Last September, I celebrated my 50th anniversary in the Christian faith. In this article, I would like to share the 8 most important lessons I have learned from the Lord over that time. It is my ardent hope that I might encourage some of my readers to pursue God more closely as we launch out into 2023, a year that prophecy watchers believe to be greatly portentous!
1 – God is ALWAYS willing to FORGIVE us and RESTORE us!
This saying is not just for the first 5 years of your life in Christ. I have been forgiven and restored at 45 years with Christ! The Bible tells us that “His mercy endureth forever.” It means exactly what it says! Philippians 1:6 comes into play here when it reminds us that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Even when WE CHOOSE to leave the path of life, Jesus will still seek us, for He promises us this, “‘Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Malachi 3:7).
2 – God is a LIVING & LOVING GOD who is always willing to give us HIS wisdom!
I am not a man of great faith. I have always asked God questions about scriptures or situations which confuse me or cause me doubt. Not once in 50 years have I ever felt His frustration or displeasure with me for asking. I used to think that perhaps there may be a “statute of limitations” that goes into effect after 25 or 30 years in the faith, whereby God no longer is willing to answer our questions due to our small faith. As a school teacher, I know that if I were God, there would be. Well, I have discovered that there isn’t with our God! He answers me just as faithfully and patiently now as He did in 1971 when I was seeking Him!
And why should I be surprised by this when James 1:5 promises, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” One last thing… when I ask and He answers me, my heart swells with wonder and gratitude all over again! And again, why should I be surprised by this when John 16:24 promises, “…ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”
3 – David’s Secret will establish your INTIMACY with God!
In the USA of 2023, American Christians often underestimate the degree of commitment and devotion required to walk with the Lord as closely and as obediently as God wants them to. We congratulate ourselves if we get a 15-minute quiet time in the morning. Following this, we get so immersed in our work that we forget the Lord for the rest of the day. Then we wonder why we do not have the power over sin or the zeal for God’s purposes that the Bible says we can have! I should know because, for many years, I was just like this. I had often noticed that even with a 45-minute devotional time in which I had been freshly “filled with the Spirit” by 1 p.m., I had all leaked out! I kept trying to lengthen my morning time, but the same leak would take place.
Then one day, some years ago, I came across “David’s secret,” as shown in bold-face print in the passage below.
“As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me.
Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.
He rescues me unharmed from the battle
waged against me, even though many oppose me” (Ps. 55:16-18).
I restructured my devotional times to 15-20 min. each and sought out the Lord 3 times a day as David prescribes. The results have been amazing! The Lord gives me more power and more joy throughout each day. I hope you will prove Him faithful in this way in your own life and see what He will do! One last thing… you may have heard it said that “you can’t out-give God.” I have found this to be true! The time I give Him is returned to me in various ways via more efficient decisions/actions on my part or often by others coming along at just the right time to assist me with tasks.
4 – Practicing the “Disciplines of the Faith” will strengthen your WALK with God!
For myself, I have identified 7 streams of living water that flow into my spirit and float the boat of my faith. They are these: prayer, scripture study (not just reading), worship (throughout the week), fellowship of the “koinonia” kind (not just bowling with other Christians), obedience to God’s commands, ministry and tithing. None of these affect God’s promises of salvation, but all of them affect the degree of our victory, our joy and our fruitfulness for God’s kingdom. The work of sanctification is to keep all 7 of these streams flowing clear of the fallen timbers and boulders sown by sin, self and Satan.
For many years I tried to float my boat higher by diving down to hack away at the underwater “stalagmites of sin,” which threatened to poke holes in my boat. Then I discovered the wonderful truth in Romans 12:21,
“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
I applied this truth in my life by increasing my practice of the 7 “disciplines of the faith” mentioned above. What I found was that doing this “good” raised my boat much higher than by my efforts to fight against or avoid evil in my life. Lesson #5 elaborates on this.
5 – God wants us to have an “exchanged” life, not just a changed life!
Another way to say this is that we were not created to be fountains but rather “garden hoses.” The power to obey and to minister does not come from us but through us.
By accessing the 7 streams above, God will exchange our weakness for His strength, our apathy for His zeal, and our flesh-contaminated efforts with His anointing to “do exploits for our God!” as Daniel says.
Ask God to come through you like living water through a garden hose. As you tighten your connection to the faucet, ask Him to adjust and direct the flow how and where He will. Not only will you be liberated from the burden of performance, but your performance will be greatly enhanced by the Holy Spirit doing the work for you!
And the best part is this: your works will then never be burned up but will greatly glorify God and be well-rewarded!
6 – Keeping a Prayer Journal will increase your LOVE for God!
Two of my greatest regrets in my Christian life are these: not praying more and not keeping a prayer journal to record God’s glorious answers to my prayers. I finally began to do both of these things some years ago, and my faith has shot up like a skyrocket!
By the time I sat down to record some of the more dramatic answers to prayer in my life, I could only recall and record about 150 of them. There have been many more than that, but now, sadly, they are lost to time. I would urge my readers to begin keeping a prayer journal and update it regularly. King David understood the joy of remembering God’s answers to his prayers when he said this in Psalm 116:1-2:
“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.”
7 – Studying fulfilled prophecy will increase your FAITH in God!
As a young Jewish believer, the study of Old Testament prophecy became a big part of the foundation of my faith. As an old Jewish believer, the study of Old Testament prophecy has become the super-structure of my faith. Reminding oneself that our God is the only God who has accurately fulfilled His own prophecies strengthens our faith like very little else can! Studying the 109 separate prophecies of Christ’s first coming filled me with faith when I was young. Now, studying the 300 prophecies of Christ’s second coming fills me with a holy urgency to share that faith now that I am old.
In a public library, I once looked at 5 or 6 encyclopedia-type volumes, each devoted to a different world religion. I searched through the index of each book for an entry on “prophecy.” Can you guess what I found? Nothing!! No other so-called “holy book” contains any prophecies which have been fulfilled in the pages of history! Only the Bible features this amazing evidence of its divine authorship! Just yesterday, I marveled again at Isaiah’s 45th chapter, where the prophet accurately describes an event that would not take place for another 150 years! The rest of the day, my faith and joy in Christ just soared! Along with that, my desire to share the gospel also zoomed skyward. Why do you suppose God spent over 25% of His holy word on prophecy? Start to study it, and you will find out!
8 – Practicing your God-given gifts in ministry will increase your JOY in the Lord!
Keeping God’s commandments is not just intended to increase His glory but also to increase our faith, peace and joy. I have had a long and blessed marriage and a long and blessed career, but the ministry I have had the privilege to be part of over the years has brought me a special kind of gladness of heart not obtainable in any other way.
This is most especially true when the ministry I performed entailed the exact gifts I have been given by the Lord. I call it “finding one’s place on the wall.”
In the book of Nehemiah, chapter 3, there is a list of about 44 separate jobs performed by perhaps 100 different tradesmen, all mentioned by name. Each one was contributing his own special skill to the building of the wall surrounding Jerusalem. Though in constant danger from enemies, they all persevered and succeeded. I have no doubt that, to their dying days, these men all counted these tasks as the most important and the most joyous of their entire lives!
We are the same. In the great work of building God’s Kingdom, we each have our own separate places on the wall, but we each combine to complete the necessary preparations for the return of our King, the Lord Jesus Christ! And He knows us all by name!
The short time we have left before His arrival should give us all a greater sense of urgency, industry and courage. Once our “faith becomes sight,” we can never again earn the kind of reward that comes from “obedience by faith,” as Jesus explained it to Thomas in John 20:29b,
“blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
There are many more lessons than just these 8 which the Lord and the Holy Spirit have taught me, but I pray that these, like the 8 lights on the Hanukah menorah which we just lit this month, will warm and illuminate your hearts to produce a greater faith and fruitfulness in the coming year. It may be our last year before faith becomes sight!
May God help us all to make the most of it!