There is a Faith that Delivers and a Faith that Eventually Destroys the Believer

Many sincere Christians are clinging to a deadly kind of faith.

 

I wonder if there is a more disputed, a more misunderstood subject in Christianity than Faith. Perhaps Grace and Law may be a more discussed and more disagreed on subject, but Faith is certainly the most important and the most consequential of ununderstood and misunderstood subjects among Christians. Because a wrong understanding of grace and law will not keep a person from the Kingdom of God, but without faith no one will enter the presence of God.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him   Heb 11:6

Faith is one of the three greatest and absolutely required qualities in a Christian. Cor 13:13  Which is why Satan has taken extra efforts to sow confusion among God’s people over this subject.

Let’s consider faith from the viewpoint of various people who think they have faith.

I will start with the teachings of an internationally known preacher and founder of a worldwide church, from whom I received my initial understanding of the Bible. He stands first and greatest among all my spiritual teachers. But, sadly, he is also the man who stands first among the teachers of serious doctrinal errors. He wrote a book on this subject titled ‘What is Faith’.  This preacher died 30 years ago, but the heavy legacy of his teaching on faith – and its closely related subject, healing – continues to affect tens of thousands of Christians to this day. His doctrine of faith is very similar to what millions of believers in Pentecostal, Evangelical, and many other denominations believe in.

Faith, according to this church founder, is the absolute belief that something you asked for from God is on its way, or has been answered, even if you cannot see any evidence of it – if God has promised it in his Word.

To give a practical example, if a man has cancer of his lungs, and he is ready to believe what the Bible says – and the Bible certainly says that God heals the sick – he should ask God for healing. And then, he should ensure he does not allow doubt to creep into his mind. Even if he feels and sees the cancer galloping through his body, he should rest assured he is already healed and act and think as if the cancerous tissues have disappeared from his lungs. To quote from his publication:

Once you have received the possession, you no longer hope for it. But even before you receive it, you have it in substance; and that substance – that assurance that you shall possess it – is faith.

Then again, faith is an evidence – the “evidence of things not seen.” Faith precedes the actual receiving of what you ask for. And faith is the evidence you shall have it, before you even see it. It is the evidence of things not yet seen. You do not have it. You do not see it, or feel it – yet faith is your evidence that you have, or shall have it. Faith is the substance – the assurance – of receiving that which you still hope for…

Now suppose you ask God to heal you. Naturally, you want some evidence that you are going to be healed. So what is that evidence, that proof? Is it the evidence of the pain ceasing – or the swelling going down – something you can feel, and see? I know a man who said, “When I can see anyone healed by direct prayer, then I’ll believe in it.” This man said he wanted to believe in it – he wanted to have faith in it! He was looking for an evidence that he could see – and he died without ever seeing it!

‘What Is Faith’ by Herbert W. Armstrong; originally published by the Worldwide Church of God, and now published by Philadelphia Church of God; also available free on several websites.

That teaching sounds very authoritative and Biblical. But I know of people, including those in the very church of this preacher, who applied this kind of faith and died miserable deaths. I know of others who, when the evidence they believed turned out to be the very opposite in reality, became so disgruntled with God that they quit their ministry and turned against God.

Before I pass on to you what the Holy Spirit has taught me about faith, let me give you one more example of the erroneous – and dangerous – teaching on this subject, from the same book I mentioned above:

Set over the affairs of the province of Babylon were Daniel’s three young Jewish friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. One of the commandments of God’s eternal spiritual law forbids such worship of images…But these three young Jews knew the truth – that we should obey God rather than men, that through faith God makes it possible. When they firmly refused to bow down to worship the king’s image, Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded they be brought before him (Dan 3:13).

Listen to the quiet, trusting, unafraid answer of these lads. “O Nebuchadnezzar … our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace”! (verses 16-18).

Sometimes God tries our faith. He tried theirs. You might think He failed them, but He only permitted their faith to be tested.

“Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him”!

There was an example of living faith – a faith that trusted God to make it possible to live the way of His law! Yes, with God, it is possible to keep all His Commandments – don’t let any man deceive you to the contrary!

So, according to this preacher, because these three young men applied faith – faith that was the evidence that they were already protected, even though their physical eyes were showing they were being flung into the furnace – they were delivered from being burnt alive in the flames.

I wonder what kind of faith another servant of God, whose whole life had been totally devoted to preaching Christ and caring for lepers, was applying when he and his two sons were burned to death when their vehicle was set alight by Hindu mobsters in a village in India. Maybe he didn’t have enough of the faith that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had to be rescued from the flames. If you haven’t yet, read the story of Graham Staines online, and what his widow teaches about faith.

The awesome immortal story of the three young men who were cast into a furnace made seven times hotter, is a favorite with preachers trying to explain what true faith is. In a book published by a different church, another preacher, also a famed one, narrated the same story when he wrote about faith, and quoted the same passage from Daniel chapter 3. The coincidence is that, in both the publications the authors end the quote with the following verse:

If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.

But interestingly, the next verse was not quoted in either of the books. Here are the two verses together:

If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.  But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.   Dan 3:17-18 (Emphasis mine]

Those three words, ‘But if not’ are the most important words in the whole story about the faith of those three youths of God. Those three words are the absolute quintessence of what true faith is. Those three words are what every servant of God should preach to God’s people about faith.

But before I tell you about the faith encapsulated in those three words, let me mention two cases where faith, as taught in the above-referred booklets, was applied for deliverance. In the first case, it relates to a senior evangelist in the church founded by the first preacher I mentioned, the author of ‘What Is Faith’. The second relates to a prominent pastor who served in another church and who also lived by this kind of faith.

The senior evangelist was one of the prominent ministers in the church, which had congregations in many countries, and his name was wellknown to the members around the world. This church did not approve of its members going to doctors. (But they could go to the dentist. They could have dental work done, but for some unexplained reason the other parts of the body were considered more sacred and off limits to doctors.)

Well, this evangelist and his wife were faithful, unquestioning members of the church. Then his wife became ill, and of course, she refused medical treatment because she was a ‘true believer’. By the time her husband realized things were not working as she and he had believed and tried to get medical help, it was too late. She died at the age of 54. And she was not the first one in the church. Several others like her had died earlier because they refused medical attention.

This evangelist then began to question the teachings of the church, and did his own exploration of the faith doctrine from the Bible. He came to the shocking realization that he had been tragically wrong. Of course, he couldn’t go far in disputing this doctrine with the church’s top leadership, for he was soon disfellowshipped for questioning the teachings of the founder. He lost his wife, he lost his church, he lost all he had believed in his life till then.

His story is just one of the many, many tragedies happening in God’s churches around the world today in every nation, all because of a wrong understanding of faith.

Those three words, ‘But if not’ are the most important words in the whole story about the faith of those three youths of God. Those three words are the absolute quintessence of what true faith is.

The second true story is just as tragic.

In his article, When Cliches Don’t Work, Christian writer Steven Brown recounts his visit to a man who had been one of his ‘heroes’ and a friend. This friend had been the pastor of large churches, an author of some note and a famous evangelical leader. Steven Brown went to visit him because he had just been told that he was dying of cancer.

When he saw his friend, he saw no ‘hero’, but the tragic figure of a man who was “broken, bitter and without any hope”. The pastor who had been encouraging his large congregations Sunday after Sunday with messages of faith, hope and love, now lay dying and embittered, without hope and without faith, and without much of his old fervent love for God either.

What does your faith do to you when all the props that had been steadily holding up your security structure fall together; when you have had every dream you had been excitedly clinging to shattered and every desire you had been cherishing taken away; when you are left with absolutely no more hope, no more years left for this life?

This, child of God, is when you know with absolute certainty if you have true faith or not, and whether the teachings you have received from your church or spiritual leader are wholly based on a correct understanding of God’s Word, or not.

The faith in the two cases I mentioned above ended with the tragic death of the believers. I don’t mean just physical death. I mean also the destruction of the believers’ convictions, their assurance, their sense of security, their happiness, and worst of all, their relationship with God. Everything goes down in the abyss of despair and hopelessness when believed-in faith is revealed to be baseless.

So what is the true faith that always delivers, that never fails?

Please keep it foremost in your mind, Bible believer, that faith is NOT primarily the granting of petitions and desires you made to God. That is the most elementary understanding of faith, but which many, many renowned ministers of Christ think is the complete understanding of it. This elementary understanding is based on various promises in the Bible. Here are the most wellknown verses relating to God answering our prayers and granting us our desires:

Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.   Ps 37:4

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.   Mt 7:7

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!   Mt 7:11

Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.   Mk 11:24

So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.   Lk 11:9

If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.   Jn 14:14

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.   Jn 15:7

And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.   Jn 16:23

Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.   Jn 16:24

And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.   1 Jn 3:22

It is absolutely clear to even a little child that these promises mean that God will grant us what we desire and ask him for in faith. Now the little child of God also thinks that while God will grant us whatever we desire of him, the child, for his part, should ask in faith. If he loses faith, he is not going to receive anything from God. If he has faith, he can receive absolutely anything from God – wealth, health, protection, healing, deliverances – if God has promised it in his Word. And God has promised wealth, health, protection, healing, deliverances, and more in the Bible, hasn’t he?

So what’s the catch, what’s the problem, and why am I writing this message?

Because of the naive assumption of the believer when asking God for something.

According to the teaching of many, perhaps most, preachers, the believer has a vital role in determining if he receives the answer to his prayer.  He should not waver in his faith when he waits for the answer he asked for. If he wavers, then he is rebuked with the verse in James 1:6:

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.

So the believer asks and waits in prayer, and he struggles to maintain ‘faith’, that is, not doubt God’s unfailing promise. Doubts would come, naturally, but he wrestles against them, and somehow continues to keep ‘faith’ faithfully.

Isn’t that how many Christians, perhaps even you, exercise faith when they ask God for something? That was how I exercised faith for several decades after I decided to follow Christ, because I was told by my church that was the only way to receive healing and other promises of God.

Oh, how I struggled with all my mental capacity to maintain faith for the petitions I made to God. I would ask for money for some important desire. I would ask for healing of a painful ailment. I would plead with God to protect me from prison and humiliation. No man could have prayed more and exercised more faith in my kind of situation. But all I got in answer to my tearful supplications in those decades were more financial problems, more painful ailments, more imprisonments, and increased humiliation.

Then, after 30 years of praying and exercising sincere faith in that manner, I gave up on faith altogether. I gave up on the God who made all those failed promises in the Bible, I gave up my church, my religion, and went searching for a new faith that really worked. I had become like the pastor of the large churches, referred to earlier, who, when God did not deliver him from his cancer as he pleaded for, became embittered, broken and hopeless. But the faithful Christ, who remains ever faithful to us and promised never to forsake or abandon us, even when we give up on him and abandon him for other faiths, rescued me from disaster and self-destruction. And he, through the Holy Spirit, began to personally teach me the true delivering faith. I have been living by that faith, as directly taught to me by my Savior, for many years now.

When God made those promises in the Bible, he made them to people who understood his will for their lives. The promises were made to people who always, consciously or subconsciously, begin their prayers with the words taught by their Lord, ‘Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’. That is their greatest desire above every other desire. That is their one absolutely overriding request to God that supersedes, modifies, magnifies, or even obliterates every other desire in their life so that this one desire – which is, God’s will be done in their lives – can be granted in answer to their prayers.

Those who ask God for something – for health, for deliverance from sickness, for a happy marriage, for children, for a job – and then turn bitter against him for not granting what they desperately and sincerely asked for in faith, forget their master’s first requirement for following him. We cannot hope to receive anything from him unless we are following him. And what did our Master tell us when we made a decision to follow him?

Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters – yes, even one’s own self! – can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.   Lk 14:26. The Message

If you haven’t yet let go of your own self-desires, if you aren’t yet ready to even forsake your own family, if they stand in your way, to follow the One who died for you, then you haven’t qualified to ask him anything.

But the astonishing truth of God’s amazing grace is that even when a nominal Christian, who thinks he is following Christ but is only following his own self-desires, when he sincerely and perseveringly prays, God does grant him many of his requests – even as a physical father would grant some requests of his disobedient son. God may grant him his requests only to a limited extent, but the testimonies of many people I personally know – even those who do not believe in Christ and do not know of a single promise in the Bible – have convinced me that our God is so good that he often answers the prayers of people who have the wrong kind of faith but whose hearts are sincere before God.

I personally know several people of Hindu and Muslim faiths receiving astonishing answers to their prayers, because they prayed with a right attitude and for the right reasons in the sight of their Creator.

But as for you, man or woman of Christ, if you believe God’s promises in the Bible, then it is not enough that just ‘many’ of your prayers are granted, while some, and especially in critical situations, as in the case of the pastor dying of cancer, are not granted. If you are a faithful follower of Christ, then every single one of the promises in the 10 verses I quoted above, and in the numerous other verses in the Bible that I didn’t quote, should be granted to you without fail.

Every prayer of mine is saturated with monotonous requests for granting me this, or that, or other desire. I have hundreds granted already in the past, and thousands of other requests which I have rolled off from my prayer mat onto the foot of God’s throne, and which have not been granted yet, but I know with absolute certainty they too will be granted in God’s own good time.

As I said, God has given these promises for his people who have, or is ever ready, to forsake everything to follow him. These promises are meant for people who want God’s will to be done in their lives above every personal desire.

Now, if that senior cancer-stricken pastor had really given his life over to Christ, would he be unwilling when Christ asks him to lay it down for him? Instead of giving it up without a moment’s hesitation, he got bitter and lost his sense of security and his confidence in God. He loved his own life more than his Savior, not realizing that his Savior had first given up his life to save him from his wretched sinful state and from eternal death. That servant of God must have prayed the Lord’s Prayer with his congregations many times during his active pastoral days. But every time he uttered those words ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ he didn’t mean it at all. When that part of the prayer came, he was subconsciously praying, ‘my will be done on earth, as yours is in heaven’.

Every time that a prayer in your life goes unanswered, every time that your prayer brings a silence from heaven, every time it seems God stands aloof from your pleas, remember this: your God who loves you more than your own physical father or mother ever could love you, more than you ever can love your precious little son or daughter, that awesome God of awesome love is ever ready to answer you and grant you your every desire.

Your request has already been registered in heaven, and waiting to be dispatched by angels; it will arrive right at the door of your life when you are ready to receive it. Some arrive within an hour or so, some within a decade or more, and many in between. And some are answered even while you are attempting to articulate precisely what you want of the Lord!

For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them. It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.   Is 65:23-25

But as for me, and most other people who have learned what true faith is, what has been granted in answer to our prayers is a fraction of what has not been granted. In my case, I think more than 90 percent of my desires that I have been seeking from God since I was a teen have not been granted. But we know that these desires have not been refused by God, for he cannot refuse them because he has promised them clearly in his Word. We wait in faith for God to grant them to us in his own time, which we are convinced is the best time for us to receive those desires. And we also know that this best time may not be in this age, but in the regeneration (the resurrection to the second phase of the human physical life) when we will live again in flesh and bones for a hundred years. Those who have not been granted a family, or children, or a beautiful house, or property, or anything else, will be granted a hundredfold in the regenerated life. (Regeneration is too vast a subject to cover in this message. But for now, you may want to ponder the following passages on the resurrection to the physical life of all mankind who died:  Matthew 19:29, Mark 10:29-30, Job 19:26, Ezek 37:11-14, Isaiah 65:20, Matthew 19:28. (The Greek word for ‘regeneration’ – paliggenesia – is not the same word used for the resurrection to the spirit life. My book, Regeneration In Flesh and Bones, covers this subject in detail.)

None of God’s greatest servants was granted what God had promised him. But they all died in the full assurance they will receive what they were promised when their eyes open in the regeneration.

All these whom we have mentioned maintained their faith but died without actually receiving God’s promises, though they had seen them in the distance, had hailed them as true and were quite convinced of their reality.   Heb 11:13

That’s faith! Faith that will grant you everything you ask for. Because whenever you ask God for something, you have this attitude in your heart:  Lord, I have this desire and I have your promise in your Word that you will grant it to me. But I also know that you know when best to grant it to me. I also know that sometimes it may be best in your sight that I am granted what you promised only when my Lord comes. Whatever, Lord, let your will, not mine, be done. And now, this is my request…

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him   1 Jn 5:14-15

I continue to pray daily, and have been praying so since my youth, for several major deliverances, which have not been granted yet. God has not given me any sign that he is going to grant at least some of them before I die. But as long as he has not answered me with a firm ‘No’ – which if he did, I will be able to sense through his Holy Spirit – I am going to keep asking him perseveringly like the widow did to the judge.

There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.  Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, “Get justice for me from my adversary”. And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, “Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.”    Lk 18:1-5

Or, like that man in the Bible who woke up his friend in the middle of the night and asked for three loaves.

“Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him”; and he will answer from within and say, “Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you”? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.’   Lk 11:5-8

I have absolute faith God will grant me what I have asked, because he has said so in the Bible. He has not specifically mentioned among his promises many of the things I have asked for, but he said ‘he will grant me the desires of my heart’. And what I have asked are certainly the desires of my heart, and I am not asking him for things to indulge my lusts.

I never pressurize my Lord with my requests. I never ask him with desperation. I never ask him and then set a mental deadline as to when I should receive what I ask for. I just ask him calmly and perseveringly, without giving up, and always desiring his will to be done in my life – and if that means he cannot grant me what I ask for, praise him for that! I don’t get disappointed or discouraged. I don’t want any teeny weeny bit of what I ask for if it is going to be against my Father’s will, for I know it will not be good for me.

I have had dozens of major petitions and desires – including deliverance from imprisonment – which were totally ungranted by God. Before I understood what real faith is, when my pleas for certain deliverances brought the opposite of what I asked for, I used to get very disappointed, sometimes very bitter, but years later when I looked back, I stood in stunned amazement at how gracious my Lord was to me by refusing to grant what I had earnestly asked of him. Perhaps one example might encourage you.

At one time, I knew I was sooner or later going to be incarcerated in a land of anti-Christians. I pleaded with God with fastings and intense prayers for months. I asked pastors and evangelists to pray for my deliverance from the dungeons. Some assured me I would be delivered.

Instead, one day I was taken handcuffed, with my ankles shackled with iron chains, to a depressing cell deep in a desert. But, strangely, it was in prison that I felt God’s presence closest to me. I never felt depressed, no, not once (although outside of prison, depression was a serious problem in my life). I could see other prisoners lying down or walking about totally depressed and miserable. I was daily praising God, and writing in a notebook all the new understandings he was giving me inside my prison cell.

The days and weeks passed, and one day, I found myself outside of the iron bars instead of inside. I was a free man again. But my old problems hadn’t gone away, and two years later, I was again praying desperately to be spared from the dungeons. Instead, I found myself again in the very same prison, but in a different cell with worse cell-mates – murderers and sychopaths. But the sychopaths and killers were unusually kind to me, and I even shared my excess meals with the most dangerous of them.

Then one day, the worst possible nightmare in prison life happened to me. I became seriously sick. I got diarrhea, and along with it the most agonizing pain in my abdomen. A dagger thrust into my side and twisted left and right would have been more preferable than the pain I endured. Getting a doctor was out of question. It was the weekend and doctors don’t visit dungeons on weekends. Once, a fellow prisoner had a heart attack and the prison guard allowed his cellmates to carry him to the doctor’s room. I saw them returning after a few minutes…there was no doctor available on that day. (The heart-attackee survived though.)

I knew I would die if God did not intervene urgently, but there was no sign of him even reducing my pain a bit. Instead, the pain intensified. I could try to end my suffering by doing what Job’s wife urged her husband to do – curse God for failing to keep his promise and just lie back and pass away to oblivion.

In the most agonizing moment of my life, as I lay on the prison floor squirming in pain, I decided to do one last thing before I died. I slowly raised my weakened right hand and holding it high, I gave to heaven, in the sight of the devil and all his hosts that were causing me this torment, a victorious ‘V’ gesture with my forefinger and middle finger. I declared to God in my spirit, ‘Lord, even if you kill me, I will trust you and be faithful to you’. And then I put my hand down and continued to lie on the floor.

That was what God had been waiting to know, I realized later. Waiting to know if I would continue to trust him even when he was sternly refusing to deliver me. He saw that I was. Almost immediately, my pain started to subside.

The next day, I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance when a kindhearted prison guard on duty that day heard of my situation. But I had no more pain, no diarrhea anymore. The rest of my sentenced term of two months went like a piece of prison cake. I was out…with a far greater conviction of what delivering faith is.

About eight years after I got out of my last prison, God put it into my heart to start a mission with a special focus on reducing the suffering of prisoners. For I have seen with my own eyes the heartwrenching groanings of my fellow prisoners. The mission, World Daily Bread, has relief of prisoners among its greatest purposes (please visit worlddailybread.org). I have no doubt that this mission will be used by God sooner or later to bring his deliverance and comfort to prisoners worldwide. I have put in awesome, literally global-encompassing, requests to God regarding this mission, and I know that every one of them will be granted, in God’s perfect time, because I am not seeking my own will.

I have received the faith that always delivers, that always brings an answer from God. Praise my Lord!

Even in the lighter aspects of life, God rewards me for my faith in him. He grants requests that might sound even ludicrous to nonbelievers.

I wanted to be a lead guitarist when I was about twelve. After persistent requests, my dad bought me a guitar, and I plucked the strings without once learning how to play it. Nobody was available to teach me how. The guitar fragmented after many years of disuse, and I grew up, married, and became middle-aged, and was quickly turning senior…and still there was nobody to teach me to play the guitar.

But my desire to learn to play the guitar never once faded a bit. I never ceased to ask God to somehow make me into a good guitar player. But the decades passed and I was just a few short years away from becoming a senior old man. When I was 56, I bought another guitar, just out of my fascination for this musical instrument. Once, while I was plucking away randomly at my new possession, without the slightest clue how to play it, a concerned observer told me, ‘You need to learn the scales’.

Scales? What are they? I knew of the song in The Sound of Music, which was about the scale – doe, ray, me, far, so, la, tea. That was the closest I knew of scales. But how do I learn the guitar by singing doe, ray, me? But the observer’s remark lingered in my memory.

Then, another two wrinkled years trudged by, and, in the 58th year of my life, I thought I would browse the web and find out what a scale is. And there on the net, I came across a website that showed me with simplicity all I needed to know about guitar scales. Now, about 4 years after I first heard the word ‘scale’, I can play the guitar with some speed and skill, and I have composed what I think are some beautiful instrumental melodies that I think may inspire listeners to sway their bodies, swing their arms, and praise God. (I am thinking of putting up a few videos of my compositions, just to inspire potential guitarists.)

Beloved son or daughter of God, our Father wants to bestow all the blessings that he as an Omnipotent God can bestow on you. Hand over your life to him wholly, for him to do with it as he wills, to keep it or take it away.

That was what God had been waiting to know, I realized later. Waiting to know if I would continue to trust him even when he was sternly refusing to deliver me.

My name is Joseph. Joseph means ‘ God adds, or increases’. There is no limit to the increase God gives to the one who asks and perseveres in faith. I am not putting a limit to what I ask God. I ask him for nothing more than his omnipotence can provide, but I ask him nothing less than his omnipotence can give. But I know that no matter how great and how large my request bag is, it still does not come up to the measure our Father wants to give me, both in this life and in the regeneration:

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us   Eph 3:20

Perhaps the most practical way to understand what true faith is, is to replace the word ‘faith’ with ‘faithfulness’. If you are ready to be faithful to God even to the point of death, faith will automatically be there. Being faithful to God in life and death is the true faith, this is the very foundation of every blessing in your life.

Now faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see.   Heb 11:1-2 PHILLIPS

If Jesus is your Lord, then don’t limit your asking him in faith. Don’t give up, never give up, if what you are asking for is promised in his Word, even if that promise is generic, and not specific to your case. Absolutely ALL your desires, all that you can ever ask of him fit into his promises in the 10 verses I quoted earlier in this message.

Search the Scriptures, and you will find many other promises, including some specific ones. Claim them all. But always in faith, always in full submission to his will, not in the obstinacy of your will. Always willing to wait for God’s own time to grant it to you – perhaps immediately, perhaps after a few years, perhaps during your 100-year life in the regeneration. Whatever you ask should glorify God in some way or other.

May God, the Giver of every good gift, grant your every desire beyond measure, beyond your present ability to conceive the magnitude of what you are going to receive.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

You will remain trapped in your troubles…until you surrender unconditionally – Part 1

Surrender of Republican Soldiers, Somosierra, Madrid 1936

 

In warfare there is a conditional surrender and there is an unconditional surrender of one party to the other. Conditional surrender is usually called a truce. The two warring factions negotiate a ceasefire by each conceding something to the other, with the stronger faction demanding more concessions than offering.

I don’t know if there is any truce made in the history of mankind which was permanent. Sooner or later, the two parties will resume their hostilities, until one of them reaches such a state of defeat, and the other such a state of conquest, that the latter demands an unconditional surrender and the former is forced to submit absolutely to the other or be further devastated by the enemy. The defeated party realizes that they have only two choices: give up everything to the victor and hope that at least their lives and some basic essentials of their livelihood are spared, or be absolutely destroyed by their enemy.

Many times in history, including in many of the wars mentioned in the Bible, the vanquisher is not willing to accept even the absolute surrender of the defeated party, but destroys them completely. So actually, for the conquered, absolute surrender is a mercy shown by the conqueror. Even if they have left nothing else, the enemy has allowed them to keep their most precious possession – their lives.

The Christian life, says various scriptures in the Bible, is a constant warfare. Against the arch enemy, Satan, and his evil hordes, against his human agents, and against the deadly temptations he throws at God’s people. A person who has decided to follow Christ understands that this is an unavoidable part of his Christian experience and accepts it. This is what our good preachers exhort us to do, reiterating Paul’s admonition to ‘fight the good fight’, and that ‘we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places’.  1 Tm 6:12; Ep 6:12

A serious error committed by many preachers is that their exhortation to fight and wrestle refers, in 99 percent of their messages, to battling the enemy – Satan, the world, and the temptations lurking within us. In my entire life so far, having been exhorted to a surfeit with battle messages from the captains of our souls, I have found only four or five preachers who told me that the far greater battle is with God our Savior. The only wrestling with God they sometimes mention is the one where he had to put Jacob’s thigh out of joint to end the bout.

As in all battles that the Lord fights, in victory he is far more merciless and unrelenting in his terms for unconditional surrender than those of most human vanquishers. He demands nothing less than the giving up of all the vanquished’s possessions except the clothes he or she wears and es daily food, and submitting to him as an abject slave.

Actually, our battle with God, unlike other battles, does not involve defeating the enemy, obviously because God is not our enemy. Let me start from the basics about this battle.

It is not generally emphasized in the Christian salvation message that the first experience of the true Christian life is a tragic death. Too many people of God realize this only years after they repent and are baptized. Sadly, not many baptizers tell them this fundamental fact of the Christian life before they dip the repentant ones into the watery grave. Oswald Chambers, in his widely used inspirational book, My Utmost For His Highest, says,

If we get away from dwelling on the tragedy of God on the Cross in our preaching, our preaching produces nothing. It will not transmit the energy of God to man; it may be interesting, but it will have no power.

It is the same tragedy of God on the Cross that is replayed in the God-child’s life, starting with es repentance. At repentance, a person realizes that he or she has broken God’s law, and that the penalty of sin is death. But what many who repent do not initially realize is that the baptism that follows es death is the symbol of es inward death – a death that comes at a cost and pain far exceeding the pain of a physical death. No man can naturally die such a death. The man convicted of sin realizes there is absolutely no way he or she can obey God by the keeping of all his commandments. E knows that if e breaks just one of them, e breaks them all Jm 2:10 and is condemned.

The moral law…simply demands that we be absolutely moral…The moral law, ordained by God, does not make itself weak to the weak by excusing our shortcomings. It remains absolute for all time and eternity. If we are not aware of this, it is because we are less than alive. Once we do realize it, our life immediately becomes a fatal tragedy. “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died”.  Rm 7:9

Let me go from the words of that great man of God, Oswald Chambers, to the words of Jesus himself.

What did Jesus say is the first step to following him, to becoming a Christian? Getting prepared to die a painful death! Not a sentimental emotional kind of death, where the repenter feels he is a new person in Christ and his past life with all its sins is now buried under water at baptism. Jesus meant a death that, I repeat again, involves a dying process that is more painful than that of a physical death caused by an accident or illness.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me”.  Mt 16:24

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  Lk 14:26-27

If you desire to follow Christ, the first step is to take up the cross. And what does taking up the cross mean? It has come to mean to most people, taking up a heavy burden or enduring a difficult trial. Jesus did not mince his words, ‘whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me…’ Taking up the cross means taking it up exactly in the same attitude as Jesus took it up, and then following in his footsteps until, after a short distance, you give up your life.

When Jesus took up the cross, it was the absolute confirmation he was going to die in a matter of hours. You don’t take up the cross, then realize you are going to die, lay it down, and go back to your old life. You have to count the cost of what you are about to do. You have to realize that when you repent and are baptized you are confirming to God that, if he so requires, you are willing to give up everything you desired and held most precious in life – even your wife or husband and children – for the one Person who is desirable above all the others in your life. Yes, you have to sit down and literally count the cost of what you are about to do.

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’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.  Lk 14:28-33

In most cases, God does not require the surrendered person to ‘forsake all’ immediately. What he requires above all is an attitude of willingness to give up all. The word ‘does not’ in the original Greek is ouk and it is the same word used a little later in the same sentence for ‘cannot’ in the phrase ‘cannot be my disciple’. So what Jesus meant is that, to follow him, a disciple should always have the attitude that if any of his possessions and relationships is a hindrance to his following Christ, he can forsake all to follow him. This obviously is what Jesus meant, because Peter and some other apostles did not forsake their wives when they went preaching Christ.  1 Cor 9:5

As I said, no person can naturally give up all es possessions and hand over es life to Christ in his or her own strength. But with God’s grace, with his power working in em, all things are possible for em that God requires of em.

And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Mt 19:24-26

With God’s help, even the billionaires in today’s world can enter the Kingdom of God. So don’t worry at all about your ability to give up what God requires you to give up to follow him. If he wants you to give up something most precious to you, but which is hindering you from the Kingdom of God, he will first equip you mentally, emotionally and spiritually to be able to give up that most precious possession and only then expect you to give it up. And remember, whatever precious blessing he takes away from you now – perhaps a relationship, perhaps your family, your house, your land, perhaps even your health – you will inherit that very same blessing a hundredfold someday in your life.  Mt 19:29

So where do you stand today in following Christ?

Today, you are in one of these two states: you have completely surrendered your life to Christ, taken up his cross and are following him; or you are still resisting giving up certain things in your life which are hindering you from surrendering your life completely to God. And if you are not sure in which state you are now, there are sure ways to know that.


You have to realize that when you repent and are baptized you are confirming to God that, if he so requires, you are willing to give up everything you desired and held most precious in life – even your wife or husband and children – for the one Person who is desirable above all the others in your life.


If your life is not fully surrendered to the will of God, there are definite fruits, or symptoms, of this unsurrender manifesting in your thoughts, words and actions. I will mention some of the prominent ones.

I think, from my personal experience, the most deadly of the symptoms of living an unsurrendered life is fear. Not just fear of one kind or in one area, but fear of every sort in almost every area of your life. It could be fear of premature death happening to you or to your loved ones; it could be fear of being overcome by a powerful temptation; it could be insecurity, that is, fear of not having enough resources to support yourself and your family either because of losing your job or losing some other resource that is now serving to prop you up; it could be fear for the safety of your children; it could be…think of the fears lurking deep within you constantly.

For some unsurrendered people, more deadly than their greatest fear is a symptom called depression. In my own life, I cannot tell which was more deadly and frightening – the times I lived in great fear, or the occasions a terrible depression enveloped me in its dark and morbid pits. If depression is not a big symptom in your life, then perhaps its lesser version called ‘having the blues’, or ‘feeling low’ or ‘being down in the dumps’, ‘being moody’ could be a frequent and persistent demon in your life.

Other symptoms could be: short temper or sudden outbursts of rage; some form of addiction from which you could never free yourself so far; some terrible secret sin – perhaps some perversion – you may be committing regularly; resentment and unforgiveness at the people who have done you wrong or hurt you; suspicion; jealousy…and more.

Less obvious symptoms include: suppressed frustration that your life is not moving in the direction you want; tension and pressure in your job; lack of zeal and zest in your daily activities; workaholism, lethargy; constant fatigue though there is nothing physically wrong with you.

There are far more symptoms in the life of an unsurrendered person than what I have mentioned above. The symptoms, whatever they are, are deadly in their eventual consequences.

Now let me mention some of the fruits of a life fully surrendered to God.

Just as the greatest fruit of unsurrender is fear, the greatest fruit of surrendering your life completely to Christ is freedom from fear. When you are freed from fear, then another fruit keeps growing fast in every area of your life: peace. Just as the entrance of light drives away darkness from every nook and corner of the lighted area, the entrance of Christ’s peace in your life drives away every fear lurking deep in the recesses of your mind.

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  Jn 14:27

A surrendered person can never be overcome by depression. He would certainly get moments of low feelings, perhaps even actual depressions, now and then – as I have experienced and continue to experience occasionally – but these dark demons are never able to shake the rock base of es daily peace and joy of living. Depression, while it may cast its old ugly shadow over em occasionally, will never again be able to influence the thoughts and actions of the one who has surrendered totally to Christ.

Since my surrender to Christ – twelve years ago at the time of writing this – depression stalked me and tried to overwhelm me two or three times, and for a while I could feel the horrible clouds of gloom and despondency hovering menacingly over me, desperate to envelop me. But that’s as far as depression could come close to my life. I know my mind can never be overpowered by depression – and that’s only because Christ, ever shining brightly in within me, can never be overpowered by any dark force.  What affects me from outside actually affects him and he knows how to respond to it effectively. I was three times held for several weeks, once upto two months – in some of the dankest and frighteningly depressing places on earth.  In the dungeons of Arabia, where I was shackled along with murderers and psychopaths as punishment for not being able to repay on time some debts I had incurred by my naive financial dealings in those days. Yet, as painful as my experience was, I never felt depressed or frightened, whereas even a fraction of that experience in my pre-surrendered days could have drastically altered my whole personality for worse. I know of one man, a confident and ambitious executive, who had to spend one month in the same prison. He came out a totally different person, totally broken in spirit, his countenance and outlook in life altered, and no more able to speak or deal cheerfully with his wife and other family members like he used to do before he was incarcerated.

Depression, along with fear, is the most deadly fruit of unsurrender to God.

Depression is for those who don’t know what’s the purpose of their lives. They dont know where they are eventually headed. I know with absolute certainty what my life purpose is, and I know with absolute clarity where my life is headed. I know with absolute certainty that what is happening each moment in my life is that Christ is living his life in my surrendered body, and I know with absolute certainty that he knows what will happen to my life at any time and I need not worry a bit about it. I would not exchange this peace for literally any other happiness or blessing in this life. Or rather, I would not exchange this peace even for my own life, for I don’t fear death in the least anymore.

This fruit of peace alone is worth all the surrender in a person’s life. But that’s not all.

Another fruit that the person who has handed his or her life over to God will experience is a growing amazement at, and love for, the Law of God. The Law of God is summed up in the 10 Commandments and expounded in the various testimonies, statutes and precepts given in the Bible. And this love of God’s Law further reinforces and increases the fruit of peace in him. He will declare, as the psalmist did,

Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.  Ps 119:97

As he grows in loving and keeping all the laws of God, his assurance of divine protection in all his ways will keep him calm in any adverse situation, which in the case of an unsurrendered person would cause him to stumble and fall into a deep pit of devastation.

Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.   Ps 119:165

The second part of that verse in the original Hebrew literally is ‘they have no stumbling block’.

The surrendered child of God finds that there is no more room for panic or desperation in es life, no matter how terrifying the outward situation may seem. Es confidence in God’s presence always at es right hand is rock firm and e remains unshaken until e is out of the danger.

I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.  Ps 16:8

He or she will see that the danger that came to cause em to stumble has stumbled itself and fallen into destruction.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me in this I will be confident.  Ps 27:1-3

This message, already so long, will not end even after a hundred pages if I were to write more of the fruits of a surrendered life. But I will close this part with one more fruit of the fully surrendered life, a fruit that brings goosebumps and adds immeasurable thrill to my personal life every single day. I don’t have a dictionary name for it, but I call it variously as the ‘Wonder Years’ or the ‘Wonder Moments’.

A child between the ages of six and ten begins to explore and discover all of nature around em. A first sight of a grasshopper, a wildflower in full blossom that e has never seen before, a multicolored bird on the lemon tree outside es bedroom, es first gaze at a star-spangled night sky – everything he or she sees, hears, and feels is a ‘wonder’ experience for em – that is, it brings an overflowing sense of wonderment in em.

In my younger days, I used to occasionally watch a tv series called ‘The Wonder Years’. It was about an eleven- or twelve-year-old boy discovering one by one life’s wondrous experiences. And that exactly is how a person who has abandoned emself totally to  Christ feels every single day – even when he or she is going through big troubles. E ponders what e sees and experiences of God’s creation and feels a continual sense of amazement at God’s handiwork. E contemplates the institution of the relationship between man and woman, between parent and child, between God and man, and cannot cease praising God for his creative abilities, and above all for his love that caused him to make all these things for man in the first place.

No matter how old a person is when he or she surrenders es life to es Creator, e will start feeling the Wonder Years in em from the very year e begins to follow Christ in unconditional surrender. His or her youthfulness is renewed in es spirit and emotions to such an extent that even physical youths will find it hard to match es zeal and vigor of daily living.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like an eagle, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.  Is 40:30-31

Yep, the renewed man or woman feels e is soaring high through life like a swiftly gliding eagle under the skies. Yep, the youthful person, even in his or her senior years, can run and not feel weary, and, oh yes, e can walk with a spring to es steps, and not faint even if e treks eight kilometers up a mountain trail without stopping to rest, as I did a few weeks ago in my sixty-eighth year.

The fully surrendered person feels so youthful he or she wants to take up new hobbies and recreations which seemed daunting or wearisome activities to em in es earlier life. I got a guitar at the age of thirteen, and I would strum on it now and then and try to learn a few chords. I never could summon the perseverance and stamina to sit through a proper training course to learn this instrument. Then, in my fifty-eighth year, I picked up a guitar again, after doing so in vain nearly half a century earlier. I was not a whit better in producing some pleasant sounds from the instrument than I was five decades ago. But this time, with the Holy Spirit as my encourager, I persevered and learned my first scale. Soon, amazing things were happening to my fingers and my muses. Within a year, I was composing original melodies, and even attempting to shred in the style of guitar virtuosos like Yngwie Malmsteen. Today, I consider my ability to play the guitar one of the great accomplishments in my life, a skill which I began to acquire in my senior years. Indeed, those who wait on the Lord shall mount up with strings like the Eagles; they shall strum and not be weary; they shall shred and not fail.

Praise God for his wonder life in his surrendered children!

 

Pappa Joseph

 

End of Part 1 of ‘You will be trapped in your troubles…until you surrender unconditionally’.  Click here to go to Part 2.