In 1 Corinthians 3:18 it says, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.” Why does the Bible say, “If you want to be wise, you must first become a fool”? It’s because we will only seek wisdom if we realize we don’t have wisdom, if we acknowledge that we haven’t got it. Proverbs 3:7 says, “Be not wise in your own eyes.” Twice Paul says in the New Testament not to be wise in their own conceits. James says, “If anyone lacks wisdom, let them ask of God, and God will give liberally.”
The Wonders of Wisdom
So, let’s read 1 Kings 3:7-9. Very relevant portion of Scripture, one that’s very famous. Where Solomon came before God, and acknowledged his lack of wisdom by saying, “And now, Lord my God, you’ve made your servant king instead of David, my father, and I am but a little child. I know not how to go out, or come in. And my servant is in the midst of thy people, whom you have chosen, a great people, who cannot be numbered or counted for a multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge your people that I may discern between good and bad. For who is able to judge this, your great people?” Solomon acknowledged that he lacked wisdom, he lacked understanding, he asked of God, and God was so thrilled that Solomon had chosen to ask God of that, He gave him wisdom, long life, and He gave him prosperity.
“Why does the Bible say, ‘If you want to be wise, you must first become a fool’? It’s because we will only seek wisdom if we realize we don’t have wisdom.”
Book of Proverbs tells us, “Happy is the man who finds wisdom. Wisdom is better than rubies. How much better it is to get wisdom than gold. And he who gets wisdom loves his own soul.” So, if you love yourself, seek the wisdom of God. Paul in Ephesians 1:17 prays that God would give you and I “the Spirit of wisdom.” So I pray for wisdom daily. Never do I let a day go by where I don’t seek God for wisdom. Because, if you are wise, if you have the Spirit of wisdom, you will think right, you will do right, you will say right.
In the late seventies, I didn’t ask for wisdom as a new Christian. But, I did pray a prayer that I’ll never forget, because God has so wonderfully answered that prayer. This is the prayer I prayed, I remember the instant that I prayed this. I prayed, “Oh God, let things happen to me that I can use as sermon illustrations. That I can use as anecdotes.” And I have had a double answer to that prayer. One, I have an abundance, a mass of sermon material. And two, I have a mass of motivation to seek God for wisdom daily. Let me explain what I mean by that by sharing with you some of what I call prayer catalysts.
My “Prayer Catalysts”
Things that make me pray for wisdom daily. A number of years ago, a pastor said, “Would you come and minister my church?” I said, “Sure.” He said, “You know where it is?” He said, “May North Road.” I says, “I know where it is.” I arrived that Sunday evening, it was just starting to get dark. I pulled up outside this building. I looked in, I saw people inside milling around. I thought, “Well, I better make sure this is the church. I don’t want to end up at a Boy Scout meeting, and embarrass myself.”
So, I went and looked in the hall, and I saw a man putting up transparencies, checking them on the overhead projector. Of course, I was in the right place. I said, “Where’s your prayer meeting?” They said, “Down the back, through that room.” Went down the back, opened the door into the room. Sat down with those that were praying. Sought God in prayer with them for about 10, 15 minutes. Seven o’clock, they said, “Amen.” Every eye was open, and every eye stared at me. I said, “Hi. New Life’s End…” They said, “No. St. Marks.” I was in the wrong church.
Now, a short time after that, I was in another city, 300 miles away. And I was staying with these people in this row of apartments. It was a Wednesday night, I went off to a meeting about seven o’clock. Came back two or three hours later, and these people were so considerate, they had left the outside light on. I went down the path, I opened the door. Down the hallway, into their bathroom, and thought, “Man, these people are incredible. In three hours, they have renovated their bathroom.” I was in the wrong apartment. I could hear people talking down the hallway. I crept down the hall, unlocked the door in three places, and slipped back.
Around that time, I used to have a drug prevention center. The means of prevention was Christianity. Drug prevention center, it was situated in High Street. An unfortunate choice in street names for a drug center. I had a drug team that ministered in schools, and one day, a school called and said, “The drug team hasn’t shown up. Someone’s supposed to speak in 10 or 15 minutes.” I said, “I’ll come ‘round personally.” I said, “I’ll run across town.” And a lady who was working for me said, “Take my car, it’s a VW on the third floor of the parking lot, parking building.”
So, I ran up, took the car, drove around. An hour later, I came back. And as I tossed the keys across the table to her, I said, “What are you doing with a Radio Evan sticker on the back of your car?” Radio Evan is a secular station. She said, “I don’t have a Radio Evan sticker on the back of my car.” Sure enough, we ran up to the third floor, and I had stolen somebody’s car.
Some time ago, I was staying with a pastor who ministered in this church, and it was a Sunday morning. I was having breakfast with him before the meeting. And while over breakfast we were chatting, he had this neat little long-haired dog that used to sit under the table, and I’d stroke the thing. While I was chatting away with him, I was stroking the dog, looked under and I was stroking the pastor’s slipper.
A Unique Way of Witnessing
Now, I have a unique way of witnessing to people. All I do is I carry around a penny with the Ten Commandments on it. It’s legal to do this, we get them done. We’ve just had 30,000 done. And I give it to people, and I say, “Did you get one of these?” And they take it and say, “What is it?” I say, “It’s a penny with the Ten Commandments on it. I did it with my teeth. It’s easy to do the I’s when I use my I teeth, but the E’s are very difficult.” Then I usually say, “Have you kept the Ten Commandments? Have you kept them?” And they usually say, “Oh yeah, pretty much.” And then I say, “Well, let’s go through them.” And I go through the Ten Commandments.
It’s a wonderful way to witness, it’s very predictable, the person’s very predictable. I always say, “Did you get one of these?” And they always say, “One of what?” And then I say, “It’s a penny with the Ten Commandments on it. How many have you kept?” And then we go through it. Wonderful. Within 30 seconds to a minute we can be on the subject of Christianity. I was in Atlanta, in an elevator, and a guy was standing there, I had 30 seconds to witness to him. So, I thought, “Okay, this will be predictable, I can do it.” So I got a penny out of my pocket. I gave it to him. I said, “Did you get one of these?” He took it, he said, “What is it? One of what?” I said, “It’s a penny with the Ten Commandments on it. How many have you kept?” He said, “Oh, this is the first one I’ve been given.” Put it in his pocket, and walked out.
More Prayer Catalysts
I get to minister in a lot of churches, Baptist churches, Pentecostal churches, all sorts of churches. Trans-denominational ministry. I was in San Diego about a month and a half ago at an Assemblies of God church. I was getting ready to minister, it was just after seven o’clock. People were singing. Wonderful meeting. Vibrant. I went to the restroom just to check if everything was okay. Look in the mirror. Check my tie. Perfect. Matching handkerchief. Gold pin holding the tie down. It was hard to pull away from the mirror. And as I was leaving the restroom, I looked down. I saw a piece of paper on the floor. I thought, “If I don’t pick that up, somebody else has to.” So, I bent down, pick it up, and dunk my tie three inches into the toilet bowl. And you wonder why I pray for wisdom every day.
Some time ago, a friend said, “Would you come around and help me build my boat?” He didn’t know what sort of guy I was. I helped him for a day, he says, “I’ll never let you near my boat again.” Everything went wrong, I mean…if it had been out in the ocean, it would’ve sunk. The poor guy. Anyway, I talked him into coming ‘round to help me do some carpentry. I says, “I need your help.” He says, “Okay.” He showed up at exactly eight o’clock on a Saturday morning. I thought, “I don’t want to be a jinx anymore. I want to show this guy I’m diligent, I’m faithful, I can do things.
So, eight o’clock he showed up, knocked at the door. I ran to the door excitedly. Stood on my shoelace and ended up falling at his feet. I only broke one window that day. He used to come and watch me work. You see, for 10 years, I made leather jackets and suede coats to order for people. He used to come and just stare at me work. I said, “What are you staring at?” He says, “I’m seeing a miracle take place.”
Really, things do go wrong when I get into carpentry. Once, I was sawing through this piece of wood. What could go wrong sawing a piece of wood? Nothing, as long as there’s not a live wire running on the other side of the wood. I sawed through the thing and just about killed myself. I was building an aviary. I was on the roof, building an aviary when it decided to collapse.
The Perfect Wife
Now, God who is wisdom itself, provided me with the right wife. Her name is Sue, she’s 4’11”. Made for comfort. The only one who ever really looked up to me. Now, she sure puts up with a lot, when I get a hammer and saw in my hand, she just goes and gets band-aids in her hand. Not just for me, but for her.
Some time ago, I says, “Want to come for a walk?” We’re walking down the boulevard, and as I’m walking down the sidewalk, this lady walks toward us. And she’s got a dog on a lead. The lead’s about eight feet, the dog goes this way, the lady goes that way. So what do I do? I jump. And kick my wife in the shin with my back of my shoe. Suddenly, she gets this lump on her leg the size of an egg with the heat of a jalapeno.
I was on top of our house, trimming an avocado tree recently. What could go wrong there? Nothing, except now the avocado fell off, bounced on the roof, and hit my wife between the eyes. I was sitting on a love seat in our living room. I thought, “Love seat, I’ll just comfort my wife.” I leaned over to cuddle her, and accidentally hit her in the knee with the corner of the remote, and it hit a nerve. I made her scream. I leaned over to console her and scratched her leg with my watch.
You people are brave being in here today. And I wonder why Sue gets sympathy cards from churches I minister at each week. But I do have a loving, wonderful wife. She’s understanding, she’s very tolerant. She even offers to take me to the airport a day early, that’s how kind she is.
I’m Not the Only One
U.S. News and World Report, listen to what it said, “Presidential golf match happened recently. President Bush hit a ball, which bounced off a tree, and hit a woman in the face. He then hit another ball, which hit a man on the thigh. President Ford hit a ball, and struck a man on the finger. And President Clinton hit a wild shot that ended up in the yard of a nearby house.” It happens to presidents.
And this is a genuine story. A 25-year-old young man, this happened in San Diego some time ago. Went along to an old people’s home. A home of the elderly, just to encourage them. Sat next to an old lady, and as he was talking to her, there was a jar of peanuts by her chair. So he started helping himself, eating peanuts. And after a while, he thought, “Well, I better offer her one.” He said, “Ma’am, would you like a peanut?” She says, “Sonny, I can’t eat the thing, Sonny.” She said, “I just suck the chocolate off and put them in a jar by my chair.” I am not alone. I’m not alone.
On a Plane
Now, I have the world’s most interesting wallet. It’s a wonderful wallet. And when I get on planes, I travel a lot, when I sit on planes, I like to witness to people. And I like to break the ice with these little ice breakers. I said to the person next to me, “You couldn’t cash a small check, could you?” And I’ve got this check that’s about an inch and a half long. I talk to them, and say what I do for a job. They say, “Oh, have you got a card?” I said, “You like my card?” And I’ve got a card, with “My Card” written on it. That’s all it says. And I’ve got another card here that says, “Department of Annoyance, Ray Comfort, Director.” And I say, “I got three kids. One of each.” I said, “Would you like to see a picture of my pride and joy?” And then they say, “Oh yes.” Very polite. And it’s a picture of Pride wax cleaner, and Joy dish-washing liquid. It’s a wonderful little ice breaker. Do you know, with these little helps, I can have an atheist praying on a plane within two minutes of meeting him, saying, “Oh God, take this man away.”
But, I was on a plane recently, and I began trying to witness with this guy, and he was very antagonistic, very bitter, very hard-hearted. Didn’t want to talk about the things of God. Actually changed the subject, he said, “I’d rather not talk about that, thanks.” So, I says, “Oh, have you got a family?” He says, “Yes, yes, dah, dah, dah.” I said, “I got three kids, like to see a picture of my pride and joy?” He said, “Yeah, certainly.” Showed him that, and he just about choked laughing. I mean, he lost all his ire laughing. And from that moment on, he completely changed and he actually brought up things of God.
Joyful in Tribulation
Turn over to 2 Corinthians 7:4. Well, you don’t need to turn there, I’ll just quote the verse. It’s only one verse. And this is what Paul says: “Great is my boldness of speech toward you. Great is my boasting on your behalf.” Paul had great boldness of speech toward the Corinthians. Why? Because he cared for them. He was like a doctor who was bold with his patient. Because he’s concerned for their welfare. He’ll say, “You need to do this.” Because he’s concerned for their welfare. And Paul had great boldness of speech towards them.
“Christians can laugh at what the world weeps over. Why was Paul exceedingly joyful in all his tribulation? Because he knew and believed the promises of God.”
He said, “Great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort.” That’s my problem. And then he said, “I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.” And hear what Paul said: “I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.” Why could Paul say that? Because Christians can laugh at what the world weeps over. Why was Paul exceedingly joyful in all his tribulation? Because he knew and believed the promises of God. That “all things work together for good to those that love God, and those who have been called according to His purposes” (Romans 8:28).
God Tests Those Who Preach
I once prepared a word entitled, “The amount of joy you retain in tribulation is evidence of the depth of faith that you have in God.” Let me repeat that. That was the title of the message. It’s actually the whole message. “The amount of joy you retain in tribulation is evidence of the depth of faith that you have in God.” And Paul said, “I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.”
Now I speak at different churches almost every Sunday around the country, and I’ve found something very interesting happens almost every week, sometime just after the service, around lunchtime. We’re coming out of the church and the pastor will turn to me around lunchtime and say, “Do you like Chinese?” And I say, “Yes, they’re nice people. What do you think of them?”
“The amount of joy we retain in tribulation is evidence of the depth of faith we have in God.”
And this happened recently in Seattle. And I was at a Chinese restaurant with a couple of pastors. And one of the pastors said, as he was just relating to us, he said, “God’s calling me to go up to the Great Lakes.” He says, “Quite a change of climate from California. But I know God’s leading me there.” And I felt like saying, “Listen, if God calls you to a desert, you’d be happy in that desert.” But I thought, “I’m not gonna say that.” I bit my tongue, because you get tested on what you’re saying. So instead, I opened a fortune cookie, and it said, “You are going to a desert.” Palm Springs, I guess.
The amount of joy we retain in tribulation is evidence of the depth of faith we have in God. You see, when I prepared that sermon, I got tested the whole week, because you often get tested on what you say, especially if you’re preparing a sermon. As a pastor, you find you’ll often get tested on that particular subject. At the moment I’m preparing a word entitled, “How to remain humble when given a million dollars.”
All Things Work Together
Anyway, Paul is exceedingly joyful because he knew that all things work together for good to those who love God, and are called according to His purposes. Sometime ago, a young man came to see me. And he said, “I’m going through a terrible time of tribulation.” And he was.
He’d been married before. He was divorced. And now his wife was wanting to take him to court. He was being accused of things he didn’t do. He says, “I’m gonna have to go to court and fight this thing.” I said, “Don’t go to court. You pray about this. But I’ll give you my advice. Don’t go to court. It’s gonna cost you a mint, and you won’t know if the courts will side with you. Just commit it to Him who judges righteously. Give it to God, and forget about it.”
Two weeks later, he called up, he said, “When you told me that, I thought it was wrong.” But he said, “I prayed about it, and I did what you said.” And he said, “Man, that was such wise counsel.” And I said to him, I said, “Bill, it’s very easy to think clearly when you’re standing at the top of the lion’s den. It really is, easy to give good advice. To just say, ‘Daniel, trust God. Hang in there. You can do it.’”
Learn to Laugh at Life’s Lions
And I’ve often wondered how Daniel reacted while he was in that lion’s den. When I was a kid, you might find this hard to believe, but I was a bit of a brat. I was a normal kid, and one thing I discovered about cats is that God has created what I call a cat awakener. I found that when a cat was asleep, there was a special device for awakening cats. It’s just above the mouth, it’s two little holes. And I found as a kid, if I put my fingers on top of those holes, the cat always woke up. It’s a cat awakener, wonderful device.
And I wondered, how did Daniel react when he was in the lion’s den? Did he cringe in the corner and say, “Oh God, how could You let this happen to me?” Or did he go up and try the cat awakener? Or did he tie the whiskers in a knot? Or did he say, “He loves me, he loves me not.” Because God had stopped those lion’s mouths. And he had those two avenues, he could either cringe in fear, or he could have faith in God and say all things work together for good to those that love God.
You see, when we leave here tonight, I could go out with my wife in the parking lot and find that my car is gone, my van. Stolen. Oh God, please don’t try me on this. But, I could go out, and have a look that it’s gone, and say, “Oh God, how could You let that happen to me? I was ministering Your Word. Couldn’t You take care of it?” Or I can say, “All things work together for good to those that love God. And are called according to His purposes.” And if you love God, if you are called according to the purpose of God, and not according to your own purpose—that is, you’re not a backslider in heart, filled with your own ways, that you’re filled with the ways of God—you can laugh at the lion.
Think of Joseph. God gave him a dream. God showed Joseph that something wonderful was gonna happen to him. And what happened to him? He gets dropped in a pit by his own brothers. Suddenly his whole world falls apart, but God exalted him in due time. And at the end of the book of Genesis, we see the words where Joseph’s brothers come to him. And they’re scared that he’s gonna get revenge on them. And he said, “You did something that was evil, but God turned it for my good.” There’s Romans 8:28, way back in the Old Testament.
What the Devil Meant for Evil
About a year and a half ago, Sue and I were woken up the night after Halloween. There was something going on on our front lawn. And as we peered out the window, we saw a man running away. A man in his mid-fifties. And as we looked on the lawn, we saw what turned out to be 220 pumpkins on our front lawn.
The practical joker from our church is a very sophisticated practical joker. He had put 220 massive orange pumpkins on our front lawn, and a huge notice saying, “Giant kiwi fruit for sale.” In the morning, Sue and I got up and surveyed the situation. This was 220 pumpkins. I mean, we could only eat pumpkin pie every day for two or three years. Sue says, “What are we gonna do?” I mean, what do you do with 220 pumpkins? Give one to your neighbor. They says, “That’s fine, thanks.” One to the other neighbor. Well, that’s 218 still on your front lawn.
So, I thought, “What do I do?” So, I called up our food ministry. We’ve got a comprehensive food ministry, and I spoke to the guy in charge, I said, “Would you like some pumpkins?” He says, “Yeah. Yeah, that’d be great.” 15 minutes later, ‘round comes this huge truck, picks up every pumpkin, takes them all away. Two days later, I was invited to a Bible study at the food ministry, to about 90 workers. And as I was introduced, the man who introduced me said, “This is Ray Comfort, this is the man that donated all those pumpkins.” And they applauded me. So, what the devil meant for evil, God turned for good.
And about two weeks later, I see this particular practical joker standing at church, his name’s Larry, he’s got a very, very dry sense of humor. I mean, he can just make a joke and not even smile. He’s that sort of guy. He’s standing there and I go up to him, and he says, “Hey, I heard what happened with those pumpkins. Boy, that’s lousy. Fancy someone doing that to you.” So, I said, “Oh, it’s alright, I pray that God will cause the guilty party’s mouth to turn up at the edges.” And he did. God answered my prayer.
A Wounded Spirit
I want to relate to you, an experience I had very similar to Joseph’s experience. And it’s an experience that I had 10 years ago. 1985. I’ve never shared this from a pulpit before. And five years ago, I couldn’t have shared it from the pulpit, because it would’ve brought me to tears. But this is what happened. It’s very personal.
I was staying at a farm, ministering in a small church. On a Sunday afternoon, about 3 o’clock, I went down to my room. And while I was just gonna have a rest, suddenly I…there’s no other way to describe it, but it’s as though God removed from my mind every hedge of protection. And suddenly it felt like demons of fear invaded my mind to a point where I just flung myself on the ground. I cried out to God for deliverance. I asked God to help me, all to no avail.
That night I had to minister. I ministered, it went fine. But inside, I was just so gripped with fear, there’s no words that can describe it except to say very, very similar to being hung over a black chasm of insanity by a spider web. That’s exactly how I felt. Flew back home, walked in the living room. Sue said, “How’d the meetings go?” I said, “They went really good.” Then I just burst into tears. Related to her what happened, and from a year from that point, I was unable to even have a meal with my family. I was so devastated.
I diagnosed myself as having a wounded spirit. Bible says, “A wounded spirit, who can bear?” You can do something about a wounded body, but if you’ve got a wounded spirit, there’s nothing you can do to heal that. Now, it was amazing because God had given me dreams. That is, we have prophecies, we have direction from God that He would open up doors. He was going to do something wonderful. Everyone that came to our church over that time said, “That man there, stand up, come here, I’ve got a word for you.”
One pastor came in, he stood up, and he prophesied what another pastor had prophesied some time earlier. And then he said, “I see a most joyful thing.” He said, “There are thousands, and thousands of young people, and you’re at the front. And you’re leading them, it’s a spirit evangelism.” He said, “It’s so joyful, it’s such a wonderful, wonderful thing.” And others prophesied the same thing. It was dream, after dream, after dream in a sense that God had given me. And then, suddenly, my world just came to an end, I found myself in a pit of despair. Absolute despair.
God Breaks Men to Use Them
A.W. Tozer said these words: “Before God uses a man, God breaks the man.” Turn in your Bibles if you would, to Hebrews 12:8. Some people say, “We don’t know what Paul’s thorn in the flesh is.” We do, it tells it very clearly. Said, “Three times, Paul sought deliverance from a thorn in the flesh.” But the Bible says, clearly, what it was, Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, it was an angel sent to buffet him. A demonic spirit, sent to buffet him.
And he said he prayed three times for deliverance. But God said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” He said, “I’ll help you, because of the abundance of revelation given to you.” He was given that thorn in the flesh. A spirit was sent to buffet him and keep him humble so that when he was weak, then he was strong. When he was brought to a point of utter weakness, then he would totally rely on God.
“A.W. Tozer said these words: ‘Before God uses a man, God breaks the man.’”
Sometimes God lets all Hell lose with us. Why? Well, it tells us why in Hebrews 12:4-11. “You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.’ If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them,” they, that’s our fathers, “But He, for our profits, that we might be partakers of His holiness.” Why does God chasten us? Because He wants to work all things out to our good. It’s for our profit. Verse 11. “Now, no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous. Nevertheless, afterwards it yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them who are exercised thereby.”
No Chastening Seems Joyous
Now, no chastening seems to be joyous. Sometimes God lets us go through pains. Now, I remember about four years ago, I got kidney stones. Now, they’re a lot of fun. Real joyful thing. I remember being in such agony, I found myself lying on the living room floor, just lying there in agony. Gripping the carpet. That’s when the dog brings the ball, and drops it at my face. “Throw the ball, dad. Play.”
That was not a joyous time, but afterwards it yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness. What does that mean? Because when I was going through my pit experience, which was not joyful at all, no chastening for the present time seems to be joyous. But afterwards it yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness. I would say, “Lord, what are the peaceable fruits of righteousness? Whatever they are, please tell me. And I’ll bring them forth really quick, so we can be through this experience.” All I believe that means, when you bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness, is that you do that which is right.
Now, there were three things that kept me sane during my pit experience. In verse 11, here was the word that kept me sane. “Afterwards, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” I grabbed that word afterwards, and wrote it everywhere I looked. I wrote it in the corridors of my mind. That word afterwards means there’s an end to the trouble, the time you’re going through, the tribulation you’re going through. It means the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t necessarily another train heading for you. There is end in sight to that which you’re going through.
Lift up Your Hands
Two, I knew that it was working together for my good and three, all I had to do was look around and I could see somebody worse off than I was. And that’s a strong consolation. Think if you are going through a trial, and you are getting into self-pity, think about those who have 98 percent of their body burned with fire. Think what they’re going through. Think of the horrors and the pains that are in hospitals, even your local hospitals. And be thankful that you can walk out.
Look at Hebrews 12:12-15. “Therefore lift up hands which hang down, and feeble knees.” What’s the Bible saying? It’s saying don’t get depressed. This is working for your good. “Lift up hands which hang down, and feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way. But rather let it be healed and follow after peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one would see the Lord; looking diligently, lest any man fail of the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and by it many be defiled.”
See, if you get into self-pity, then you’ll say, “Why is God doing this?” And you’ll begin to get bitter, you’ll lose your joy. And I have to say, looking back to those five years of sheer terror, I began to read some of the Psalms, and boy did they make sense. When David speaks of being in pits of despair, I had to say with David, “It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”
And I’ll tell you what else it’s done for me. It stopped me singing songs like the hit song “Refiner’s Fire.” “My heart’s one desire is to be holy.” It stopped me getting on my knees, and saying, “Oh God, mold me, shape me. Break me.” You know why? Because I’ve been through it. And it’s no fun.
You Want the Job Experience?
You see, most of us, when we say, “Refiner’s fire. My heart’s one desire is to be holy,” we’ve gotten in minds that either shock, shine or glory coming upon us, and we get the warm fuzzies. But what we’re really saying is, “Oh God, give me a Job experience.” That’s what you’re praying. When you’re saying, “Oh God, mold me. Break me. Shake me. Put me on potter’s vessel.” That’s what God does. He’ll break your spirit.
No, rather, I say this, “Chasten me not in Your hot displeasure.” And I look at the New Testament that says, “Chasten yourself, and you’ll not be chastened.” And I say, “Oh God, I’d rather chasten myself than You chasten me.” I’d rather stir myself up and get right with God. And say, “Oh God, give me a zeal for the lost. Let me walk in holiness. Let my thoughts be pure. Rather than have You refine me. And break me, mold me, shape me.”
See, if you beg God, “Mold me, shape me, break me,” as I said, you’re praying upon yourself a Job experience. Instead of getting the shine of glory coming upon you, you’ll go out and find your car’s been written off. You go home, earthquake’s killed your family, ruined your home, insurance isn’t paid up. You’re losing everything, all that’s happened is you’re going through a Job experience.
What I do is go to the last chapter of Job, and see what happened to Job. What did Job learn? And learn it. Because this was written for our admonition, our learning, our instruction. You don’t have to go through a Job experience. Read the last portions of the book. Lay your hand upon your mouth. Give yourself over to the sovereignty of God, say, “I don’t know anything. I’m not wise in my own eyes. And God, I need You for the very air that I breathe.”
A Caution About Comfort
I was in the city a number of years ago. And usually when you minister at a Christian camp, you’ve got four or five meetings at the camp, and then two meetings on Sundays. The church, this particular church I was at hadn’t learned to ring out the preacher. It was a traditional church that only had me speak once at the camp, and once in the morning service. And I was walking around saying, “This is amazing. I’ve had it so easy.”
“Luxury, warmth and comfort make us so often forget God. Isn’t it true? When do you pray most? When things are going good, or when things are going bad?”
The Sunday afternoon, I was ushered into this very luxurious home, beautiful view. I looked at the room and I mean, it was just a luxurious room. La-Z-Boy recliner with my name on it. I sat down in the La-Z-Boy recliner. In comes this hostess with home-baked cookies, hot chocolate. As I sat back in my ease and comfort, suddenly I jumped out of that chair and gave that woman such a terrible fright. And I began dancing around that room like a mad man. Look around on the seat and there was this yellow-and-black wasp crawling across the seat.
I had been stung on my hindmost parts. You see luxury, warmth and comfort make us so often forget God. Isn’t it true? When do you pray most? When things are going good, or when things are going bad? Pain gets our attention. It makes us pray. Now, look at Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 7:4. He said, “I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.” He said he was filled with comfort. What sort of comfort is he talking about? Comfort from the Scriptures. Paul believed the promises of God. He didn’t get pleasure from the pleasures of this world; he got pleasure from God’s Word.
Pain Prompts Prayer
And when he was filled with comfort from the promises of God, then he was exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation, because he knew that it was God who was working in him to will and to do of His good pleasure. And when I am in pain, that’s when I pray the most. That’s when I have effectual, fervent prayer. And I pray for people in pain when I am in pain, I tend to do that. I can’t help it. I get empathy for them. And I begin to pray for the ungodly. I begin to pray for those who are future ones who are gonna inherit pain for eternity if they die in their sins.
I begin to think of verses, such as the verse in Romans, which says, “To them that are contentious and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, this is what they’re gonna get: indignation, wrath, tribulation, and anguish.” That’s one up from pain. “Upon every soul of man that does evil.” Do you ever consider the pains of the ungodly? Do you ever consider that is what’s gonna happen to your loved ones? Your friends, people you work with if they die in their sins?
I mean, how many of us really believe that? Do we pray for them passionately? Tonight, if you’re not a Christian, you have nothing to laugh at. The Bible says this, “Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.” A Christian can laugh in the face of the lion, he can have joy unspeakable, he can be full of glory. Why? Because he’s right with God through the marriage of Jesus Christ.
Enemies of God
But tonight, if you’re not a Christian, this is what the Bible says: “You are an enemy of God in your mind through wicked works.” Now, how may unbelievers believe that they are enemies of God? Very few. They’re being given this gospel: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” They’re not told they’re enemies of God in their mind through wicked works. That whoever is a friend of the world is an enemy of God. They’re not told, “Fear Him who can kill your body and cast your soul into Hell.”
They’re not told that the wrath of God abides upon them. They have forsaken the law of their God. We, as a nation, have forsaken the law of their God. Like Israel of old, we’ve turned our backs on the Ten Commandments. We’re a nation who has given to idolatry. 96 percent of Americans believe in god, but it’s not the God of the Bible.
A man once wanted to paint his A-frame roof. And this happened about 10 years ago, this was in the U.S. His ladder wouldn’t reach up the top of the A-frame roof, so what he did is he got a long rope. He threw the rope right over the top of his A-frame roof. Went around the other side, and he secured it in a secure knot to the bumper of the car. He wasn’t stupid, he didn’t want to fall off. Then he put on the foot brake, because he wasn’t stupid he didn’t want that car to move and him to slide down. He used his brain. Then he climbed up on that roof, got a rope round his waist and tied it in a knot, and then leaned back and began to paint, thrilled with his ingenuity.
Sometime later, his wife came out of the house, not knowing what he had done, with the car keys in her hand. Got in the car, and drove off. He was pulled up over the roof, and bounced a few times along the road. Which goes to show you and I that you and I are only as secure as to that to which we secure ourselves. And if you secure yourself to any belief outside of this book, God’s word. That will be your eternal downfall.
God Catches the Crafty
A man once walked past a store and he looked in the window and he saw this mangy cat. I mean, it was an ugly cat. Half its ear was chewed off. It had half a tail. It was a flea-bitten, rat-ridden, mangy cat. It was so ugly, if it had gone down the beach, the tide wouldn’t have come in. It was an ugly, rotten, mangy cat.
And he couldn’t believe his eyes. Next to the cat there was a little sign. It said, “Cat For Sale. $50.” He said, “What? What sort of maniac would sell a cat as ugly as that cat for $50?” And as he went to walk away, he saw the cat was licking milk from a little saucer. He thought, “Hey, that’s a Ming Dynasty saucer. That’s worth about a thousand bucks.” So, immediately, he got his wallet out, went in the store and he said, “Hey, I’ll like to buy that old cat, here’s your $50.” The guy took the $50, he says, “Hey, I’ll just take this old saucer so the cat will feel at home.” And the guy says, “You leave that saucer there. I’ve sold 100 cats with that saucer this week.”
That man was caught in his own craftiness. And that sums up the ungodly. The Bible says that caught in their own craftiness, they lack understanding. How many people say, “I’ll become a Christian when I’m older”? They think they’re gonna outwit God. They think they’re gonna keep the Ming Dynasty of their soul. But he that seeks to save his life will lose it, the Bible says. You’ll lose that very soul, that life you so prize.
The Most Priceless Commodity
I remember watching television some time ago, and I heard a news reporter say, “Tonight we’re gonna look at the world’s most priceless commodity.” I thought, “What is the world’s most priceless commodity? Is it gold? Is it silver? Is it oil? What is it?” And this is what he said it was. He said, “Information.” And the man was right. The world’s most priceless commodity is information, because if you have information where the oil is, you’re gonna be very rich. If you have information where the gold is, you’re gonna be very rich. Information can save your life.
If you’re in a burning building, and there’s smoke everywhere and you can’t see a thing, but you have knowledge on how to get out, that information will save your life. And God says, “My people are destroyed through lack of knowledge of My Law.” And multitudes will perish because of a lack of information. They haven’t been given the knowledge of sin, which comes only by the Law. Paul says, “I have not known sin but by the law.” It was the Ten Commandments that showed him sin in its true light.
He measured sin horizontally, so to speak, until he understood that God’s standard is revealed in His Law. And we look at those commandments and realize that lust is adultery in God’s sight and hatred is murder in God’s sight. If we lie once, we’re liars, if we steal one thing, we’re thieves. If we fail to love God with heart, mind, soul and strength, then we’re creatures of ingratitude. God has given us everything we have. Our ability to breathe, our eyes to see with, our brain to think with. Taste buds to enjoy good food. And yet we just snatch from the hand of God. And we’re unthankful.
Are You Grateful?
I was talking to a man on a plane. And he was bitter against God. He was angry against God. He said, “My wife got cancer and where was God?” And I said, “Did you thank God for your wife and for her health before she had cancer?” And the man used to be a professing atheist, until he manifested his hatred to God. And he said, “No.” I said, “Did you ever thank God for your eyes? For the fact that you can think? Did you ever thank God for your life? Did you ever drop to your knees and say, ‘Oh God, You gave me a wife, You gave me the pleasures of this life, You gave me children, I owe everything to You, the air that I breathe, I owe to You’?”
“The greatest commandment is to love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength. Then the greatest sin is failure to do so.”
One thing I find really difficult to handle is when you give a little kid a piece of candy, and the kid goes snatch. Sticks it in his pocket and walks off. Said, “Come here kid, I’ll teach you a bit of gratitude. It’s only right you say thank you.” And for 22 years, I was a non-Christian. Snatching from the hand of God. Never once bowing in reverence and prayer and saying, “Oh God, thank You for my food.” Man, two or three weeks in Africa, in Ethiopia would teach me a little bit of gratitude.
The greatest commandment is to love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength. Then the greatest sin is failure to do so. And yet that’s what unregenerate humanity is like. Neither were they thankful, the Bible says. They’re unholy, loving darkness, hating the light. Drinking iniquity like water.
None Are Good
Little girl was watching a sheep eat grass. She thought to herself, “Man, that sheep looks nice and white against the green grass.” And then it began to snow. And the girl thought, “Man, that sheep now looks dirty against the white snow.” It was the same sheep but with a different background. And when you and I compare ourselves to the background of man’s standards, we come up reasonably clean. There are plenty of people worse than us. But when you and I take the time to measure ourselves but the holy righteousness, the white, snowy white righteousness of God’s Law, then we see we’re not as clean as we thought.
God’s law is perfect, holy, just, and good. But you say, “Hey, there’s plenty of good people.” No, there’s not. The Bible says, “There’s none good, no, not one.” If you think there are good people, could you name a few? Say, Mother Teresa, no she’s not good. She says she needs Jesus Christ as her Savior. She acknowledges her sins. Well, how about Mahatma Gandhi? He was a good man. No he wasn’t. He said after years, a lifetime as a Hindu, he was still separated from the god that he loved by his own wretchedness. He acknowledged his sins.
And when it comes down to it, the only good people that people who say “There are good people” can find is themselves. It’s called self-righteousness. What they’re doing is saying, “Well, I’m a good person basically.” And all you’ve got to do is measure yourself by the standard of the Ten Commandments. If you’ve lied then you’re a liar. If you’ve stolen then you’re a thief. If you lusted, then you’re an adulterer at heart.
And what we need to do is say, “God. I see myself in truth under the light of Your Law. I have sinned against Heaven.” Say, “Thank you, Lord, that You provided a Savior. Born that man no more may die. Born to raise the sons of Earth. Born to give them second birth.” Why did God become manifest in human form? To suffer on the cross for our sins. And when Jesus died on the cross, He redeemed us from the curse of the Law being make a curse for us. The Bible says we will wade in the balance of eternal justice, and found wanting, but Jesus justified us.
He paid the fine in the courtroom. He said, “Judge, here is the fine, paid in My own blood.” And once the fine was paid, when Jesus quieted as finished, God could then grant remission of sins to humanity. And all those that repent and put their faith in the Savior, God can say, “Your case is dismissed.” Many times the New Testament warns of Hell. Hell is God’s just reward to those who were contentious and obey not the truth.
Let me close with this one challenge. How many people here tonight would consider selling one eye for a million dollars? If I was a doctor, and I had authority under a new law to offer you a million dollars for one of your eyes, for an eye transplant, how many of you would sell an eye for a million dollars? We could take your eye out in one hour, it’d be totally painless. We could give you another eye that would look as good as this eye, it just wouldn’t look as good as this eye.
Be honest. There’s usually a few guys that will consider it. Come on. A million dollars, this is tax free. We’re just down an eye for a million dollars. Okay, think of what you could do for a million dollars. Now think of this: Would you sell both your eyes for 10 million? 20 million? 50 million cash, anybody here sell both eyes for 50 million? You say, “Oh, 50 million. Whoa, now I could see the world.” Nuh uh. Nobody in his right mind would sell his eyes for 50 million. 100 million. Your eyes are priceless, they’re precious. And to you, they’re merely windows to your soul. Your life, your soul, looks out the windows of your eyes. You shut the shutters, you can’t see out.
Jesus said you are to despise the value of your eye compared to the value of your soul. He said, “If your eye offends you, or causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. For it is better to enter heaven without an eye than to go to hell with both your eyes.” He said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? What should a man give in exchange for his soul?”
In other words, of all the things you should prioritize in your life, it’s not your marriage, it’s not your health, it’s not your money, it’s not your vocation. Those things are temporal. It is your eternal salvation. And maybe you have never, ever considered how much your eyes are worth before tonight. Tonight, consider how much your soul is worth. What are you giving in exchange for your soul? Is it your own philosophy? Is it your pride? Your love for sin?
Ask God to open the eyes of your understanding and see the issues that are at stake, your eternal salvation. So, tonight, see God with all your heart if you’re not a Christian. Say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Acknowledge your sins, confess and forsake your sins. Put your faith in Jesus, in the same way you would put your faith in a pilot when you fly in a plane. You trust your life to him. Just trust your life to Jesus Christ. Pick up a Bible. Open its pages, and read the Word daily. And God will never fail you.