asking and walking with the Lord becomes a simple habit, a lifestyle that centers around fellowship with a personal, loving God Who created you and knows what is best for you.

In the old paths, you will find rest for your soul. There is no peace in finding your own way, or in “adding God” to your plan. There is no peace in working for your salvation or trying aimlessly to please an impersonal god. But in the old paths, it isn’t about you, but Christ IN you (Colossians 1:27), indwelling you and empowering you to have victory over the flesh. It is by yielding to Him that we have rest, and victory, and peace.

As you look to the wonderful new opportunities that the new year brings, don’t forsake the old paths. If you don’t have a relationship with Christ, quit trying to do it on your own, and simply accept Christ as your Saviour today. Then seek Him and walk in Him, yielding to the power of the indwelling Christ to give you rest for your soul.

The Blessing of Believing God

The angel Gabriel had delivered a joyous message to Zacharias in Luke Chapter 1, and Zacharias didn’t believe God. But Gabriel also delivered another joyous message in Luke 1, and in contrast, Mary DID believe God.

Like Zacharias, she was afraid. It’s natural to fear the unknown, and I cannot imagine all of things that went through Mary’s young mind. She had her life planned – at least for the immediate future. She was getting married to Joseph, and I’m sure that they had made plans for their future together. This news that Gabriel brought to her would jeopardize those plans, and change her world, and not just her world, but the entire world.

If you are scared of the future that God has for you, hear the words that the angel spoke to Mary, "And the angel said unto her, Fear not,..." (Luke 1:30). The Lord is ever ready to comfort and ease your fears of the future, just as He did Mary’s.

Also, like Zacharias, Mary had questions. "Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" (Luke 1:34)

The difference between Mary’s question and Zacharias’, was that she was not making an excuse. We can see from the way that the angel responded to her, that it was a genuine question, for which an answer was given. "And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. ... (37) For with God nothing shall be impossible." (Luke 1:35, 37)

Matthew 7:7 tells us, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:” Asking, seeking, knocking – asking the questions and looking to God for the answers about what He want for our lives is right and admirable, as long as it is done with the right heart, and not to make excuses.

Finally, UNLIKE Zacharias, Mary simply trusted God. "And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her." (Luke 1:38)

You don’t have to understand how all the details are going to work out, but God rewards faithful obedience. Mary obeyed. God worked on her behalf in making sure that Joseph stayed by her, and she had the great blessing of bringing Baby Jesus into the world.

What great blessings does God have in store for you when you believe Him and trust His Word? At the very least, all the glorious wonders of Heaven await those who trust Him for salvation. Trust Christ today for salvation; then trust Him in your daily walk.

After the Correction

How do you respond to correction? In Luke Chapter 1, Zacharias is a tremendous example of responding correctly to correction, and using the situation to bring glory to God.

Earlier in the chapter, the Creator had revoked his freedom of speech for a time because he did not believe the message that Gabriel had brought to him concerning the birth of John the Baptist. When it was time to name the child, he was suddenly able to speak again, and he did not hide from the reason that he had been corrected. He didn’t slink off into the corner, happy that the correction was finally over, hoping that people would eventually forget the embarrassing situation.

Instead, he began to speak and praise God (verse 64) and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, prophesied, starting in verse 68, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, (69) And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;" (Luke 1:68-69). He went on to preach and to talk about the future ministry of John the Baptist and the coming Messiah.

The Bible says, “And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea." (Luke 1:65) As a result of the way in which Zacharias responded to God’s correction in his life, people throughout all the country were touched with the news of the coming Messiah – even before John’s ministry began; even before Jesus was born in a manger.

If you want to make a difference in the world around you – glorify God and proclaim his mercy and grace. God can use even our mistakes to prompt revival, if we respond to the correction properly, and don’t try to sweep it under the rug. I wonder how much of a difference could be made in the world if God’s people would rise up victorious after correction, determined to glorify God in humility, and use that correction as a catalyst to show the light of a holy God to a dark and dying world.

A Prayer Answered

In Luke Chapter 1, we meet Zacharias the priest, whom the angel Gabriel appeared to, to tell him that he would be the father of John the Baptist. Notice the first thing that Gabriel says to Zacharias in Luke 1:13, “Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard….”

This was a wonderful thing – an answer to prayer! I wonder how often over the years that Zacharias and Elisabeth had prayed and begged God for a child, and now, their prayer was being gloriously answered!

But when the prayer was answered, and Gabriel brought the good news, Zacharias wouldn’t believe it! The fulfilment of his prayer was finally coming about, and he was going to be used by God to bring into the world the very forerunner of Christ – the voice of one crying in the wilderness to declare that the Messiah has come!

Yet, when the messenger of God – Gabriel himself – told him the good news – he made the excuse, “for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.”

People all over the world sit in lonely darkness because they will not believe that God will do what He said. Perhaps working for acceptance, or seeking answers in education, maybe looking for fulfilment in substances or relationships, they just don’t believe that salvation is a free gift of God – not of works; simply something that you turn to Christ to receive.

Or, perhaps, as a Christian, you sit, longing to be blessed and used by God, but when He shows you through His Word what the next step is, you make excuses, like Zacharias, “I’m too old,” or, “I’m too young;” “I’m too poor,” or, “I’m too busy.”

What it all comes down to is – not believing God; not believing that He can provide a way; not believing that He can take care of the details; not believing that His way is best, and that He knows more than we do.

God’s promise came true. John the Baptist was born. He was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” And the One that John spoke about, the Son of God, also came, born in a manger to grow up and shed his perfect blood to pay the penalty for our sin. Do you know the Saviour? Have you been born again?

The Result of Revival

The book of Nehemiah began in discouragement. The wall was broken down. The spiritual condition of the people was broken down, too. It ends, however, much better. Let’s take a look, so that we can see the result of revival.

Nehemiah 12:43 pretty much sums it up: "Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off."

1. God was first again. “Also that day they offered great sacrifices.”

In the last few chapters of Nehemiah, it seems that you can’t go more than a few verses without finding them worshipping God, and rejoicing, and remembering all that he had done from ancient history to the present! They were serving Him again. They were sacrificing, and tithing and singing and putting God first in their lives all around!

2. They were happy. “…for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced:”

This is quite the contrast to the beginning of the book. The people were happy. Their families were satisfied and joyful. There is nothing like families being at peace!

3. They were a good testimony. “…so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off."

The Book of Nehemiah started off with the bad news of Jerusalem being heard afar off, at Shushan the palace. Now, after the revival, it was a totally different story. They had a wonderful testimony that was being heard afar off, and glorifying God!

I want this to be my life. It is the result of revival from God. God first in everything. Peace and joy that radiates from my family. And a wonderful testimony that points people to Christ, so that they can know this joy and peace, too!

A Pattern for Revival

In the beginning of the Book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah had been concerned about both the physical condition of the Jews in Jerusalem, with the wall being broken down, as well as their spiritual condition. After much hard work, they finished rebuilding the wall, and they could focus on a different type of rebuilding – spiritual revival.

1. They opened the Word of God. "And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel." (Nehemiah 8:1)

We must get back to the Bible. If we want revival, we have to open up the preserved Word of God. Revival doesn’t come from other people’s opinions about the Word of God, or cute religious says, but from read the Word of God itself.

2. They studied and sought to understand and apply what they read. "So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading." (Nehemiah 8:8)

It’s not enough to simply read a few verses, and “check off a box” that we did our reading and go on with the day. No, what started the revival in Nehemiah is that they carefully handled the Word of God and studied, and sought to understand it and apply it in their lives. We, too, need to dig into the Word of God with the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit to help us understand it and change us.

3. They acted on what they understood.

In Nehemiah 8, they started acting as they understood. Nehemiah 8:16 starts out, "So the people went forth…." And describes how they began to do everything that they read in the Word of God, and then we find in the beginning of chapter 9 that they are fasting and confessing sin, and reading the Word of God, and worshipping the Lord together. Revival had broken out!

If you need to be revived spiritually, follow the pattern from Nehemiah. Open the Bible. Study it, seeking to understand with the Holy Spirit’s help. Then, take action. Small or big, act on whatever the Lord reveals to you as you study His Word. Keep up this pattern, and revival is sure to come in your life.

Thankful in a Difficult Situation

The work had begun that Nehemiah had gone to Jerusalem to do! They were rebuilding the wall! And then the bad guys came and made their lives miserable, doing their best to destroy everything.

It’s Thanksgiving, and sometimes life takes you to a place where you look around at your difficult circumstances and, perhaps wonder how you can be thankful; but 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "In every thing give thanks:" and that includes those difficult situations that you are in right now.

So I’d like to look at three blessings in disguise that came out of Nehemiah’s difficult situation, that caused them to know afterwards that "…the joy of the LORD is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10) and to have a joyful, thankful spirit that was known all around according to Nehemiah 12.

1st, this difficult situation caused them to pray. "Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity:" (Nehemiah 4:4) We can be thankful for anything that draws us closer to God, and allows us to keep his command to "Pray without ceasing." (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

2nd, this situation caused them to watch. "Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them." (Nehemiah 4:9) Perhaps if they had been watching in the years gone by, the wall never would have been destroyed in the first place, and now, more than ever, they had to watch so that they could rebuild.

We, too, are commanded to watch, and difficult situations are blessings in disguise that remind us of this. "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong." (1 Corinthians 16:13) "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: (9) Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." (1 Peter 5:8-9)

The 3rd hidden blessing was that this gave them a sense of urgency to get the job done quickly. Nehemiah 4:15-23 describes how they worked night and day; defending and building at the same time, not even stopping to change clothes. They had a job to do, and there was an enemy at the gate.

We can be thankful for anything in our life that reminds us of the urgency of the job that we have to do as Christians. We have a message to get out before it is eternally too late. There is an enemy that is trying to prevent it from getting out.

So if you are in the midst of a troublesome situation today, you can still be thankful; thankful that you can pray about it; thankful that you can watch; and thankful that you can focus on the urgency of serving God in the midst of this trouble.

Rebuilding Requirements

God had worked in Nehemiah’s life in a wonderful way – he had been faithful in serving and praying, and God had rewarded that faithfulness by allowing him to have the desire of his heart. The king was allowing and helping him to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall! Now that he had arrived safely in Jerusalem, it was time to start the rebuilding process. How did they go about Rebuilding Together? What does rebuilding require?

First, it requires Preparation.

Nehemiah 2:18 tells us, "…And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work."

Rebuilding requires strengthening. They couldn’t start rebuilding unprepared.

If we are going to build or rebuild anything in our lives, we must be strengthened to do it. To do it in our own power is to do it unprepared; we must be strengthened by the Lord. The psalmist said, “The LORD is my strength and song, and is become my salvation." (Psalm 118:14)

Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13) Without Christ strengthening me from the inside out, I cannot accomplish anything for God’s glory. Don’t go unprepared in the weakness of your flesh, but rather in the strength of Christ.

Secondly, rebuilding requires Determination. As soon as they began to rebuild, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, their enemies, began to laugh them to scorn and falsely accuse them. They began to see what could be done to stop the rebuilding.

The Jews responded with determined dependence upon God to get them through: "Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem." (Nehemiah 2:20)

We can expect to be faced with opposition when we begin to do what is right. Let’s face it with the same determination – the same dependence upon God that Nehemiah had, knowing that we MUST rebuild; we MUST NOT turn back.

Finally, rebuilding requires Hard Work. Chapter 3 begins detailing all the hard work that they began to do in rebuilding. Rebuilding is just that – rebuilding. It is work. It is doing whatever has to be done. It is inspecting and repairing and sanctifying step by step until your life is glorifying to God.

Rebuilding is not simply lip service. It’s a process of working in the strength of the Lord with a determined dependence on God to restore honor and glory to His Holy Name.

A Heart To Serve

In Nehemiah chapter 2, we see Nehemiah’s heart for service, and how that caused him to act in regards to three primary relationships that he had.

First, he had a heart for serving God, above all else.

We saw this throughout chapter one, where the first thing that he did when he had a problem and burden was that he took them to the Lord to seek him; and in seeking the Lord, he went back to serving the king. Now in the second chapter, when the king begins to talk to him about this, we see his heart for the Lord again: the first thing that he does is talk to God, before answering the king: "Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven." (Nehemiah 2:4)

This is where we see, secondly, his heart for his authority – the king. You see, his heart for serving God had lead him to continue being faithful to those currently in authority in his life. He already had a burden for Jerusalem. He could have rationalized neglecting or forsaking his responsibilities to the king in a number of ways. After all – God was obviously calling him to do something else. He could have begun to question the king’s authority over him – after all the Babylonian captivity was “technically” over – what right did the king have to keep him, a Jew, as a servant?

But instead, Nehemiah kept on diligently serving, because he had a servant’s heart that put the Lord and others first. This servant’s heart caused the king to care for him and to support him and allowed the Lord to work in the situation to the point that the king sent Nehemiah and gave him access to the materials needed to do the job! “…And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me." (Nehemiah 2:8b)

Finally, we get a glimpse of Nehemiah’s heart in relation to the people that he was called to serve. In verses eleven and twelve, it says, "So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. (12) And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon."

He didn’t enter Jerusalem as the new leader with great fanfare and notoriety, but quietly, with humility. He knew what God called had called him to do, and he was satisfied to serve the people and work with them to rebuild the wall. There was no great show when he came to Jerusalem – just him and a few men; and he didn’t tell anyone what he was doing until the timing was right. His heart was to serve God and others, and to do the job that he was called to do.

If we hope to see God’s power in our lives, we should follow the example of men like Nehemiah. Nehemiah saw God remove obstacle and provide for him in mighty ways, as he sought God first, stayed faithful to authority, and served others with humility.

Moving Beyond the Past

After the Babylonian captivity, the Jews returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, but they soon were caught up in the same sins that caused the judgment of God on the nation in the first place. In Nehemiah chapter 1, we meet Nehemiah, who was left behind in Shushan the palace as King Artaxerxes’ cupbearer. He learned in verse 2 and 3 that the remnant of Jews that remained in Jerusalem were in great affliction and reproach, and that the wall was broken down and burned with fire.

It was a great burden to him – knowing the condition of Jerusalem, and knowing their Spiritual condition.

The first thing that he did was he went to God with his burden: "And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven," (Nehemiah 1:4)

The first place that we should go with our problems is to the Lord. The way to get perspective on the past is to talk to God about it. Nehemiah didn’t go to a friend. He didn’t go to a counsellor. Instead, he poured out his heart and soul to God.

Secondly, he took personal responsibility. He prayed in verse six, "Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned." (Nehemiah 1:6)

Personal responsibility is key to overcoming the past. Personal responsibility is key to overcoming generational sin. The Bible is clear that you aren’t responsible for anyone’s sin but your own (ie. "Ezekiel 18:20, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.")

However, one would be wise to recognize the sins and habits of his parents and grandparents that came before him, and say as Joshua did, "as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15) This stops now!

Whether you are involved in things that you know are wrong, or you are suffering the consequences of previous generations’ bad choices, the solution is the same – take it to God and take personal responsibility for the future. Don’t continue in sin, and don’t allow bitterness to keep you from the blessings that God has for you in your future.

Finally, Nehemiah Kept Going. He didn’t allow his burden to overcome him to where he quit. The last verse tells us that he continued as the King’s cupbearer – right where God had put him in life. He continued in praying for God’s faithful servants. He didn’t give up; he didn’t start a new movement. He didn’t use the situation as an excuse to leave the old, Biblical paths.

Don’t give up. To move beyond the past, you must keep going. Keep doing what God has shown you so far. Stay where God has put you. Don’t let the situation overcome you.

Let’s be like Nehemiah, and keep taking our burdens to God. Let’s be determined to give the past to Him, and to turn our back wherever sin shows its ugly head, no matter the cost. And let’s keep moving forward in the tried and true, God-ordained paths of old.

Hopeless?

Do you ever feel hopeless? Perhaps you have a void in your life that you realize simply cannot be filled with all the things the world offers – relationships, money, drugs, or drinking.

I would like to suggest that there is only one thing that can fill that void in your life. That one thing is a personal relationship with the One Who created you – the Lord Jesus Christ. When you come to the end – the end of yourself and trying to do things your own way, you will find that there is a loving God waiting to begin a relationship with you, offering you eternal life.

The Bible has a lot to say about hope. It all starts with Christ. I Timothy 1:1 calls Him our hope, and Romans 15:13 tells us this: "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." - Romans 15:13 God is waiting to turn your hopelessness into joy and peace, starting with His free gift of salvation. Then, by His power, you will be able to abound in hope and overcome whatever it is that you are facing in life.

Are you ready to admit that you are a sinner, and turn to Him for salvation? Jesus died on the cross, was buried, and rose again, to pay the penalty for your sin, and to give you hope for the future. Cry out to Him today. "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." - Romans 10:13

Are you born again?

If we can be a help to you, please call or contact us online today. We would also like to extend an invitation to you to come to any of our regular church services.

From Convenience to Obedience

This is interesting to me, from Psalm 105:25:

"He turned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtilly with his servants."

It is in reference to the Israelites just before they left Egypt to return to the Promised Land, just before the ten plagues on Egypt. They had been comfortable; the Egyptians liked them, and they liked the Egyptians.  It was convenient, but they weren't supposed to be in Egypt.

So God orchestrated some events, and according to this verse, even turned the heart of the Egyptians to hate the Israelites. This working in the hearts of the Egyptians and the Israelites prompted the necessary change that moved the Israelites back to where God had called them to go.

What uncomfortable relationship is in your life right now? Is God trying to use it to push you towards Him? Maybe those unkind or unfair things that are happening to you are actually gifts from God to move you from a convenient relationship with Him to an obedient, personal relationship with Him, fully committed and dependent upon His leadership.