4 The pangs of death surrounded me, and the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. 5 The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. 6 In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears. (Psalm 18:4–6, NKJV)
Songwriters Frank E. Graeff and J. Lincoln Hall wrote, “Does Jesus Care?”, which begins, “Does Jesus care when my heart is pained too deeply for mirth or song, as the burdens press, and the cares distress, and the way grows weary and long? Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares, His heart is touched with my grief; When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares.” Death enveloped David like a noose around his neck. His only relief was the Lord, to whom he cried. God heard him, and saved him from his enemies (Psa. 18:3, 16-19). Each of us will face death at some point. Perhaps you (or a loved one) are facing it now. Christians are confident that death does not defeat our faith, because our Lord Jesus Christ has conquered death! Yes, He cares when that robber of life comes with its sorrow and pain. But, Jesus gives us joyous hope beyond this land of parting and weeping – of the land of endless day and of His eternal love. Oh yes, He cares!
17 O God, You have taught me from my youth; And to this day I declare Your wondrous works. 18 Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come. (Psalm 71:17–18, NKJV)
From youth to old age, God teaches us of His mighty works. His creation speaks to us of unseen things – “His eternal power and Godhead” (Rom. 1:20). The heavens declare His glory (Psa. 19:1). From childhood, His Holy Scriptures teach wisdom and salvation to those who are trained thereby (2 Tim. 3:15). Those who are faithful to Him declare His wonderful works. Age does not diminish this righteous man’s determination to tell the next generation of God’s powerful works. May our resolve grow stronger as we grow older, to tell the next generation of the Almighty and His great works. Tell them of His eternal power, and of His enduring love. Tell them of His truth and His salvation (Psa. 71:15, 23-24). May the younger generation learn well the lessons their predecessors have discovered; youth fades and the body weakens, but the power and righteousness of God endures forever. Praise Him until your last breathe. He will be your everlasting strength.
13 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13–14, NKJV)
We are tempted to think that keeping silent in the face of trouble (when we have the ability and opportunity to speak up and to act in the name of truth and righteousness) is the right thing to do. More times than not, trouble finds us anyway. And so, let us rather trust God to work out His purposes through our obedient faith. By faithfully obeying the Lord, “it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). God providentially fulfills His purposes. Let us be like Esther, and speak up for the innocent and the righteous, also standing against the wicked who try to destroy the people of God. Truth and righteousness will prevail in this world of sin. Victory is assured in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57). God’s will is that you stand up for Christ, His truth and His people. “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Well, God knows. What will you do, knowing this to be true?
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:19–22, NKJV)
The Holy Spirit guided the apostles of Christ into all truth by revealing to them the mind of God and giving to them the inspiration to speak it and write it (Jno. 16:13-15; 1 Cor. 2:10-13; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). We rejoice in the Spirit’s work and His word. We will not stifle the Holy Spirit’s word and work by minimizing the divine blessings we have as a result His work. Neither will we hold God’s prophecies in contempt. We are strengthened by knowing the Spirit’s prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Acts 3:22-26). The Spirit expects us to test all things by the word He gave us. Consequently, we can cling to good things and refrain from evil in every form it takes. Christians do not refuse the Spirit and the word He gave us. Instead, we walk in the Spirit, are led by the Spirit and live in the Spirit by letting His word define and direct our lives (Gal. 5:16, 18, 25).
9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 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! (Matthew 7:9–11, NKJV)
Fathers desire to fulfill the requests of their children. Indeed, fathers bear a particular responsibility to provide for their own house, and failure to do so is a grievous sin (1 Tim. 5:8). If earthly fathers give good things to their children when they ask, how much more does our heavenly Father do so. Jesus reasons from the lesser to the greater to impress upon us a fundamental truth: Our heavenly Father gives us the “good things” we need when we ask of Him. God hears and answers the prayers of His children, and He does so in ways that are best for us. God not only supplies our daily bread, He also supplies us with every spiritual blessing in Christ, which sustain our spiritual life. In the parallel passage of Luke 11:13, Jesus identifies the “good things” given by the Father as the “Holy Spirit” (whose presence confirmed the kingdom had come, Lk. 11:20; Matt. 12:28). God answers our prayers in harmony with His purposes and for our spiritual good. This is our faith as we pray to our heavenly Father.
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:7–8, NKJV)
The Son of God had just assured those who “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” that “all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). Our heavenly Father knows our needs and supplies them according to His will. And so, we must live by faith in Him and not be distracted by the material riches of this world (Matt. 6:25-34). When we ask, seek and knock at the door of our Father’s favor, we know He gives us what is good for us. The trouble comes when we ask, seek and knock according to our own will instead of the will of God. We will not be answered by the Father when we come to Him with selfish, faithless requests and expectations. Genuine faith drives us to ask, seek and knock in harmony with God’s will. With this submissive trust in God, we are sure our Father hears us and answers us in ways that are always good for us (Matt. 7:11).
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14–15, NKJV)
Jesus applies the principle of sowing and reaping to forgiveness. Just as we reap what we sow, God’s forgiveness of us depends upon our forgiveness of those who sin against us. Here is a fundamental truth to remember: the hypocrite will not be forgiven. In this context, Jesus has been addressing the problem of hypocrisy in one’s spiritual life, and now He returns to it (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16). How hypocritical and futile to think that we have God’s forgiven when we ask Him for it, yet we refuse to give it to others when they ask for ours. If we hold bitterness and resentment in our hearts toward one who asks our forgiveness, instead of freely and immediately forgiving them from our heart, we will not be forgiven by God when we ask Him to forgive us. Allow this truth to sink deep into your heart so that it shapes your readiness to forgive those who sin against you (Col. 3:12-14).
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:13, NKJV)
Our prayers should not only be about our needs and desires (Heb. 4:16). They should not only be supplications on behalf of others (1 Tim. 2:1-2). They should also be filled with adoration for our Heavenly Father. Reverent respect and regard for the Almighty ought to be evident in our manner of prayer (Matt. 6:9). Acknowledge the regal, royal, sovereign rule of our Father as we pray. It is precisely because He reigns supreme that we are impressed with His willingness to hear and answer our prayers. His eternal power, announced by His whole creation, assures us of His ability to act on our behalf. His majestic glory humbles us in His presence and impresses us of His love toward us, low as we are in comparison to His majesty (Psa. 8:4). As we pray, let us remember to whom we are addressing our petitions. This will help define our attitude in prayer as well as shape our faith in our Father to “do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20).
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:13, NKJV)
Jesus is not saying to pray that we are never tempted; Temptations to sin come to us all. James settles the matter once and for all that the devil, not God, is the source of temptations (Jas. 1:13-15). Jesus is teaching us to pray for God’s watchful care so that we will not succumb to temptations (for by so doing, we choose to sin). “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” was the Lord’s exhortation to the three disciples who slept in Gethsemane; and to us as well (Matt. 26:41). Sadly, we often sleep even as we walk into the midst of temptations, all the while expecting the Lord to miraculously rescue us from spiritual harm. While praying for God’s assured protection and to use the available avenues of escape when temptations come, we must vigilantly watch for the enticements the evil one will set before us (1 Cor. 10:13; 1 Pet. 5:8). God’s deliverance from temptation comes as we watch and pray, resist the allurements of the devil and refuse to sin against God.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Matthew 6:12, NKJV)
When someone borrows money, the lender expects to be paid back – with interest. Could you imagine your lender forgiving your mortgage debt and releasing you from your obligation to pay? That is the figure used to describe the forgiveness of sins. Because of the blood of Christ (God’s grace) and our faith, God releases us from the debt that sin imposed upon us (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9; Acts 2:37-38). Christians, the citizens of the kingdom of heaven, are taught to pray for forgiveness when we sin, being assured of God’s pardon (1 Jno. 1:9). A stipulation of forgiveness is hinted at here (and fully expressed in Matthew 6:14-15): “as we forgive our debtors.” How do you forgive those who sin against you? Do you forgive them from the heart (Matt. 18:35)? Fully, completely and continually (Lk. 17:3-4)? Begrudgingly? Bitterly? Not at all? We cannot successfully ask God to forgive us when we do not forgive those who sin against us. God will not give us forgiveness while we refuse to give it to others.