Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Thanksgiving Message - He Hears and Responds

During the harsh first winter in the New World, the Pilgrims had to endure disease and hunger. I am sure that each prayed for a miracle and hoped that the next morning would be the beginning of better and easier times. When that morning didn’t come, it would have been so easy for each to simply give up and stop praying. Some would even wonder whether or not God was even listening to their prayers and hearing their cries for help.

It is so hard to have rock-solid faith when it seems that God is not listening and answering your prayers. When you see a loved one going through a medical or financial issue, you pray for the miracle that would immediately lift the burden off of that person’s shoulders. We all want the miracle and prefer not having to endure all of the pain and suffering.

For me, it has been almost two years since my initial illness. To this day, I continue to suffer from it. I look back at all of the things that were done to me. I endured surgery after surgery. Doctors and specialists could not guarantee the outcome. But, we all knew there was only one great physician who could bring healing with just a touch or a spoken word. Our faith in Jesus guided every decision and next step in my recovery.

Many have asked whether or not I am cured. No one can guarantee that. According to other specialists, I have a twenty percent chance of having to go back through the entire ordeal. If it were to happen again, the surgeons have already told me that the next surgeries would be extremely radical. One specialist referred to the entire process as “going commando”. 

There were so many times when I prayed and asked the Lord to heal me completely and give me back my health. My wife listened to me weeping and crying out to the Lord for mercy. I would be on my hands and knees before the Lord. Tears would be streaming down my face and falling to the floor as I asked the Lord to take this cup away from me. But, in the end, I realized that His will comes first in my life.

There are those who will tell you that God is a divine vending machine. If you put enough money into the donation plate or box, He will give you what you want. Nowhere do those individuals talk about faith as being the only thing that you need to have. When they ask for money and donations, faith is absent from their messages. If they do mention the word, faith, it is often in passing and is only there just to add something extra to the divine formula of prosperity.

If you don’t get what you want or desire, that’s when those individuals talk about your lack of faith and tell you that you didn’t give God everything. They even have the nerve to ask for more money, because that really shows your faith in God.

Some will quote Peter’s first letter by reminding us that God “hears us whenever we ask for anything”. But, they conveniently leave out the next part of that verse.

Peter, in chapter five of his first epistle, writes, “And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.

Do you see what most leave out? They skip or skim over the portion of the verse about pleasing Him. God does hear and respond to our prayers, but our requests must be in keeping with His will. 

As I continue to deal with my illness and its aftermath, I am humbled by the whole experience. I learned that it is only by faith that I was able to get through the valley of darkness. God heard my prayers each and every day. He heard them change from prayers demanding a miracle to prayers for guidance, wisdom and love. He gave me the strength that I needed during my times of weakness. Jesus stood there holding my hand when I was enduring the medications, procedures and countless tests. He stood with the specialists and helped them see clearly and guided decisions in my treatment plan. I learned that He was there with me and that I was not alone.

Late at night, when my last round of medication was done and I had a quiet moment, I prayed for each of the people who were there in the hospital. I asked the Lord for a miracle for each. In just a short period of time, I saw people walking who thought that they would never walk again. 

Because of my experience and my daily struggle, my prayers are different. I thank God for His love and for His son, Jesus. I thank Him for those who are in my life and their love for me. I pray for those who are in need and thank Him for my opportunities to help those in need.

In Psalm sixty-six, the psalmist writes, “Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me. For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.

While I was in my hospital room for weeks, I had time to think and reflect on this one psalm. Each time I read it, I gained a better understanding and my faith grew with each reading. God never withdrew His love for me. He watched over me every moment of every day. He cradled me gently in His loving hand and guided my next steps. 

John, in chapter sixteen of his gospel, records Jesus’ words to his disciples. He tells them, “But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

Jesus knew that the Father was with him every step of his life and that nothing could prevent that. We need to be more like Jesus in our faith. We need to remember that the Father is always there and is listening to our prayers and providing answers. Although we may face times of trouble and trial, we, like Jesus, can overcome the world by fixing our eyes on Him who can hold us up in victory.

As the Pilgrims of old, we need to remain grounded in faith and know that God is listening and loves us. If you feel alone and that your faith is waning, I ask you today to look deep into your soul and examine it. Have you just given up and feel that all is lost? Think of how the Pilgrims felt when another day of death and hunger came. They prayed, but the miracle didn’t come. 

In the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, the author writes, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

We must remain in faith and continue to rest assured that God is listening. Things will change in time. Just like the Pilgrims, we will have our season of bounty and harvest and sit at the table prepared by God for us. But, that season will only come when it is time. When we patiently wait on the Lord, we can definitely stand firm in His grace.

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

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