If faith without works is dead, then asking without seeking and knocking is just as lifeless.
There are many reasons why you may not be receiving prayer answers, from doubt in your heart (see Rom. 10:9) to asking with wrong motives (see James 4:3) to unconfessed sin (see Is. 59:1-2) to unforgiveness (see Mark 11:25) to strife on the home front (see 1 Pet. 3:7) to turning away from Scripture (see Prov. 28:9).
But you can believe purely, ask with right motives, have a clean heart, forgive all your enemies, avoid arguments and soak in the Word all day and still not see prayer answers. That’s because asking—without seeking and knocking—flows from the same lazy river as faith without works.
Before you take offense and stop reading, ponder Jesus’ promise on determined, active faith, and then consider two Bible characters’ strategies for getting what they wanted. Let’s start with Jesus’ promise: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matt. 7:7-8).
With Babylon rising, cruel bondage is a reality for many in the body of Christ. Many blood-bought believers are running what feels like an endless rat race that steals their energy—and often their dreams and visions of a better tomorrow.
I assure you there is a way of escape, a path to rest, a sure route to enter your Promised Land. But there’s a behemoth standing in between you and God’s best for your life. It’s an enemy so insidious that it’s difficult to recognize and perhaps more difficult to cast out, because its very nature is to rob the faith you need to overcome it. But nothing is too hard for God!
That enemy is called unbelief, and it’s often the result of deferred hope that makes the heart sick (Prov. 13:12). This is not a new enemy. Rather, unbelief is an ancient foe that continues to oppress modern day “believers” despite the centuries-old revelation that the just shall live by faith (Heb. 10:38).
I surrender … I found myself saying those words while talking with the Holy Spirit about my frustrations.
Whether you are in ministry, in the marketplace or tackling the all-important task of raising a family—or perhaps, like me, doing all three at the same time—you will no doubt come to a point in your walk with God that you feel like giving up. Paul wouldn’t have admonished us not to grow weary in well doing if he hadn’t witnessed people losing heart at times along the journey (Gal. 6:9).
But I’m here to tell you that the answer is not to quit and give up. The answer is to surrender. And there’s a vast difference between the two. As much as I want to sometimes, I’ll never admit defeat in the midst of doing something God has called me to do. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13). And, of course, we know that God always leads us in triumph in Christ (2 Cor. 2:14). I could rattle off a few other Scriptures to drive home the point, but you get the idea.
No, as much as I want to quit sometimes, I’ll never admit defeat in the midst of doing something God has called me to do. But I have learned that there is a time to surrender the vision. Miriam-Webster defines the word surrender as “to yield to the power, control or possession of another upon compulsion or demand,” and “to give up completely or agree to forego especially in favor of another.”
Yes, there is a time to surrender the vision. And that time is not after you’ve done everything in your fleshly power to bring it to pass. That time is not when you get so frustrated you feel like giving up. That time is not after people and circumstances have worked against the very thing God called you to do. No, the time to surrender the vision is immediately after God gives it to you.
What am I saying? If God didn’t give you the vision, there’s no use in trying to labor for it anyway. Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” In other words, “’Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).
See, it’s not really your vision. It’s God’s vision (if it’s not, He has no obligation to empower you to bring it to pass). God has chosen you to be His hands and feet on the earth. But apart from Him you can do nothing. The faster we learn that truth and surrender to His will—obeying His way of executing the plan and yielding to His grace flowing through us to get the job done—the faster we’ll see the vision become a reality. We have to remember that it’s not about us. It’s about Him.
“Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also]’” (Matt. 16:24 AMP).
Denying Your Rights
Deny your “right” to do things the way you think they should be done and surrender to His ways. Deny your interests in the project and surrender to His interests. Deny your feelings of frustration and surrender to His grace. When we follow Christ, we walk in peace, love, joy, righteousness and the like. When we follow our own will and our own way—even when our will and ways are eager to serve God’s vision—we just plain wear ourselves out.
I know the harvest is plenty and the laborers are few. But your crew—however small it is—is a mighty force when you surrender to God. Don’t worry about who walks away from the vision, who betrays the vision or who is too scared to execute the vision. Just surrender the vision to God and He will bring you the resources you need for the victory.
Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Notice that Jesus is the Finisher. He always finishes what He starts—and He wants us to finish the God-inspired initiatives we start, too.
To be sure, one of the keys of the kingdom is the “key of finishing.” It unlocks the blessing of increase and is a clear manifestation of kingship.
Jesus is our example. Jesus was always concerned about finishing the work His Father sent Him to do. He saw the blessing on the other side of finishing. He had His eyes on the prize—the blessing—that came after He finished.
We see in John 5:36 that Jesus had certain works to finish, and God was counting on Him to finish those works: “But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.”
Jesus told His disciples to follow His example and explained the importance of finishing in Luke 14:27-30: “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?”
Before we rush out into a new project with high emotion, we need to be sure the Spirit of God is leading us—and we need to be prepared to pay the price to finish. Failing to finish can lead to unpleasant consequences, even if it’s only disappointment in yourself. That disappointment can cause you to lose confidence. Christ wants us to be confident in Him working through us. As kings and priests unto God, we need to finish what we start—even if we are persecuted along the way—and we need to depend in Christ to partner with us to get the job done. He is able, and He is faithful.
Never let persecution cause you not to finish a thing. That’s just what the devil wants, which is a strong reason why he launches an attack. Jesus was persecuted, but He finished anyway. He finished even to the point of death. And when it was finished, He announced it: “When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30). Jesus didn’t quit until the end. And when it was finished, He soon rose back up to complete His next assignment: sitting at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us. Praise Jesus!
Think about it for a minute. If Jesus had not finished, then all the stripes He took, all the shame He faced, all the pain He endured, would have been for nothing. Without that final act of finishing, the sin of the world would not be atoned for. He had to completely finish the task so that all of mankind could be restored to kingship and blessed with eternal life.
Jesus said He who endures to the end shall be saved (Matthew 10:22). He expects us to finish the work God has given us. It brings Him glory when we finish. Yes, we may also have to press through pain to finish a God-given assignment. When that’s the case, we need to keep our eyes on the prize. Ultimately, the key of finishing requires Christ-like character, specifically endurance, focus and discipline.
Some say you can smell the spirit of death. I wasn’t born again when my great-grandmother was on her death bed—discerning of spirits wasn’t in operation—but I somehow still knew it was the last time I would see her.
And she had something important she wanted to tell me.
I want to share those same words with you; words with eternal implications. But I first want you to understand the spirit from which they came.
My great-grandmother was born in the 1800s and lived to be nearly 100 years old. During her lifetime seven states joined the Union. She lived through the women’s suffrage and several world-shaking wars. She also lived through the Azusa Street Revival, witnessed the rise of a young Billy Graham and witnessed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Mama Norris, as she was affectionately known by hundreds, was also a pillar of the church. She helped plant a handful of churches in the small Florida town she called home. (I still have her Bible in my room and relish to read all of the Scriptures that she underlined; Scriptures that touched her heart.)
I said all that to say this: As she lay at the edge of glory, Mama Norris had wisdom equal to and even beyond her 96 years. She had heaven’s wisdom in her heart and she wanted to share it with me. Did she know it was a prophetic admonition that would save my life? I am not sure. But I am sure that the Lord put it on her heart to share three simple, yet profound words with me before she came face-to-face with the King.
It was 20 years ago that I stood over her hospital bed knowing she was about to leave this earth. She opened her eyes and saw me standing there. She couldn’t speak above a faint whisper, so she motioned for me to come nearer. When I did, she said three words to me that seemed almost like an inconsequential warning at the time. It would take a decade before I started to understand what she really meant, and 20 years altogether before the ultimate revelation graced me.
Here’s what she said: “Never hate anyone.”
I didn’t hate anyone at the time. I couldn’t even imagine hating anyone. Not really. Not until my husband abandoned me with a 2-year-old child, exiting the country with piles of my hard-earned money and leaving behind monumental tax issues and credit card bills, along with a wrecked home and a child who screamed every night for a year hoping her missing father might return. He never did. And I hated him. Actually, I hated him with a passion. And I shook my fist at God.
Then I heard those three words Mama told me resonating in my heart: “Never hate anyone.”
Those words saved my eternal life. At the time, I came to truly understand that hating and forgiveness cannot flow out of the same heart. And if I didn’t forgive my husband God couldn’t forgive me. But it wasn’t until recently that I got an even greater revelation of Mama’s three last words to me.
I was reading 1 John—a book I have read over and over and over again—and I suddenly received a much deeper understanding of the importance of Mama’s words in the light of Scripture:
“He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:9-11).
Mama knew that hate is the ultimate stumbling block. Hate blinds us. Hate was blinding me.
Addressing a congregation with long-held beliefs that it’s shameful for a woman to speak in church isn’t the most comfortable assignment.
That's especially true when it’s in a church that’s more than 120 years old and where most in the audience are near-Centenarians. But that was my task last Saturday afternoon.
I wouldn’t have accepted the invitation to speak in a historic denominational setting that doesn’t approve of women with short hair who wear pants to church and pray in tongues—all three of those characteristics describe me well—but it was my grandfather’s memorial service.
To be sure, if my mother hadn’t asked me to speak after an old gospel hymn and in between two mature male pastors, this big city girl would have never invaded that small country town with the gospel of Christ. I expected weeping, but I hoped against gnashing of teeth as I waited for the hymns to end. In other words, I wasn’t expecting the best. (Read: lion’s den.) I decided to trust God. And the righteous are as bold as a lion. I stood behind that old pulpit and preached to those old pews. And I am glad I did.
What I learned was that when the Holy Spirit shows up, denominational barriers must fall. When God breathes on a message, stereotypes can’t stand up to it. When the Lord Jesus Christ is exalted, all men truly are drawn to Him. And when God opens your mouth, no man can shut it—and those who love God don’t want to anyway. But I also learned something about myself and the eternal importance of being a good and faithful servant. Allow me to back up a few steps so you can get the whole picture.
See, my grandfather died a slow, painful death. I don’t understand why believers sometimes have to endure that kind of suffering at the end of their lives—and it’s especially hard for the family to watch. Some suggested he might be holding on until he heard from me and that I should call and speak to him. Of course, he couldn’t speak, he couldn’t eat, he couldn’t open his eyes. But he could hear.
Discerning how vital this encounter could be, I asked the Lord to give me the words to say. I could have easily told him how much I loved him and how I looked forward to seeing him again in glory. (And I did.) But I needed a rhema word from God to share. I petitioned God—and He answered me swiftly. He said, “Tell him, well done, good and faithful servant.” With that, I called from Miami and my mother put the speakerphone up to my grandfather’s ear. I delivered the message and family members told me his eyebrows shot straight up. He heard me. He heard the Lord. He died shortly thereafter. And he undoubtedly got to hear those same words from the King Himself as he entered into the joy of the Lord.
Now jump back with me to the memorial service. The Holy Spirit told me to read the Parable of the Talents. You know the story. The Lord went on a long journey and left His goods with His own servants. To one He gave five talents, to another two and to another one. The first two servants traded with them and reaped 100 percent profits. The other servant dug a hole in the ground because he was too scared to use his talent. We know the end of the story: the two who drove kingdom profits were rewarded as good and faithful servants. The lazy servant had a sorry ending.
I read the parable to this denominational congregation and did my level best to illustrate how my grandfather fulfilled the role of a good and faithful servant. My grandfather wasn’t an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher. But he went about doing good and he was a faithful husband, father, friend, deacon and disciple of Christ. I told my listeners that you don’t have to be a Billy Graham or a Joyce Meyer to qualify as a good and faithful servant. You don’t have to impact the whole world. You just have to impact your world.
At the end of my message, I challenged these denominational believers, in love, to come up higher, to be an example of Christ to the next generation, to be good and faithful servants so that one day they, too, could hear the same words my grandfather heard when he stood before the Lord: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matt. 25:23).
Have you ever had your feelings hurt? Have your emotions ever been severely wounded? If you are living on planet earth and engaging with your fellow man, surely the answer is yes. There is no such thing as a perfect relationship or perfect people. If you get involved with people, sooner or later, you are going to get hurt. It’s an unpleasant fact of life. The good news is you don’t have to stay hurt. So how do you overcome hurt feelings? God’s way is the only way that really works.
Are you tired of spiritual highs and lows? Weary of the devil’s attacks? You don’t have to walk in emotional or circumstantial defeat for a single moment if you maintain a fervent spirit. That’s because a fervent spirit is a defense against the devil. In Fervent Faith, Jennifer equips you to:
• Maintain a fervent spirit at all times
• Receive a fresh anointing from the Lord
• Get prayer answers in the face of spiritual warfare
• Wield your secret weapon against the enemy
• Walk in intimate fellowship with God
• And much more!
Are you putting the Word first? I recently undertook a “challenge” that you might also want to consider. I believe it was Oral Roberts who, decades ago, suggested that if we would read the Gospels and Acts three times in 30 days, we would get a greater revelation of Jesus. I have started that process and I have to tell you that the Holy Spirit is certainly making clear to me something I didn’t even expect: a greater revelation of who I am in Christ.
What to do when the devil comes and tempts you to sabotage your destiny.
Satan has many names – the Evil One, the Father of Lies, the Accuser of the Brethren. These are all aspects of his wicked character. But one of his names – the Tempter – describes the allure of sin in our lives. Consider the great men and women of God who fell to the Tempter. Adam, Eve, David, Samson, Judas. The truth is we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God at the Tempter’s beckoning. And it’s time we face down this demon coaxer once and for all and tell him to get behind us!
The Tempter uses what’s in us, of course, but let’s get beyond the generic discussion about the flesh and the carnal mind. By the same token, let’s not go the extreme of sexual sin or white collar Enron-style embezzlement. Chances are, the Tempter comes at you with subtler temptations that tap into soulish insecurities or impatience, especially when you are in a wilderness place. The temptation could be a desire to prove your calling to the world at the wrong time. It could be a temptation to misuse the Word – or take it out of context – for personal gain or to prove a point. It could be a temptation to pursue the wrong kind of power or idolize the wrong god.
Indeed, these are the very strategies the Tempter used against Jesus when He was in the wilderness. You’ve probably heard it said that Satan doesn’t have any new tricks. Well, I’m here to tell you he doesn’t have any new temptations, either. It all boils down to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life, doesn’t it? (1 John 2:16) Said in different words, wanting our own way, wanting everything for ourselves, and wanting to appear important opens the door to the Tempter. I believe if we can expose the Tempter we can defeat him. When we think we are beyond temptation – in any area – that the devil sneaks in and defeats God’s will in our lives.