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Prayer and Testing

In my last post, I talked about the way Jesus taught, by example, how to pray in times of distress.  How well did the disciples learn this lesson?

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.  “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep?  Could you not keep watch for one hour?  Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
Once more he went away and prayed the same thing.  When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.  They did not know what to say to him.
Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?  Enough!  The hour has come.  Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Mark 14:37-41

Unfortunately, this prayer session was a little past the disciples’ bedtime.  They didn’t last very long before they dropped off to sleep.

The fact that Mark records some of what Jesus prayed shows that they were awake for a little while.  The Lord probably knew what they could take and prayed accordingly.  I personally believe that He spent most of the time praying in the spirit.

In this whole incident, there’s a statement that Christ makes that should really speak to us.  He said to His disciples, watch and pray so that you will not enter temptation.  This is an important truth.

First of all, we must understand what temptation is.  It’s a test of whether or not our faith is genuine.  This same Greek word is translated by both temptation and testing throughout the New Testament.  The translators use one or the other word based upon the context of the verse.  It’s this testing that proves if we really believe the Word.

Jesus tells us that some testing can be avoided by prayer.  I only wish that all testing could be avoided.  But that’s just not the case.

If anyone could have avoided all testing, it would have been the Lord.  Yet, even He was tempted while He was fasting in the wilderness.

From my study of the Scriptures, I believe that there are at least 4 different kinds of testing.  The first is the trials that are common to all humans.  These cannot be stopped.  They’re used by God to show His power working in us.

Next are the ones that come as a result of what we desire.  These desires are not necessarily bad things.  Paul talks about those who desire monetary wealth having more tests than the normal person (1Timothy 6:9-10).  That’s because wealth comes with a trap, such that if your character isn’t strong enough, it could destroy you.

Another kind of testing comes from the sinful desires of our flesh.  When we allow ourselves to focus on them, we are pulled down the road of temptation.  Through watching and praying, this is one type of testing we can avoid.  As we renew our minds, it protects us from falling into these traps.

The fourth kind is the tests that we blindly walk into because we’re not being watchful.  Again, through prayer and having a listening ear to the voice of the Holy Spirit, these tests can be sidestepped.  Sometimes we find ourselves in the same test again and again because we don’t learn the lessons that only come through time spent with the Lord.

That’s why a deep prayer life is so important to the believer.  While it can’t stop all testing, it will give you a straighter and clearer path into the place God has called you to be.

Question: When have you found that prayer helped you to avoid a problem in your life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Seeds in a Rocky Place

I’m posting about the different “heart soils” in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 4.  Today I’ll deal with the rocky soil.  This is about rocks with only a thin layer of dirt to cover them.  The seed germinates and springs up quickly.  But just as quickly, the sun comes out, scorches the plant, and it withers and dies.

Jesus explained the spiritual application this way.

Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time.  When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
Mark 4:16-17

This verse literally says that these people receive the Word in the middle of joy.  It sounds like a camp meeting to me.  There’s excitement in the air.  The whole atmosphere of the meeting is charged with a heavenly joy.  It’s easy to believe in a place like that.

We’re not talking about people who don’t believe what they hear.  They believe it’s for them.  The problem is, that what has sprung up so quickly, also withers just as quick.  What is it that withers?

For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.”  And this is the word that was preached to you.
1 Peter 1:24-25

What withers is the glory of man.  This type of person hears the Word and believes that it’s “all about me.”  That’s why there’s all the joy and excitement.

They think that the Word is for my blessing, health, and prosperity.  Forget about what God’s ultimate purpose is.  It’s me that’s important.

The Lord says that in this rocky heart there is some faith exhibited for a while, but it doesn’t last long.  Eventually, trials and testings will come.  When this happens, Jesus literally says that they will become offended.  Why does Christ use this word?

When I go through a time of testing, I realize that it’s not all about me.  I get offended that I’m not the center of all the attention.  I don’t want the spotlight on Christ and what He’s trying to accomplish in me.  I want the priority to be my comfort and happiness.  The result is that I get offended and walk away from the Lord and His plan for my life.

If I want my heart prepared for an abundant harvest, I must assume that the Word of God spotlights Jesus Christ.  I must desire to know His heart.  There are many who read the Bible and pursue God only for what they can get from Him.  The big question on their minds is, “What’s in it for me?”

Instead, we should be focusing on God’s eternal purpose – to draw all humanity into His kingdom.  The blessings of God are great, but they’re not an end in and of themselves.

God has promised us prosperity, but it’s to finance the spread of the Gospel.  God has promised us health and healing, but it’s so that we can minister the Good News of His love to the best of our ability.

All the promises of God should be viewed through the filter of God’s will and God’s plans.  That’s what’s missing in the shallow faith of rocky soil.  We need to keep our hearts clear of the rocks of self-centeredness.

Question: How is God working through you to bring about His purpose?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2018 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Walking with Christ…and You!

WalkI’ve been posting about the benefits of walking closely with the Lord. It’s how we get to truly know Christ. It’s also how we receive guidance from the Holy Spirit.

But there’s another aspect to walking with Christ that we sometimes overlook. It’s why many don’t want that close a relationship with Christ.

Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.
Psalms 26:2-3

To walk closely with the Lord requires testing. We don’t like that word – testing. It sounds uncomfortable.

But actually, testing is a good thing. It shows us how far we’ve progressed. It lets us know that we’re becoming more and more mature in Christ.

It’s a part of everyday life. If you’re in a close relationship with someone, and you truly love that person, something will happen. It’s called change. People in relationships undergo change. There’s no way around it.

Our relationship with Christ is no different. The more I know of Christ, the more I want to be like Him. This puts the pressure on me to change. All testing does, is confirm the changes that are taking place in my life.

But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
1 John 2:5-6

What a privilege we have. God has placed in us the potential to walk and minister just like Jesus did. We should desire this type of walk.

One thing is clear. You can’t live like Jesus did unless you can access the same power He had. That’s the key to a supernatural ministry.

If I’m going to walk His walk, then I am going to have to be tested just like Christ was. The more I learn, the more I grow in knowledge and faith, the more testing will take place in me. Our greatest desire should be to walk as the Lord did.

Then, as this begins to take place in us, there will be another effect that we see.

If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1 John 1:6-7

As we walk closer to God on an individual basis, we end up walking closer to each other collectively. That’s because we’re all headed toward the same goal. The closer we are to Christ, the closer we are to each other.

There’s two ways of working for agreement among believers. I can spend all my time and energy trying to convince you that I’m right, and you need to agree with me. Or…we can spend time in the Lord’s presence and become convinced that He’s right, and we both agree with Him.

The second method is obviously the correct one. We need embrace the privilege we’ve been given to walk with Christ. To learn and grow with Him. To become like Him and draw closer to others on the same path. Then the world will see Jesus in His people.

Question: How has testing shown you areas of growth in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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Testing and Remembering

CrossI’m posting about Abraham and what he learned about being tested by God. God tests us by allowing us to go through challenges that bring out what’s in our heart.

King Hezekiah of Israel learned this.

But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.
2 Chronicles 32:31

The word left in that verse means to loosen. Basically this means the God let him make his own choices without any further guidance. The Lord had already given Hezekiah all that he needed to make a right choice.

From our natural perspective it looks like God has stopped speaking – God left. This begins our wilderness experience. When God is quiet; that’s when stuff starts to come up from our heart.

Throughout the years people have come up with many names for this type of experience. Many call this the “dark night of the soul.” Others call it “the death of a vision.” It happens in the lives of all who desire to move forward with God.

We see it happening with Joseph, Moses, and Abraham. If we’re going to go through this testing victoriously then we must get through it as Abraham did.

What came from his heart?

Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.
Hebrews 11:19

The verse says that Abraham reasoned or literally took inventory, estimated that God was powerful enough to raise Isaac from the dead.

Contrast this to how the nation of Israel went through their wilderness experience.

Again and again they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember his power– the day he redeemed them from the oppressor…
Psalm 78:41-42

It’s during these times that we’re tested concerning our memories. Will we remember God’s power? Do we truly believe that God is able to perform what He promises in our lives?

But they put God to the test and rebelled against the Most High; they did not keep his statutes. Like their fathers they were disloyal and faithless, as unreliable as a faulty bow.
Psalm 78:56-57

What an illustration! A faulty bow breaks under pressure. The goal of a bow and arrow is to destroy the enemy. We are that bow in the hands of a mighty God.

He pulls back on the string. The pressure increases. Sometimes in my weakness, I feel like I can’t take it. But if I continue to persevere; suddenly there’s a TWANG!!! – and I’m rejoicing again as the arrow of God’s promise flies true.

During the test, when it seems hopeless, can we give the promise back to God? Let Him resurrect it. Let Him reveal His glory in due time. I realize that it’s not easy to lay the promise of God back on the altar.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

In this phrase, think about also means to estimate, take inventory. It’s thinking on these things that will bring us through the desert without testing God. Offer your future to God for His glory.

Question: What was the last big test that you went through? What did you learn by it?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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Passing the Test

ApproveTesting – the very sound of that word is discomforting to most believers. Did you know that how you respond to testing, tells a lot about your walk with God? It’s a part of the Lord’s growth plan for our lives. We should be cultivating a positive attitude toward His guidance in this area.

Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
John 6:3-6

When God tests us, it’s for our benefit. If there’s anything we know about testing; it’s both necessary and unavoidable. Even with this knowledge, it’s still not something we look forward to. One thing we need to realize is that testing is God’s way of reinforcing to us that we’ve learned a lesson of faith.

In the above verse, we see that it was Philip’s turn to experience this kind of test. The Lord asked Philip where the provision was to come from to feed a huge crowd of people. It’s interesting to note that Jesus already knew what He was going to do.

When God tests us, He already knows the outcome. We don’t like to admit it, but we have a very limited knowledge of things. Because of this, we need to firmly rely on God. He already knows the plan. We need to go before Him and seek His mind in the situations we find ourselves in.

This should be very encouraging to us. God is never taken by surprise. He doesn’t have to come up with a solution to our problem ‘on the fly.’ I just need to be in a position where I’m listening for His voice to take me through victoriously.

We must go to God for the plan to pass the test. Instead of always trying desperately to figure out what to do, we need to admit that we don’t know what needs to be done. Then we’re in the best position to let God guide us in the right path. Instead of going off on our own, we should seek to find out from God what it is that He has already decided to do.

Spend some time today seeking God’s wisdom and guidance for the tests ahead. Let Him reveal to you the only plan for your life that will bring about miraculous results. Yield yourself to that which God has already decided to do in your life. Then He’ll get the glory for it.

Question: How has God’s wisdom helped through a difficult test?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2016 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God, Prayer

 

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You’re in the Battle Zone – Stay Alert

mhXQFuIWhether you know it or not, the world is a spiritual battle zone right now. Unless you have the right mentality, you could become a casualty of this war. That’s why it’s so important to know how the Bible says for us to live.

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Ephesians 6:17-18

As I’ve posted in the past, this verse is talking about the authority and power of God. The Lord wants to work this through us. To read the series where I talked about this – click here.

In this new series of posts my question is; if we know we’re in the battle zone, then how should we live? The last sentence of this passage literally reads attend to this with all persistency and petition. The fact of the matter is that there’s a battle zone mentality.

The first thing we’re told is that it requires us to be alert. The Greek word there means to be sleepless. We must be awake and alert in the battle zone.

We’re told in this same chapter of Ephesians that our enemy isn’t flesh and blood. They don’t take a day off. Does that mean we don’t need rest or take a vacation? No, but we have to stay spiritually vigilant no matter what’s happening in our lives.

“There’s not much going on in my life right now. I don’t need to pray today.”

That kind of thinking can destroy you in this battle. Look at how Jesus put it to His disciples.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
Matthew 26:41

Watching – staying spiritually alert – and prayer go together. According to Jesus, it’s so that you will not enter into a test, a proving.

In the battle zone there are traps and ambushes. You must be alert. Like someone who’s walking in the middle of minefield. At that point you’re in the test.

Did you know that many of the tests and temptations of life can be avoided? I wonder sometimes how many of these battles are of our own making. Or maybe we’ve just walked blindly into them.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8

This is how the enemy works. In the natural, it’s the oldest, weakest lion that does the roaring. The strong, young lions wait on the other side of the prey. When the prey hears the roar and runs away from it, they run right to the lions waiting for their dinner to arrive.

It’s the same with our spiritual enemy. He’s trying to get you to head into a trap. We have to keep spiritually alert at all times. That only happens as we watch and pray. It will help us to avoid many of the problems that are before us.

Stay alert!

Question: Can you think of a time that you were tested or tempted because you weren’t spiritually alert?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2015 in Power of God, Prayer, Spiritual Warfare

 

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God’s Approval #theanointing

SpotlightI’ve been talking about walking in the anointing of God.  In my last post I discussed being well pleasing to the Lord.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.
Ephesians 5:8-10

This verse tells us that we should live the way a child of the light should live.  The fruit of the light is the evidence that we’re walking in the light.

This passage literally says that as children of the light, we need to test and approve what is well pleasing to the Lord.  The more we walk in His light – the more we learn about pleasing Him.

It’s by pleasing the Lord that we secure the anointing.  That’s a key concept that many miss out on.

On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.  We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.
1Thessalonians 2:4

I’ve asked this before.  Where is your heart set?  Who are you trying to please?  Your anointing (God’s approval of your ministry) is resting on that answer.  It’s not about how much you want it; instead, it’s wrapped up in the direction your heart is taking you.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.
Hebrews 13:20-21

What we have to realize is that in our own power we can never be well pleasing to God.  It only comes from time spent in His presence.  Only God’s power can secure our anointing.

We have to position ourselves to receive His power that works through us.  We have to be driven to walk in the anointing.

This means that we have set our heart on it.  It’s all about getting close enough in the spirit, to find out what’s well pleasing to Him.  It’s the only way to get ourselves in the position to receive.

In the final analysis it can only be accomplished by His power at work in us.

So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
2 Corinthians 5:9

Be driven to please God.

Question: What is God calling you to do that will require His power to accomplish?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2013 in Anointing

 

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