Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Think About Heavenly Things

During my illness, I have had a lot of nights where my mind was cluttered with a lot of thoughts about things that could happen. I would often find myself tossing and turning all night long or weeping bitter tears as I considered the possibilities of my circumstances. I began to concentrate more and more on the things that might or could happen rather than remaining in the moment and close to the Lord. I struggled to return to my peaceful pasture that the Lord has provided me, but the things and thoughts of this world quickly pulled me back. Once again, my mind filled with more thoughts of what could happen. My heart was gripped with fear, uncertainty and doubt. In time, I could barely hear God speaking to me. His voice was being drowned out by the noise of this world.

Has this happened to you? I am sure that I am not alone. We all, from time to time, get caught up in the world and its concerns. Those things could be medical issues, financial problems, spiritual battles and so many other things like addiction to alcohol, drugs or even food. The voice of this world is the seductive tongue of Satan who seeks out those who are troubled and have moved ever so slightly away from the observation of the Shepherd. We wander just a bit and there is Satan, like a roaring lion, ready to pounce and devour us.

By letting our minds concentrate on the things of this world, we give the deceiver of man the chance to whisper words of fear, uncertainty and doubt. He begins, like a skilled orator, to build his case and then begins his cross-examination. He questions us about God and what He has promised us. He asks, “Did He really promise you this or that? Is He even there for you? Where is He now?”

In just a few questions, the skilled deceiver has us thinking about everything else but the Father. We begin to wonder about the promises, whether He is even listening, or even if He is there. Satan is a skilled adversary who knows exactly when we are weakened by the toils, trials and troubles of life. He knows when to pounce and sink his fangs deep into our souls to envenom us with his putrid poison of fear, uncertainty and doubt.

As the poison courses through our heart and mind, it begins its insidious work to destroy our relationship with the Lord. Our thoughts are no longer of Him but rather of the things we face in this world. There is, however, an antidote to Satan’s virulent venom.

The first thing is to not allow yourself to fall into self-pity and the “woe is me” spiral. Self-pity just leads to opening the door for Satan to come into your mind and begin his assault on your faith. If you remain grounded in your faith, the enemy does not even dare come near you. He knows that all you have to do is rebuke him in the name of Christ Jesus. Just the mention of his name will send him packing and running back to his lair with no prize to claim.

When I was in the hospital for three weeks, my weak moments came between midnight and two in the morning. After all of my intravenous medications, pills, shots and blood tests were complete, I had about two hours before the routine started again. As I would try to go to sleep, there were times when my mind would wander to moments of doubt and questioning the outcome of my treatment. I would sometimes think about why I was going through all of this and what was the reason. After all I had been faithful and continued to preach the Good News through our ministry website and witnessed to hundreds of people. It is then Satan would begin to whisper into my ear the hardest question to answer from a hospital bed, “Where is your God now?”

I would begin to wonder and weep as I tried hard to hold on to my faith. I found myself with the blankets pulled up tight and wishing it would all go away. I was hoping that all of it was just a horrible dream that would soon end, but it was not a dream. It was real. I began to slip in my faith and wonder where He was and why I was having to go through this. 

When this happened, God sent someone to me, a fellow follower of Christ Jesus. Sometimes, it was a nurse or a nurse technician who would just come into the room for a few minutes and we would share scripture. There was one thing that was so common about all of those moments. Each of us needed something to help us in the next step of faith along the path of righteousness which God had laid out before us. One nurse told me, “I had planned on ‘calling out’, but something in my heart said that I needed to come to work. You were the reason.” We shared our faith and prayed together. At that moment, Satan was stopped in his tracks and he slithered back to his lair without a prize.

By, as Paul puts in Colossians 3, thinking about “the things of heaven, not the things of earth”, the two of us were able to minister to one another and strengthen our faith at the same time. By the both of us looking up rather than down, we saw the glory of God and knew that He was in control and was ministering to us by having us minister to each other. God will provide you, at your moment of weakness, the courage to get through those moments and continue to build a stronger relationship with Him.

So, as God told Joshua in chapter 1 of his book, “9 This is my command--be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go”, we, too, must be strong and courageous. We should not let fear, uncertainty and doubt rule our lives. There is no place for them. We need to fix our thoughts on Him and think of those things that are heavenly and righteous. 

Paul, in chapter 4 of his epistle to the Philippians, writes, “8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” 

By thinking about things that are excellent and worthy of praise, our hearts and souls are filled with praise and not pity. Our minds are not cluttered with all sorts of worries. We are able to rest peacefully in the green pastures and enjoy the living water that He has provided to us through His son Christ Jesus. He sets a table for us and anoints our heads. We are His children and nothing can take us away from Him. 

So, I encourage you to fix your thoughts on Him and those things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and admirable. Do not lose sight of Him and remember that you have the power to rebuke Satan. He has no power over you unless you allow him to do so. If you find your faith waning a little or a lot, seek out fellow followers of Christ Jesus. We are all part of one body and we work together in harmony to support each other. Remember the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, “12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

I know it is difficult not to focus on things of this world. They draw us back and we begin to feel alone and powerless. But, we are far, far from that. We are given the power to overcome those things through the blood of Christ Jesus and the New Covenant. We should not allow the troubles of this world to get us down and keep us down. You can rise above and overcome them by being strong and courageous and knowing that “the LORD your God is with you wherever you go”.

When you have moments when you begin to falter or waver in your faith, remember the words of Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians, “18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

The things in this world are temporary and will soon and surely fade away, but His unfailing love for us and our faith and love for Him will transcend all and last forever. Armed with these words, you can rise above and overcome all fears, uncertainties and doubts and stand firm in His grace.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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