Tags

, , , , , , ,

1 Bible 2Job 38:4, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth”

Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork,”

__________

The Theme – The God of the Bible (our Creator) is a personal God who naturally loves to communicate with men and women so they can know Him and establish a personal relationship with Him by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

__________

Introduction

Why should we be concerned about the reliability of information we receive?  Then we must ask the question as to where we can find reliable information?  Books, newspapers, magazines, television, radio programs, and the Internet offer access to a lot of information.  However, not all information is reliable.  The information we receive could be a matter of life and death, could provide good directions or take someone the wrong way, and could even be a matter of profit or loss.  To illustrate my point, I submit the following:

In the late 1980’s, Janice Penrose had received a rather large inheritance in excess of 1.5 million-dollars.  She wanted to invest the money and stumbled on to what seemed like a huge investment opportunity.  The owner of a small software firm with a best-selling DOS accounting program was seeking a partner with working capital to help tide the company through a financial crunch.

Janice was told that the company itself was healthy. The current crisis was the result of a distributor who had gone bankrupt while owing the software firm nearly a million dollars. Janice was no fool.  She did her homework regarding the company, or thought she did.  The president of the company even appeared to do everything he could to help her finalize her decision.  He provided her with the previous year’s annual company report, and Janice read every word.  It was filled with glowing accounts of the firm’s past success and the company’s prospects.

It also pointed out that successful software brand names were like successful breakfast cereal names.  Once the public found one they liked, they kept coming back to it.  The sales figures in the report bore out this premise.  To prove his product’s quality, the company president gave Janice the names of several leading software designers, and all confirmed that it would remain far ahead of other DOS accounting systems for years to come.

Janice was convinced.  She invested her inheritance and lost it all!  Less than 18 months later, the software maker went belly-up.  DOS software was on the way out; Bill Gate’s Windows Operating System was in. So, what went wrong?  Janice reviewed all the pertinent information, didn’t she?  It wasn’t the quantity of what she read that was the problem it was the quality.  She had neglected to question or evaluate what she read.  Among the other mistakes she made were:

(1) Not considering the source of information.  The company needed her investment to continue operating; naturally, they painted the best possible picture; (2) Relying on vague generalizations.  Those glowing accounts of the company’s future omitted all words about Microsoft Windows; (3) Relying on argument by analogy.  Cornflakes cannot be superseded by a new technology overnight.

(4) Relying on out-of-date information.  The previous year’s report; and (5) Being impressed by authorities who really were not the software programmers.  They knew about the quality of the product, but not about the way, consumer psychology would bring Microsoft Windows to the top as the number one selling operating system.

__________

Unfortunately, not all the things we’re taught, what we see, and what we hear can be believed.  There is much false information among the avalanche of facts, figures, and ideas we are exposed to every day.  Most information that bombards us daily is neither factual, accurate, unbiased, nor even truthful.  However, there is one source of information we can trust to be 100% reliable and accurate, and that my beloved is the Word of God. Why should people ask the question, “Does God make Himself known?”  People understand that if God did make Himself known, one needs to find out where he or she can learn of God.

Some people may suggest that if God made Himself known, then maybe He wants us to know Him. My friend, what you do with the Bible depends on what you do with the first verse of Genesis when the Bible opens with a simple statement, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  If you believe that, you can believe everything else that follows.  If you reject that very first statement, you will also deny every other fundamental truth found in the Scriptures of God’s Eternal Word. Consider the following illustration:

One afternoon Joseph and Stephen, who were neighbors, were in disagreement concerning Genesis 1:1.  Joseph a believer said, “He believed the record of creation just as it was written.”  However, Stephen an unbeliever went to great depths in giving His own theory on how the world began …  how life developed from a primitive cell through reptiles, monkeys, and finally to man.  When he was all through, Joseph looked at him and said, “Were you there, Stephen?’  It was a good question.  “Of course I wasn’t there,” he replied.  Joseph said, “Well, God was, and I will take the word of an eyewitness rather than the speculation of those who rely on their own imagination and hearsay evidence.  In a court of law, the testimony of an eyewitness carries the most weight.  Hearsay testimony is thrown out and not even considered.  The same is true of creation.

How could we be so much like Job as stated in Job 38:4 when God asked him, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?  How could we fail to be awestruck by God’s majesty?  Yet, sometimes we do forget, and like Job, we need to hear and be reminded of the details of the wonders of God’s creative power. God was there, and His Word can be trusted.  Psalm 33:6, “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” Today’s study addresses the subject of how the God of the Bible communicates to us today.  One of the most undervalued Biblical teachings is the personal side of God.  He is not just a lifeless force and He most certainly is not “Mother Earth.”

The one true and living God is a personal being who communicates and talks with His creation.  The doctrine of the Trinity drives this truth home.  God is a triune being, which means, among other things, that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit communicated with one another before the foundation of the world, and how much so will He communicate with His creation today.

In Genesis 1:27 God made (man and woman) as personal beings in His own image, and this personal relationship among men and women picture the existence of the personality in God.  One of the implications of God’s human creation is that He made us in order to have fellowship and have a personal relationship with Him.  Such truth automatically means that God wants to communicate with His creation.  He is a Personal God who loves to communicate and make Himself known to us through general and special revelation.

__________

  1. God Communicates With His Creation

History remembers Sir Isaac Newton (1642 to 1727) mostly for his contributions in physics, including the law of gravity.  Keep in mind; he was the man who by all accounts was hit on the head with an apple while sitting under a tree!  If one knew about Newton, would that individual not be silly to claim that Newton did not understand physics?  Most people would probably think so.  Yet, many people say something far worse by suggesting that God exists but does not personally communicate nor cares for the creatures He made.  God is the One who invented personality and language itself.

How ridiculous to believe that He cannot or will not communicate.  On the contrary, He is the personal God who loves to talk. The concept of personality refers to the fact that someone has a mind, a will, and emotions.  That person can think, make decisions, and feel.  Does God think, make decisions, and have feelings?  The answer is yes.  God the Father does all three.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave a portrait of the Father, which illustrates (Psalm 11:7) His personality.  In one especially beautiful part of the Sermon, Jesus taught how the Father cares for things in nature.  Jesus encouraged His listeners to trust God for their food, clothes, and basic needs (Matthew 6:24-34).

__________

(A) Creation

The first way God communicates to humans is through general or natural revelation.  God makes Himself known to all men and women at all times through general revelation; it is universally available to all.  All modern and ancient men and women have had such a revelation from God, so no one can say they have been left out. One of the clearest passages showing this truth is found in Psalm 19:1-6.

Verse 1 summarizes the main point:  “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.”  One can look up into the sky and see a revelation of our great, powerful, and majestic God, who has made all that we see.  We can discover the handiwork of God in nature during the night or day.  Verse 2, the words “day unto day” and “night unto night” show that this declaration of God seen in creation occurs constantly; it is not a one-time event.  Creation universally speaks a message about the Creator to the entire world without exception.  Verse 3, the message shown in this way literally goes to the ends of the earth.  Verse 4, therefore, one cannot escape the conclusion that nature, or creation, reveals God to all people at all times in history.

Reasons to Praise Our Creator – Seeing and hearing a violent storm is an awesome experience that quite naturally turns one’s thoughts to God.  Other Biblical passages confirm what the psalmist affirmed.  Men and women can look at nature and know that a powerful, divine Creator exists. In Romans 1:20, Paul told his readers that God’s eternal power and Godhead are clearly seen in the created world.  He makes Himself known through nature.

I can attest to the fact that I’ve heard His “voice” many times – in the stillness of the woods after a heavy snowfall, in a gentle breeze, or in the singing of birds on a spring morning.  Yes, God speaks to us through His marvelous creation.  His power and majesty are inescapable if we would just pause and take time to listen.  Thus, through creation, God our Creator “left not himself without witness.”  Therefore, in light of what God has revealed to men and women in creation, “they are without excuse.”

__________

(B) Mankind

Men and women are part of God’s created order as He made man in His own image from the very beginning (Genesis 1:26-28).  The passages we have just looked at above emphasize man looking up into the stars or into the activities of nature to see something about God.  Men individually and collectively reflect or reveal something about God.  God communicated something about Himself just by the way He made man.  In particular, men are personal beings, just like their Creator (Genesis 1:27).  They are also rational (Colossians 3:10) and moral creatures (Ephesians 4:24).  Men reflect God’s powerful and sovereign rule in the universe by their dominion over planet Earth and God’s entire creation (Genesis 1:26, 28).  In summary, God at all times and in all places continues to reveal something of Him through the men, and women that He made.

One of my high school friends became a loner.  He spent his time reading books, isolated himself in his parents’ home until they died, and never tried to get a job.  He had as little to do with others as possible.  As a result, he never had to sacrificially love a wife, never had his sleep disturbed by a crying child, never agonized over a rebellious teen, and never cried over the misfortunes of a close friend.  But oh, at what a cost!  He has missed some of life’s greatest joys and deepest satisfactions.

God, who created us to reflect His personal nature, is not a loner.  In John 1:1, we read that before time began, “the Word,” who later “became flesh and dwelt among us” (v. 14), was “with God.”  The Greek word that is translated “with” implies interaction between the distinct persons of the Trinity.  Although God does not need us, in grace He chose to create us to be His friends.  And in John 16:5-16, the Lord Jesus told His disciples how He, His father, and the Holy Spirit are working together to bring a lost world to Himself.

__________

(C) Conscience

Many people view their conscience as the “good angel” or the “little devil” trying to talk someone into or out of certain actions.  In general, the word “conscience” in the Bible means “awareness” – Romans 2:15; 9:1; 13:5; 1 Corinthians 8:7; 10:25; 2 Corinthians 4:1; 1 Timothy 1:5; 4:2.  The conscience is the rational capacity of men and women to evaluate their own behavior.  In other words, God gave men the ability to think through the moral correctness and implications of their actions.  Animals cannot do this.  Man’s rational capacity is part of his “image-bearing” for God.

However, sin can damage this capacity and cause it to be less than accurate (1 Timothy 4:2).  Men do not always have the right view of themselves and their actions.  I had always admired a well-known television news personality and thought of him as someone with high moral standards.  Therefore, it surprised me one day when I heard him remark that he does not want anyone telling him what is right and what is wrong.  He made it clear that he answers to no one but himself.  The idea that we are not accountable to anyone, not even to God, appeals to many people.  Nevertheless, it contradicts the deep-down feeling that there are things we ought to do and things we ought not to do.  The Bible calls that inner conviction our conscience.

In Romans 1:18-20, the apostle Paul stated that the voice of conscience reveals God’s standards in the hearts of those who’ve never even heard the Word of God, and in Ecclesiastes 3:11-14 declares that God has placed a sense of eternity in everyone’s heart, a conviction that what we do has everlasting consequences.  I am thankful that the Bible tells us about the One to whom we are accountable and that it clearly defines what is right and wrong.  However, I am also grateful that God offers forgiveness to us through faith in Christ, so we do not need to fear His judgment.  Like it or not, we are accountable to God.

__________

(D) Implications

One of the implications of God’s constant communication to all men through general revelation is that one can know some things about God without a Bible.  Anyone can see God’s existence, power, majesty, sovereign ruling, personality, mental reasoning, and moral character through creation.  In addition, hints in nature reveal God’s anger in some way.  However, none of these generally revealed truths comes with a handbook explaining how they are to be worked out and applied in life.  In addition, none of them is sufficient to establish a personal relationship with the Creator.

On the contrary, these truths demonstrate that man is without excuse before a God who demands much more – Romans 1:20. Jesus remarked, “For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things” (Matthew 6:32), emphasis supplied).  Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made these remarks concerning prayer:  “Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matthews 6:8, emphasis supplied).

Indeed, the Father has the intellectual capacity to think and know.  In addition, Jesus clearly taught that the Father has a will:  “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven”  (Matthew 7:21, emphasis supplied).  Even the Lord’s Prayer reminds us, “Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10, emphasis supplied).

The same Sermon also shows that the Father has feelings.  Jesus portrayed a picture of the Father lovingly caring for His creatures, whether they were the fowls of the air or the flowers in the field (Matthew 6:26-28).  Jesus told His audience to be like the Father in Heaven by loving others, including our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).  These expressions of care show that God indeed has emotions.

_________

II. God Communicates Through Special Revelation

God has gone beyond the natural revelation available for all men and made Himself known to specific people in specific circumstances and many times in history.  This special revelation has taken many forms.  God had a rather direct relationship with Adam and Eve in Eden before the Fall (Genesis 2).  God seemed to speak directly to certain men such as Noah (Genesis 6) and Abraham (Genesis 12).  He appeared in a burning bush to Moses (Exodus 3).  He spoke to Pharaoh through the signs and wonders that Moses performed and to Israel through the cloud and pillar of fire in the wilderness (Exodus 40:34-38).

The Lord gave direct prophetic revelation to individuals in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 19:20) and to prophets in the New Testament church (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 14).  This short catalog of God’s communication to specific people at specific times does not begin to exhaust the many and varied ways that such personal communication from God has occurred.  In addition, such a list does not give the two most important means of special revelation that God has granted in history.

(A) Scripture

The first major way God has specifically communicated is found in the books of the Bible.  The Bible is God-breathed, or inspired (2 Timothy 3:16).  That is, its source is God Himself (2 Peter 1:20, 21).  God has not revealed Himself to all men at all times in the Bible.  Forty different writers gave us the Bible over a period of sixteen hundred years.  While a Christian’s goal is the spread the Word of God, the Bible has not been accessible to all men at all times.

Psalm 19, discussed earlier with respect to general revelation, gives several descriptions and benefits of the special revelation of God’s Word.  (1) The Bible is perfect, meaning “blameless,” or “flawless” (Psalm 19:7).  As a result, it can change a person’s life; (2) the Bible is sure, thereby making it possible, for the foolish person to be changed into a wise person; (3) it is right, causing joy in the heart (Psalm 19:8), and (4) the Bible is pure, bringing enlightenment to the eyes of understanding.

The word “fear” in verse 10 of Proverbs 9 probably refers indirectly to the Law of the Lord, or the Word of God.  Part of the purpose of God’s commands and ordinances is to produce fear in the reader, and fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).  Consequently, the fear of the Lord endures forever along with its true and righteous judgments (Psalm 19:9).  In light of these truths about the Bible, one should desire its teaching more than gold and honey (Psalm 19:10) because such obedience leads to great reward (verse 11).

No wonder the rest of the psalm responds with a plea of self-examination by the writer, David.  He wanted to be cleansed from hidden sins especially those that lead to greater transgression (verses 12, 13).  Along with David, all believers should long to be restrained from sin through the proper words and thoughts that are acceptable to God according to His perfect law (verse 14).

__________

(B) The incarnation of Jesus Christ

The second major way that God revealed special revelation is through His incarnation in the person of Jesus Christ.  Christ is God in the flesh (John 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:16).  He came to earth in humility as a man even though He was God (Philippians 2:5).  Only a personal God who wanted to communicate to His creatures would want to do such a thing.  This one miracle alone reveals the personal care with which God views His created order. God the Son also has personality.  He thinks, decides, and feels.  Viewing the Son in this manner is much easier, since Jesus is the God-Man.

We can relate to His humanity because of our own thoughts, decisions, and emotions.  Jesus’ ability to think was highlighted when He debated the learned rabbi’s in Jerusalem at the young age of twelve (Luke 2:42-52).  As a man, He debated the Bible with the rabbi’s so skillfully they had no additional questions for Him (Matthew 22:46).  Jesus also made decisions.  In the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before the Crucifixion, Jesus made the decision to surrender His will to the will of His Father (Luke 22:42).

Finally, Jesus clearly demonstrated emotions.  On two occasions, He wept, once over the city of Jerusalem because of its future destruction (Luke 19:41-44), and at the funeral of His friend Lazarus (John 11:35).  However, He also demonstrated anger by making a whip and driving the moneychangers from the temple of God (John 2:12-22; Matthew 21:12; Mark 11:15).  When the Jewish leaders did not want Jesus to heal a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath, the Bible says, “He … looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (Mark 3:5).  Jesus, the God-Man, experienced the full range of emotions.

The Holy Spirit’s Trinitarian personality is the most often questioned.  Nonetheless, the Bible clearly teaches the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force.  The Holy Spirit clearly knows God, and He thinks the thoughts of God, as stated in (1 Corinthians 2:10, 11), “For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.  … even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.”  The Holy Spirit has a will.  He is the One who decides what spiritual gifts are to be given to which believers in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:11).

The Holy Spirit also has feelings.  On at least one occasion, the Bible points out that the Spirit of God can be grieved, thereby showing His capacity for emotions (Ephesians 4:30). Each Person of the Trinity, as commonly understood by Christians, possesses personality.  Therefore, God is a personal God.  Although the Bible is today’s way for believers to receive communication from God, the incarnation of Jesus Christ was perhaps the greatest way that God revealed Himself.

Jesus Christ is the express image of God (Hebrews 1:3).  Jesus told Philip that whoever saw Him saw the Father (John 14:9).  Non-Christian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam do not have a god big enough to do such a thing as the incarnation.  However, the God of the Bible powerfully shows Himself to His creatures in the special revelation of the Word made flesh (John 1:14).

__________

(C) The Divine Plan of Salvation

While Christ Himself holds perhaps the highest honor as the supreme revelation of God, the bible’s special revelation is unique because it alone gives us the divine plan of salvation (2 Timothy 3:15).  Scripture tells us that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and rose again from the dead.  Jesus Himself taught that one must hear His words, which today are found in God’s Word, and trust the One Who sent Him in order to receive eternal life and forgiveness of sins (John 5:24).

Thus, while natural revelation was sufficient to leave all men without excuse for their sins, the special revelation of God’s Word gives the necessary gospel of eternal life for the salvation of men.  Sinners cannot come to Christ unless they hear the special revelation of the Word of God.  They cannot hear the Word of God unless we believers take it to them (Romans 10:14-17).  God is not hiding from sinners, and neither should believers.

__________

III. God Communicates Through Our Experiences & Prayer

Thus far our study has shown that we truly serve a personal God, who has made Himself known to us through General Revelation in the areas of:   (1) Creation, (2) Mankind, and (3) Conscience.  Furthermore, God has made Himself known to us through Special Revelation in the areas of:

(1) The Scriptures (His will, His purposes and plans, His nature – all are clearly revealed to us through the pages of the Scriptures), and (2) The Incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ.  My beloved, all of the aforementioned ways tell us that God wants a relationship with us.  He is a personal God, who cares deeply about His children, and wants to be a part of our lives, if only we would allow Him.  I would like to address two other important areas in which God has made Himself known to us, that being the area of our experiences and especially in the area of prayer.

(1) In our experiences.

The story has been told of a man who was caught in a flood and ended up floating on the roof of his destroyed home.  He prayed desperately for God’s help.  In time a rescue team came by in a boat.  “We’ll come to you,” they shouted.  “Get in our boat and you’ll be safe.”  “No,” the man shouted back.  “God’s going to save me.”  It grew dark and scary and the man prayed harder.  Suddenly a light appeared and the beat of a helicopter’s blades thumped overhead.

As the machine hovered over the man, a voice boomed, “take the rope, you’ll be safe.”  “No, thanks,” the man shouted as he waved the helicopter away, “God’s going to save me.”  Shortly thereafter, the roof disintegrated and the man drowned. He was grateful to arrive in heaven, but irritated that God hadn’t answered his prayers.  When he stood before Jesus, he complained.  “Why didn’t you save me as you promised that you would?”  “Whatever do you mean?” the Lord said, “I sent a boat and a helicopter!” My friend, many times God is communicating to us in our experiences, but we are so intent on just one option, that we fail to hear Him.  We can be so fixed in our point of view that we cannot see what He is doing, or wanted to do, in and through us.

__________

(2) In our prayer.

Our thinking about prayer, whether right or wrong is based on our own mental conception of it.  The correct concept is to think of prayer as the breath in our lungs and the blood from our hearts.  Our blood flows and our breathing continues, “without ceasing”; we are not even conscious of it, but it never stops.  Prayer is not an exercise; it is the lifeline of the believer. One of the areas where the personal side of God is revealed in an intimate way in the believer’s life is that of prayer.

Simply put, prayer is conversing with God, and is especially powerful when coupled with meditation upon God’s Word, the Bible.  God has communicated to us through nature, the Scriptures, and the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.  Thus, the Bible is God’s precious love letter to believers.  Hebrews 3:7-8 tell us, “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

Years ago, an annoyed senior citizen from Richmond Heights, Missouri, hung up on President Reagan, who was trying to call him.  This happened not just once, but half a dozen times!  He didn’t believe the operator when she insisted that the White House was calling.  He was so sure it was a prank he didn’t even stay on the line.  However, the Southwestern Bell operator and a neighbor finally convinced him it was for real.  As a result, the man had the privilege of chatting with President Reagan for about 15 minutes. That incident reminded me of a call received centuries ago by a young Israelite named Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1-15).

He didn’t realize who was calling–even after the call was repeated.  It came from one greater than a president.  It was from God Himself.  At first Samuel was perplexed, but when Eli told him who was trying to get through to him, he listened.  Have you ever heard the Lord speaking to you?  God speaks to us today through His written Word, the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and indwells us in the person of the Holy Spirit, who enables us to hear His voice (1 Corinthians 2:9-16).  God is always trying to get through to us!  The important question is: are we taking the time to listen?  God speaks through His Word to those who listen with their heart.

The Bible addresses many aspects of prayer.  The sheer volume of Biblical information concerning prayer (men, women and children praying and clear-cut teaching about prayer) shows that prayer is a major concern and integral part of God’s personality.  Therefore, prayer should be a regular activity of the Christian.  God is a personal God who wants to have conversations with His children.  Perhaps the best way to highlight the personal aspect of prayer is to study the many different ways God answers the prayer requests of Christians who talk to Him.  Prayer is communication with a personal God; it is not simply a method for getting what we want from some celestial force.  God responds to our prayers in many different ways such as:

(1) No, Absolutely Not

Knowing that He was soon to be crucified, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39).  To be sure, Jesus also told the Father that He would surrender to His Father’s will.  This attitude is a good example for any believer to follow when he talks to God.  We cannot make demands on God, but notice the human request of Christ was not answered in the affirmative.  God said no, even though Jesus prayed with strong crying and tears (Hebrews 5:7).  Jesus had to endure the torture of the Crucifixion.  There was no other way.  Sometimes God tells us that we cannot have what we want because our desire is not the best for us or for others.  Do we not deal this way with our own children?  We show our love for them many times by saying, “No, and absolutely no.”

__________

(2) No, Not Exactly

2 Corinthians 12:9, “He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” … We’ve been taught that when we ask God for something through prayer, His answer may be yes, no, or wait.  We’re told that even no is an answer, though obviously not the one we may want.  It certainly wasn’t the answer Paul wanted when he begged God three times to remove his “thorn in the flesh” – (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). Whatever Paul’s thorn was, it weakened him.  Because he wanted to be strong in his ministry, Paul asked God for deliverance.

Although God didn’t grant his request, He answered his prayer!  He said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (v.9).  The all-sufficient strength of Christ became Paul’s new boast.  Author J. Oswald Sanders summarized Paul’s attitude about his thorn like this: “At first he viewed it as a limiting handicap, but later he came to regard it as a heavenly advantage.”  Paul could therefore testify, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses … For when I am weak, then I am strong” (v.10).

__________

(3) Do We Expect An Answer?

James 4:3 says, “You ask, and do not receive, because you ask amiss” … To pray for something when we know it is not God’s will is to waste our breath.  God has revealed His will in the Bible, and so our prayers must be grounded in the truths of His Word.  Too often we come to God to ask for things that He has forbidden.  To ask God to bless us today, when we intend to do things we know are wrong or if we have plans to visit places where a Christian should not go, is to ask amiss.

Such prayers will never be answered.  It’s useless to ask God to bless our business when we indulge in shady practices or continue in worldly habits. If we want our prayers to be answered, we must be willing to let God have His way.  The pattern for our prayers should be that of our precious Lord, who said, “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).  Are we willing to pray like that?

__________

(4) Yes, I’d Love to but Not Now

Psalm 27:14, “Wait, I say, on the Lord” … God grants all our requests if they are in keeping with His will, but He doesn’t always fulfill them as quickly as we might wish.  The Lord is never in a hurry.  We must learn to wait on Him, realizing that either the time may not yet be ripe for the answer we seek, or we are not yet fully surrendered to His will.  Therefore, the immediate answer too many of our prayers is “waiting awhile.”  If we cannot accept this but insist on running ahead of God, we get into trouble.  We must trust Him and believe that God will answer in His own good time, because His timing is best.

__________

(5) Yes, But This Answer Isn’t Good

In Isaiah 38, King Hezekiah was near death.  He cried unto the Lord for deliverance, and God granted Hezekiah fifteen more years of life.  While many good features came from this special gift, it had one major down side.  During those fifteen years, Hezekiah’s son Manasseh was born.  He became one of the most evil kings that Judah had ever known (2 Kings 21).

__________

(6) Yes and More

Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know”… During World War II, a bomber pilot was flying a mission when his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire, causing it to spin out of control toward the ocean below.  He later said, “I began to pray, but that was the last I knew until I came to in the water.  I was in bad shape.  My leg was gone below the knee and I knew that I would bleed to death in a few minutes.

Then something nudged me.  It was a piece of plywood with the plane’s first-aid kit on it.  I got the tourniquet out of it, and my co-pilot helped me to get the thing on and stop the bleeding.  Another plane came along and dropped a life raft, and 4 hours later we were picked up by a rescue boat.  If you don’t call that a miracle, I would like to know what is.  God answered my prayer.”

1 Kings 3:9-13, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad; for who is able to judge this thy so great a people.  And the speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing.  And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.  And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honor: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. Young Solomon asked for wisdom instead of gold and riches when God granted him one wish (1 Kings 3).  God gave Solomon what he wanted, but also gave Solomon riches according to God’s purpose.

__________

Further Thoughts:

So, does God still speak to us and make Himself known? Well according to Hebrews 11:1-2 which says, “God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” Prayer is a vital and essential part of our relationship with God, wherein it nurtures and matures our relationship with the Creator.

We have the awesome privilege of approaching our heavenly Father with our needs, requests, and praises.  He wants us to come to Him in prayer, and we can have confidence our prayers will be answered in harmony with God’s plan and will for our lives.  We can bravely step up to the throne of God and enjoy intimate conversation with Him, as we would with an earthly friend.  The Lord truly cares about our needs and desires. So, depending upon who you ask the question “Does God Make Himself Known” you would get answers such as:

(1) He whispers in my ears, (2) He plants it miraculously in our hearts, (3) He reveals it through nature or (4) He offers it through one book, the Bible, “His Eternal Word”; (5) He personally communications by way of dreams or by inner voices.

I will close this study with the following true story – Anthony, age 24, had been to a Wednesday night Bible Study.  The Pastor had shared about listening to God and obeying the Lord’s voice.  Anthony could not help but wonder, “Does God still speak to people?”  After the service, he went out with some friends for coffee and pie and they discussed the message.  Several different ones talked about how God had led them in different ways. It was about ten o’clock when the Anthony started driving home.  Sitting in his car, he just began to pray, “God.  If you still speak to people, speak to me.  I will listen.  I will do my best to obey.”

As he drove down the main street of his town, he had the strangest thought, stop and buy a gallon of milk.  He shook his head and said out loud, “God is that you?  He did not get a reply and started on toward home.  Again, the thought, buy a gallon of milk.  Anthony thought about Samuel and how he did not recognize the voice of God, and how little Samuel ran to Eli.  “Okay, God, in case that is you, I will buy the milk.”

It did not seem like too hard a test of obedience.  He could always use the milk.  He stopped and purchased the gallon milk and started toward home.  As he passed Seventh Street, he again felt the urge “Turn down that street.  This is crazy he thought and drove on pass the intersection…  Again, he felt that he should turn down Seventh Street.  At the next intersection, he turned back and headed down Seventh.  Half jokingly, he said aloud, “Okay, God, I will”…

He drove several blocks, when suddenly, he felt like he should stop.  He pulled over to the curb and looked around.  He was in a semi-commercial area of town.  It was not the best but it was not the worst of neighborhoods either.  The businesses were closed and most of the houses looked dark like the people were already in bed.  Again, he sensed something, “Go, and give the milk to the people in the house across the street.”

The young man looked at the house.  It was dark and it looked like the people were either gone or they were already asleep.  He started to open the door and then sat back in the car seat.  “Lord, this is insane.  Those people are asleep and if I wake them up, they are going to be mad and I will look stupid.”  Again, he felt like he should go and give the milk.  Finally, he opened the door, “Okay God, if this is you, I will go to the door, and I will give them the milk.  If you want me to look like a crazy person, okay.  I want to be obedient.  I guess that will count for something but if they don’t answer right away, I am out of here.”

He walked across the street and rang the bell.  He could hear some noise inside.  A man’s voice yelled out, “Who is it?  What do you want?”  Then the door opened before the young man could get away.  The man was standing there in his jeans and t-shirt.  He looked like he just got out of bed.  He had a strange look on his face and he did not seem too happy to have some stranger standing on his doorstep.  “What is it?” Anthony thrust out the gallon of milk, “Here, I brought this to you.”  The man took the milk and rushed down a hallway speaking loudly in Spanish.  Then from down the hall came a woman carrying the milk toward the kitchen.

The man was following her holding a baby.  The baby was crying.  The man had tears streaming down his face.  The man began speaking and half crying, “We were just praying.  We had some big bills this month and we ran out of money.  We did not have any milk for our baby.  I was just praying and asking God to show me how to get some milk.”  His wife in the kitchen yelled out, “I ask him to send an Angel with some…Are you an Angel?”  Anthony reached into his wallet and pulled out all the money he had on him and put in the man’s hand.  He turned and walked back toward his car as the tears were streaming down his face.  He knew then that God still answers prayers and that He speaks to His people.

__________

The keynote of every prayer should be: “Your will be done”

Advertisements