Prophecy in the New Testament Church

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Prophecy in the New Testament Church

James R. Aist

In the last days it shall be,’ says God, ‘that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even on My menservants and maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:17-18)

Introduction

It is not my intention here to attempt a comprehensive treatise on prophecy. Others more qualified and authoritative than I am have already done that. Mine is more of an introductory level treatment encompassing personal research and commentary that I have been motivated to explore, assemble and record here, for what it’s worth. Nor will I get deep into the ongoing controversy concerning whether or not prophecy is for today. Suffice it to say that the Scripture verses quoted above say that prophecy is for the Last Days, in which we live. Moreover, a great many born-again Christians, including myself, bear witness to the operation of prophecy in the Christian church today, so my interest lies mostly in understanding it and practicing it, insofar as God gives it to me and to my contemporaries of like faith.

Before Pentecost, God spoke to His chosen people, Israel, through a select, few individuals called “prophets” (Hebrews 1:1), who spoke to the people for God through the working of the Holy Spirit. The punishment for giving a false prophecy was, at that time, extremely severe, even death. But, at Pentecost, God did a “new thing”: He began to pour out His Spirit on all believers, not just a few, chosen prophets, such that all became eligible to prophesy. The old order of communication through a chosen few was replaced by a new order of communication through, potentially, all who would put their faith and trust in Jesus. Apparently, false prophecies were no longer to be punished by the death of the one prophesying; rather, the hearers were to judge the prophecies as to whether or not they were of God, and to firmly hold onto what is good. But, this does not mean that God is no longer offended by false prophecies. Pentecostal theology teaches that there is now sufficient grace to cover false prophecies, but if God were not still offended by them, why would grace be required in the first place? After all, false prophecies, being not really from God, are lies perpetrated about God, are they not, regardless of the good intentions of the prophet?

This “new thing” that God did ushered in a major prophecy makeover that is still in effect today. So, then, what is prophecy in the modern Christian church, and how can we judge whether or not the prophecies are of God?

A Pentecostal Definition of “Prophecy”

Dr. Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. has defined prophecy as “A spontaneous manifestation of God’s grace, received by revelation, (sometimes as a vision, at other times as impressions or thoughts) and spoken by the Spirit through a Christian who has been given a gift of prophecy in the language of those who hear the prophetic word spoken.” Such definitions apply specifically to prophecy in a meeting of a church body. In the New Testament, preaching and prophecy are two separate and distinct operations, although preaching can, and often does, incorporate prophetic messages.

From this definition, we can see that there are three things that must happen in order for the prophetic process to be complete: First, the Holy Spirit must give the gift of prophecy to a Christian of His choosing; second, the Holy Spirit must give to that person a revelation from God; and third, the revelation must then be spoken to those whom God wants to hear it. Thus, true prophecy is initiated by the Holy Spirit and manifests first as a revelation given by the Holy Spirit. The one prophesying then turns the revelation into a prophecy by speaking it to those who hear. In other words, the Holy Spirit operates the prophecy, while the human being merely co-operates with the Holy Spirit in the process.

Regarding the aspect of spontaneity in prophecy, let me first point out that spontaneity is commonly present as an element of true prophecy in the definitions of most Pentecostal and charismatic writers. As you will see in the Bible passages below, with true prophecy, the spontaneity is in the giving of the revelation to the human being, which is according to the will of the Holy Spirit, not the will of the human being. However, there appears to be flexibility in when the revelation is to be shared with those who are to hear it: if the revelation comes during the meeting, then it is to be given as soon as possible during the meeting. But if the revelation comes before the meeting, then one is to wait until the meeting has begun and then give it at an appropriate time.

Bible Passages on “Prophecy” in the Christian Church (with my personal commentaries in italics):

Acts 2:17-18 ‘In the last days it shall be,’ says God, ‘that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.

All true believers are eligible to prophesy, because God has poured out His Spirit on all flesh. But, 1 Corinthians 12:10 says that they can only do so if/when the Holy Spirit chooses to use them in this way.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies.  Examine all things. Firmly hold onto what is good. Abstain from all appearances of evil.

Examine all prophecies to see if they are from God. Accept those that pass the tests, and reject those that do not. The tests are the written word of God and the spiritual gift of discerning of spirits. Note that there is no explicit judgment of the prophet and no punishment specified for delivering a false prophecy…only grace, instead, according to Pentecostal Theology. But remember, that does not mean that we should celebrate false prophecies and take even more risks in prophesying, any more than we should “…continue in sin that grace may increase” (Romans 6:1-2).

2 Peter 1:20-21 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of the Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation. For no prophecy at any time was produced by the will of man, but holy men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

True prophecy does not proceed from the will or the imagination of human beings. Instead, people are moved by the Holy Spirit to relay a message from God. The Holy Spirit, not a human being, initiates and operates the process.

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Do not just believe that everything a prophet says is from God, really is from God; there are many false prophecies being floated around. Rather, test every prophecy and decide for yourself if it is from God. This rule applies to even the most famous and esteemed of “prophets.” The tests are the written word of God and the spiritual gift of discerning of spirits.

1 Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.

Paul is about to teach the Corinthians all they (and we) need to know about prophecy in the Christian church body. [If he were to leave out any essential information, then the Corinthians (and we) would still be ignorant after learning all that Paul teaches here.]

1 Corinthians 12:6 There are various operations, but it is the same God who operates all of them in all people.

It is the Holy Spirit, not the human being, who operates the gift of prophecy. We just co-operate with the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:10 …to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.

Note that “discerning of spirits” follows immediately after “prophecy” in this list. Perhaps this order of mention was meant to imply that to effectively “test the spirits to see if they are from God,” one needs to exercise the gift of “discerning of spirits.” The test of the written word of God should always be applied also. The gift of prophecy is not given to all Christians as a result of their conversion; rather, it is distributed only to some, according to the will of the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:10 But that one and very same Spirit works all these, dividing to each one individually as He will.

It is the Holy Spirit, not a human being, who distributes the gift of prophecy (cf. Hebrews 2:4) as He wills, and then He works them Himself. Prophecy doesn’t “just happen”; the Holy Spirit, not a human being, initiates the process by giving someone with the gift of prophecy a revelation from God.

1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow after love and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.

Of all of the spiritual gifts, prophecy is the one most to be desired. (One may wonder, then, if maybe some of the time and energy we Pentecostals have been focusing on the gift of tongues might have been better spent on the gift of prophecy. I’m just sayin’.)

1 Corinthians 14:3 But he who prophesies speaks to men for their edification and exhortation and comfort.

Apparently, these are the three main purposes that God has in mind for giving us prophecy revelation in and for the church body.

1 Corinthians 14:5 I desire that you all speak in tongues, but even more that you prophesy. For greater is he who prophesies than he who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edification.

Not only is prophecy greater than tongues, but the prophet is greater than the tongues speaker, unless there is an interpretation. A message in tongues with interpretation in a church meeting is a revelation from God to edify those present; it is man-ward directed, whereas tongues spoken privately is God-ward directed to give praise and glory to God.

1 Corinthians 14:12 So, seeing that you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that you may excel to the edifying of the church. (cf. Young’s Literal Translation: “So also ye, since ye are earnestly desirous of spiritual gifts, for the building up of the assembly seek that ye may abound.”)

I see in this verse something that goes beyond just “…earnestly desire to prophesy.” What I see here is a call to action, an instruction for us to make every effort to get better at discerning the voice of God, so that our prophecies are true. Thus, teaching about prophecy that is aimed at improving our ability to discern the voice of God may be both biblical and encouraged.(Caution: In my opinion, prophecy practice sessions are suspect at best, because they are based on the false teaching that it is a human being, not the Holy Spirit, who initiates the process of prophecy. See 2 Peter 1:20-21, above.)

1 Corinthians 14:24-25 But if all prophesy and there comes in one who does not believe or one unlearned, he is convinced by all and judged by all. Thus the secrets of his heart are revealed. And so falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.

Pentecostal Theology holds that “…the secrets of his heart…” refers to hidden sins. According to this view, prophecies in the church body can convict a hearer of sin.

1 Corinthians 14:26 When you come together, every one of you has a psalm, a teaching, a tongue, a revelation, and an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.

Tongues, with interpretation, is for the edification of the whole church, just like prophecy is.

1 Corinthians 14:29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.

All present at the meeting are to listen to the prophecy, and judge what is said (to decide if it is from God). There is no mention of judgment of, or punishment for, the prophet if the prophecy is found to be false. Instead, according to Pentecostal Theology, there is grace to cover these human failures. But, that does not mean that we should celebrate false prophecies and take even more risks in prophesying, any more than we should “…continue in sin that grace may increase” (Romans 6:1-2). The two main tools that we have to judge prophecies are the written word of God and the spiritual gift of discerning of spirits.

1 Corinthians 14:30 If anything is revealed to another that sits by, let the first keep silent.

Some prophecy revelations are received during the meeting, and these are to be given priority in the order of presentation at the meeting.

1 Corinthians 14:31 For you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.

Prophecies are to be given one after another, not while others are being given, so that all of the prophecies may be heard and judged by all, and all may be encouraged.

1 Corinthians 14:37 If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that what I am writing you is a command of the Lord.

Paul has received these instructions directly from Jesus, so his teaching here about prophecy in the church body is, itself, a true prophecy. It is not subject to challenge.

General Commentary: Notice that all of these verses pertain specifically to the use of the gift of prophecy in the assembly of the saints for the edification of all assembled. Nothing is said here of either revelations about individuals, or whether or not we are to share such personal revelations with anybody. I am presently of the opinion that revelations from God about individuals are just words of knowledge to be kept to oneself, unless God instructs you to share the revelation with the individual or a group, in which case it then becomes a prophecy, by definition. I have yet to find in the Bible any instruction or permission to share God-given personal information about an individual to any group of people (e.g., a small group or class within a church body, an entire church body, a conference or convention of “prophets, a TV audience, a book audience, the internet, etc.). Pentecostal Theology commonly refers to revelations from God about and for individuals as one example of “Rhema.” (For a sound, biblical teaching by Watchman Nee on the Rhema word, see text pages 51-59 at this link: https://s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/bfa-media/ebooks/TGC-eng.pdf)

Now I am going to tread briefly into an area of the current practice of prophecy (what I call the “modern prophecy movement”) with which I am, perhaps, less familiar. The New Testament clearly presented to the New Testamant church the accepable parameters and practices for true prophecy at that time. But, is God limited today by what He prescribed for the New Testament church regarding prophecy, or is He free to do another “new thing” now, if He wants to? The Bible says that God is in heaven and does whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3). So, I am currently of the opinion that God may be doing some new, “new things” regarding prophecy in His church, but only insofar as they do not contradict or violate what is written in the New Testament. God does not contradict Himself. So, our challenge and our charge today is to not quench the Holy Spirit as we test the spirits of prophecy and prophets to see if they are of God. And, I believe God would not require this of us if He would not enable us to do it. That said, I strongly recommend that we proceed with very careful scrutiny and great caution in evaluating where the new things in contemporary prophecy are coming from. Just because something is supernatural doesn’t necessarily mean it is of God; it could be of Satan, instead.

How to Recognize False Teachers and False Prophets

Unfortunately, there are many false teachers and false prophets in the present day Christian church, as Jesus warned us there would be (Matthew 24:11). To help us be prepared to recognize them as we encounter them, I have compiled the following list of Bible verses, with my personal commentaries:

  1. There will be many others like them (Matthew 24:11 and 1 John 4:1)
  2. By their own will they will produce prophecies (2 Peter 1:21)
  3. They will appear to be Christians;e., they are “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15)
  4. They will bear evil fruit (e.g., false prophecies) (Matthew 7:16-20)
  5. They will not endure (i.e., abide in) sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3)
  6. They will gather to themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires (e.g., Prophecy Conventions?) (2 Timothy 4:3)
  7. They will teach what men, having “itching ears”, are eager to hear (2 Timothy 4:3)
  8. They will turn from the truth to myths (2 Timothy 4:4)
  9. They will be out of control (2 Timothy 4:5)
  10. They will manifest signs and wonders to deceive even the elect (Matthew 24:24)
  11. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:1; Jeremiah 23:14)
  12. Many will follow their ways (2 Peter 2:2)
  13. They will blaspheme the way of truth (2 Peter 2:2)
  14. They will be presumptuous and arrogant (2 Peter 2:10)
  15. They will revel in their own deception (2 Peter 2:13)
  16. They will forsake the right way (2 Peter 2:15)
  17. They will speak arrogant words of vanity (2 Peter 2:18)
  18. They will promise “freedom” (2 Peter 2:19)
  19. They will speak lies in hypocrisy (1 Timothy 4:2)
  20. They will put their own words into God’s mouth (Jeremiah 23:16)

After Words

No one will find it enjoyable to label a prominent personality in Christendom a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, but the many warnings in the New Testament about false teachers, false prophets and false doctrines in the end times are there for a reason and demand our careful attention and appropriate action. We are instructed in the New Testament to test all of these teachings and prophecies to see if they are from God…or not. God’s written word, or logos, is a test that should always be applied. The spiritual gift of discerning of spirits is also available to us and can be used to determine what is and is not from God. If you are not prepared, or willing, to make such determinations, as the Bible instructs us to do (Ephesians 4:11-16), then I challenge you to prepare yourself and muster the courage of your convictions to speak out so that others will not be fooled by the “wolves in sheep’s clothing” that you encounter. In my opinion, there is no better way than this for us to “defend the faith.”

Further Reading: If you are interested in further exploring the topic of prophecy in contemporary Christianity, I highly recommend “What does the New Testament really say about the gift of prophecy?” by Eddie Hyatt (click HERE).

(To read more of my biblically themed articles, click HERE)

 

 

Why Does God Allow Satan to Tempt Us?

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Why Does God Allow Satan to Tempt Us?

James R. Aist

“Then Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil.” (Matthew 4:1)

The Bible alludes to “temptations” using various terms, such as tests, adversities, trials, persecutions and tribulations. This is because temptation is portrayed primarily as a testing of our faith in, and loyalty to, God. There’s no doubt about it: every man from Adam to Jesus to us has been or will be “put to the test” (cf., Psalm 11:5; John 16:33; 1 Peter 4:12; Hebrews 4:15; Revelation 3:10). To further establish the truth of this point, let’s expand, somewhat, this trail of temptation in the Bible, so that we may more fully grasp its inevitability. God allowed Satan to tempt Eve (and through her, Adam) in the Garden of Eden using a slanderous lie; God allowed Satan to tempt Job by destroying all of his earthly possessions, except his life and his wife; Abraham was tested by God when He instructed him to offer his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering; David was tested by the fearful sight of a giant, Goliath, who was mocking the God of Israel to his face; Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil; Peter was tempted to deny that he was a follower of Jesus; we are tempted by Satan (1 Peter 5:8) to sin and to abandon our faith in Jesus; and, at the end of the millennial reign of Jesus, Satan will tempt the inhabitants of the earth to join him in mounting one last army to defeat Jesus and His followers. So, the question arises, “Why does God allow Satan to tempt us?” To put the question another way, “Why hasn’t God forbidden Satan to tempt us during this Age of Grace?” Isn’t it enough that we have declared, sincerely, our allegiance to Him?

The short answer to this question is, “No, mere words, by themselves, are not enough.” But why Does God require more than our solemn word on it? I believe that the Bible gives two, interconnected and fundamental answers to this question. First, let’s take a close look at Genesis 3, where we can find one answer. Satan was allowed to test the fidelity of Adam and Eve toward God, and the first man and woman, representing to God all of mankind, failed the test. What followed, necessarily, was a cosmic consequence of “biblical proportions”: Adam and Eve had to be banished from God’s presence in the Garden of Eden to an outside world ruled by God’s arch enemy, Satan. Adam and Eve got it wrong, and the whole of creation has been paying the price for their transgression ever since. What if God, in giving mankind a second chance, requires us all to get it right this time by willfully obeying God, not Satan, when Satan tests our loyalty to Him. Our loyalty to God must be demonstrated by our willful obedience to God when we are tested. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments (John 14:15).” That is the proof that God requires, beyond mere words to that effect; words are cheap, but actions can have eternal consequences. So, in my view, that is one reason why God is allowing Satan to remain active on the earth during this Age of Grace. My perception is that God is using Satan to test and prove our faith, in order to demonstrate that what we have is not mere mental ascent to the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 13:21), but saving faith that endures to the end (Matthew 10:22; 1 Corinthians 10:13). The other answer to this question can be gleaned from a study of Job 1-2. Satan challenged Job’s faith in God and received God’s permission to try to persecute Job into cursing Him. This challenge, in effect, turned into a contest between God and Satan to determine if God’s power to keep Job faithful to Him was greater than Satan’s power to get Job to deny Him. Now, the Bible says that it is by the power of God that believers are kept faithful to the end (1 Peter 1:3-5). By allowing Satan to test the faith of Job, God demonstrated that His power to keep Job faithful was greater than Satan’s power to destroy Job’s faith. The Apostle Paul said it like this, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities nor powers, neither things present nor things to come, neither height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).” So now we can surmise that God has a dual purpose in allowing Satan to tempt us: To demonstrate that a) saving faith is the kind of faith that withstands even the assaults of Satan, and b) God is more powerful than Satan in the battle for the souls of mankind. To me, these are reassuring insights concerning my own eternal destiny.

But that’s not all. In the Bible we find that the testing of our faith has other important purposes. It strengthens us against future temptations (2 Corinthians 12:10); it prepares us for future ministry in His kingdom (Hebrews 2:18; 2 Corinthians 1:4); it helps to perfect us in God’s eyes (Romans 5:2-4); and it reveals to us what is in our hearts and minds, so that we will know that He judges rightly when the time comes (Jeremiah 17:10).

And, there’s still more. When this Age of Grace is over, Satan will no longer be allowed to tempt us; he will have fulfilled God’s purposes in allowing him to tempt us during the Age of Grace, and he will be banished to the Lake of Fire for eternity, far away from us. As a result, those of us who are born again in this life will be able to enjoy the next life with Christ (Matthew 10:2) in a new and amazing world free of temptations. What a glorious day that will be!

(To read more biblically oriented articles on this website, click HERE)

 

God and Liesel

God and Liesel

James R. Aist

I will give thanks to You, O Lord, with my whole heart;
I will declare all Your marvelous works.
(Psalm 9:1)

The purpose of my writing this article is to give glory to God for “great things He has done” (1 Chronicles 17:19). It is an article about how God was at work in the life of my younger daughter, Liesel, as I know it. It is incomplete, of course, because I can only relate what I know of it first-hand. If you take the time to read it through, you will find that God was at work and revealed Himself in amazing ways to save her, and, in the end, to welcome her home to be with Him forever. I believe that you will find a blessing or two in it for yourself.

Liesel was a beautiful, musically talented, athletic, sweet and endearing little girl with a special sense of humor. I called her my “Lee-Lee Bell.” She had already professed her faith in Jesus at an early age, before she was 10 years old: in a Sunday School class, she told the teacher that she had accepted Jesus. Then, when Liesel was 10 years old, I had the precious opportunity to lead her in a prayer to receive Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. Here’s what happened. Near the end of a sermon at church on a Sunday morning, Liesel leaned over and asked me, “When did you make your decision for Jesus?” I replied “When I was 8 years old.” “Is it too late for me to do it?” she asked. I replied, “No, you can do it any time before you die. Do you want to do it now?” After further discussion, we agreed that I would help her do it at home, after church. So, after we had lunch, I asked her if now was a good time, and she said it was. So, that’s when we prayed, and Liesel confirmed, by her profession of faith in Jesus, what God had been doing! And she said, “This is the biggest day of my life!” Unfortunately, in the ensuing years, as Liesel passed through her teens, she became unsure of her faith in Jesus. But, like the one sheep that had gone astray (Luke 15:3-6), Liesel belonged to Jesus, and God was not done with her.

The following encounter that I had with God is not only pertinent, but essential, to the rest of the story. I was attending the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International Men’s Advance at Lake George in upstate New York. One day when they were immersion baptizing in the lake, I stepped forward to be immersed by Pastor Don Yarborough. We had never met, and he knew nothing about me. As I approached him in the water, he just stared at me straight in the eye with a blank look, and kept staring. I thought to myself, “That’s strange; he doesn’t seem to even see me coming.” Finally, as I drew near to him, he reached out his hand to me, we shook hands and I introduced myself. Then he said that something very unusual had just happened; it had happened only once before in his ~20 years of baptizing people. He said that as I was approaching him in the water, he received a prophecy for me, in the form of several Bible passages from both the Old Testament and the New Testament. They all had to do with the head of the household being saved and all of his family with him. He then proceeded to share with me all five of those Bible verses. When he had finished with that, he gave me the interpretation of the message: God wants me to stand on and hold fast to these promises, which he is confirming to me and my children. Wow! Through this prophecy, God had just told me that all of my children will be saved! Needless to say, I was a “happy camper” the rest of that afternoon. But, I didn’t say anything to any of my children about this glorious promise at the time.

In August of 1996, Liesel had just turned 19, and it was time for her annual visit with me in Ithaca, NY, from her home in Norman, OK. As was my custom, I brought up the matter of her current position regarding her faith in Jesus, and we talked about that for a while. It was clear that she had a good understanding of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ was all about, but she said that she didn’t want to profess faith in Jesus again unless she was absolutely sure of it. I was OK with that. Now, I had not yet said anything to Liesel about God’s promise to save all of my children. Nevertheless, she looked at me and somehow knew to ask this amazing question: “Daddy, have you ever received any indication from God as to whether or not I will someday become a Christian?” Well, this question blew my mind. I was so overwhelmed by it that, for a few seconds, I was unable to respond. How did she even know to ask me such a thing at that time? I had to conclude that God must have given her that question, and so I haltingly, but eagerly, proceeded to tell her about God’s promise to save all of my children. When I finished, Liesel was visibly pleased and very encouraged by this good news. God had revealed in miraculous ways that He was going to finish the good work that He had begun in Liesel when she was a young child! That was one of the most amazing days of my life.

So, Liesel returned to Norman, and several months went by with just the usual “visits” by phone and e-mail; she did not reveal to me whether or not she had accepted Jesus (again). The only evidence I had at that point that God would save Liesel was His promise that He would save all of my children. Liesel was now 20 years old, and it was late April of 1997. That’s when I got a phone call from the hospital in Norman with the shocking news that Liesel had been struck by a car while walking across an intersection. She was in critical condition with little hope of surviving severe head injuries. She was in a coma, and we were told to get to the hospital as soon as possible. So, we flew to Norman fearing for her life and not having any tangible evidence that Liesel was, in fact, saved. That was the first day of what I refer to as the “week from hell.”

I will spare you the details of her death, but that week I lost my “Lee-Lee Bell.” However, I do want to share with you a spiritual experience I had in the hospital as she was dying. The first three days when we arrived at the hospital, we would go immediately into her room and pray for either her full recovery or no recovery; I could not even imagine how we could cope with her living year after year as, in effect, a vegetable. But the fourth day, something happened to me that I had not experienced before and have not experienced since: we entered her room as usual, and I immediately tried to pray for her as before, but I could not. I kept trying to pray, but something prevented me from even beginning to pray. So, I asked my wife, Janet, to come in and pray for me to be released from whatever was hindering me from praying, to no avail; I still was unable to pray this time. At first, I was confused and perplexed by this strange experience, but before long it dawned on me that, perhaps, the Holy Spirit would not let me pray for Liesel’s recovery this time because her spirit had departed her body since I last prayed. Her mother, Sheila, remarked that she also sensed that Liesel’s spirit was no longer present. That’s when I knew that I had received God’s answer to my prayers for recovery, a very final and heartbreaking “No.”

Next, I will share with you three independent testimonies that week that assured me that God did, indeed, save Liesel. The first of these three testimonies was shared with me in the hospital by her Christian co-worker, Rocky, who used to talk with her privately during work breaks and witnessed to her frequently about Jesus. Rocky told us that, not more than a couple of days before her accident, Liesel had confided in him that she does believe in Jesus. That was a very encouraging testimony, indeed! But, God did not leave it at that. At God’s direction, I testified at the funeral of Liesel’s faith in Jesus, based in part on Rocky’s account. Then, as we were driving to the cemetery after the funeral service, Liesel’s boy friend, Joe, who was riding in the seat behind me, spoke up and told me that, after hearing about Rocky’s testimony, he wanted to tell me that a friend of his (not Rocky) had told him 2-3 weeks earlier that Liesel said she believes in Jesus. Moreover, Joe had just found a letter that Liesel had recently written to Jesus asking Him to help her with a problem. (She would not pray for help to a God that she did not believe in!) Upon hearing that, I was ecstatic and knew full well that when Liesel died, she was believing in Jesus; I now had three independent and credible witnesses to that effect! God not only kept His promise to save Liesel, but He also provided me tangible evidences of it. To God be the glory for demonstrating that He was at work making good on His promise to save my children, by saving Liesel!

But, hang on, there are two glorious and powerful sequels to this story. The first sequel occurred during the first week after our return to Ithaca after burying my daughter. I was so stunned and emotionally numb from the events of the “week from hell” that I couldn’t even go to work. I just sat around in my recliner all day trying to process what had just happened. Now, I had never asked God why He had allowed anything bad that happened in my life, but this bad thing seemed too awful to cope with. So, one day as I sat in my recliner rehearsing the details of the past week, I began to wonder why God had not healed Liesel instead of calling her home. I was about to ask God “Why?” when suddenly the Holy Spirit stopped me from saying it. Then, God said to me, “You don’t need to know why, because you know Me well enough to know that I had a good reason.” I was astonished. On the one hand, I was pleased that God had brought me far enough with Him that I didn’t really need to know why. But on the other hand, I still wanted to know. I had a sense that God might reveal this to me as time went on, but so far, I have not heard a clear word from God about it. I can only rejoice in the knowledge that God called Liesel home when she was professing her faith in Jesus. And, that’s good enough for me!

And now, here’s the second sequel. Roughly two months after the “week from hell”, I received a letter from the mother of one of Liesel’s friends in Norman. She had been praying for the salvation of Liesel and her circle of friends for some years and was delighted to hear of Liesel’s salvation during my testimony at the funeral. But, she wanted me to know what happened as a result of my testimony about Liesel’s faith in Christ. Several of Liesel’s circle of friends had also gotten saved. Another repented and returned to church, becoming a Sunday School teacher. And, in his class, a separated married couple was reconciled. And that’s all in just a few months. Wow! I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to hear of this good news. It gave me a sense that at least Liesel’s sudden and tragic death had led to everlasting blessings for a number of her friends. Now, brace yourself for what came next. As I was basking in this truly amazing good news, God asked me a simple question: “If you had known that Liesel’s death would lead to the salvation of some of her friends, would you have been willing to give her up, so that the others would be saved?” Well, this question caught me up short. Lying about it was not an option, but the truth was painfully convicting: “No, I would not have been willing to give Liesel up for the others!” I replied sadly. Then God said, “Well, that’s exactly what I did for you, isn’t it?” (Please pause and let that sink in.) I have never felt more grateful to Jesus for paying the price for my sins than I did at that moment.

With time, I began to focus less on the loss of my daughter and more on the unspeakable blessing it was that she was with me for 20 years. And I am comforted to know for sure that when the time comes for me to go home to be with Jesus, I will find Liesel there to greet me (Matthew 10:32). That will be a glorious reunion, a time of celebration with “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:7-9).

(To read more of my articles with biblical themes, click HERE)

 

 

Settling Matters with God

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Settling Matters with God

James R. Aist

When the times are tough and you don’t know why,

So you cry out to God “Please, help me to see”,

Is the silence you get just a heavenly sigh,

Or, is He saying “Dear child, trust fully in me”?

Often we are slammed with trials and tribulations in this life. When that happens, we may be tempted to ask God, “Why did you allow this?” But, when we really know God well enough, all He really needs to say is, “Trust Me, my child.” We must walk in this fallen world by faith, trusting God our heavenly Father to know what’s best for us and that He will do it. To do this, we need to settle some core issues with God “once and for all”, so that we are no longer double-minded, easily tossed to and fro like a leaf in the wind whenever confronted by the trials and tribulations that are inevitable in this life (John 16:33).

Now, what do I mean by “settling matters?” A wise friend of mine once said, “When you find the truth, stop looking for it!” So, when you have searched out and discovered the truth about these matters, it’s time to stop searching for the truth and move on. Just believe the word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13) and make peace with it. Don’t keep asking over and over again the same questions you have already found the answers to. Consider these things to be settled between you and God.

What, then, are some of the most important matters that we, as born-again Christians, must settle with God in order to ride out the storms of life without losing our peace and our joy as God’s chosen people? Here is a short list that I have come up with:

The Bible is God’s word. I can trust the Bible to be the authentic word of God to me. It is God-breathed (or inspired) by God Himself (2 Timothy 3:16), not a fanciful invention of mere mortals (2 Peter 1:16). In the Bible, God says what He means and means what He says. This is where I should look first and foremost for answers to the important questions about truth, morality, myself, my future and God (2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12).

God is sovereign. He is the creator of the universe (Colossians 1:16), and He rules and reigns over everything (Exodus 15:18). With God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).

Jesus is God’s Son. Jesus claimed to be the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16), and God the Father identified Him as “…my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17). Jesus is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6), and no one comes to Jesus unless the Father draw him (John 6:44). Jesus is the Messiah, the promised savior of the world (1 John 4:14). As a born-again Christian, I know that I have eternal life (1 John 5:13).

God loves me. I am created in the likeness and image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) to be in personal relationship and loving fellowship with Him (1 John 1:3). My true destiny (i.e., the reason God created me in the first place) is to honor, praise and worship God and to obey Him in all things. He hears and answers my prayers (Psalm 143:1). I am so important to God that He sent His only begotten Son (Jesus) to die for my sins, making peace with me forever (John 3:16). He loves me with a steadfast, everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

God is on my side. Through His gift of faith in Jesus Christ, God has made peace with me (Romans 5:1); I am no longer subject to the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). Jesus calls me “friend” (John 15:15) and “brother/sister” (Mark 3:35), and I am His co-heir (Romans 8:17)! God actually takes pleasure in making me prosper (Psalm 35:27).

God is faithful. God does not change (Malachi 3:6), and He is not a liar (Numbers 23:19). He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). What He has promised me He will do (Isaiah 46:11b; Hebrews 6:13-15).

God owns me. Since I am a born-again Christian, God owns me (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). His claim on my life is His right, and my life is His to do with as He pleases. I am no longer living for myself, but for Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15). I am God’s servant. I have made peace with these realities.

God will reward me. He has promised me that, as one of His chosen ones, my eternal destiny is an everlasting life in heaven with Him (John 3:16), a rightful inheritance that is full of glory, full of peace that passes all understanding and full of joy unspeakable (Ephesians 1:18). And, He has given me His Holy Spirit as a guarantee that He will, in fact, fulfill this, the greatest of His promises (2 Corinthians 1:22). The value of this glorious future reward far outweighs any trial or tribulation that God allows me to suffer in this life (Romans 8:18).

So, here is the conclusion of it all. When you have settled these matters in your mind and in your spirit, once and for all trusting God no matter what happens, then, when the storms of life assail you, your “anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:13-20), — i.e., your trust in God — will hold, and, in your spirit, you will be able to live in peace and joy even as you are being buffeted in your soul/mind and body by the storms. Let me illustrate this point with an analogy. Picture a sailing ship anchored close to shore. When a storm arises, the wind will come with a fury and try to break the chain and set the ship loose from its anchor, driving it to a place where it shouldn’t go. You are that ship. Your faith is the chain that keeps the ship connected to the anchor. Your soul/mind naturally does its best to resist and withstand the storm, but it is the anchor that enables you to stay put until the storm passes. Your trust in God is the anchor, and it enables your spirit to remain stationary, calm and at peace while the storm rages. You no longer have a need to ask “Why did this storm come?” You can simply trust that God has a good reason for allowing it, because you have already settled these matters with Him; you know Him.

(To read more of my articles on biblical topics, click HERE)