Category Archives: Growth in Life

HOW CAN I TAKE CONTROL OF MY THOUGHTS?

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Many Christians struggle with this issue, especially in our highly technological world, but taking control of our thoughts is essential. Proverbs 4:23 states, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” The “heart” includes the mind and all that proceeds from it. Someone said that every sin we commit, we commit twice, once in our thoughts and again when we act upon those thoughts. It is easier to rid our lives of sin if we attack it at this fundamental thought level rather than waiting for it to become rooted in our lives by our actions and then try to pull it out.

There is also a difference between being tempted (a thought entering into the mind) and sinning (dwelling upon an evil thought and wallowing in it). It is important to understand that when a thought enters our mind, we examine it based upon God’s Word and determine if we should continue down that path or reject the thought and replace it with another thought. If we have already allowed a habit to form in our thought lives, it becomes more difficult to change the path of our thoughts, even as it is hard to get a car out of a deep rut and onto a new track. Here are some biblical suggestions for taking control of our thoughts and getting rid of wrong thoughts:

1. Be in God’s Word so that when a sinful thought enters our mind (a temptation), we will be able to recognize it for what it is and know what course to take. Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4) responded to each of Satan’s temptations with Scripture that applied to the direction He knew His mind should take instead of beginning down the path of the sinful thought. When tempted to meet His physical need (turn stone into bread), He recited the passage about the importance of relying upon God. When tempted to serve Satan in order to obtain the glory of the world, He brought up the passage that says we are to serve and worship God alone and speak of the glory that belongs to Him and those who are His. When tempted to test God (to see if God was really there and would keep His promises), Jesus responded with passages that stress the importance of believing God without having to see Him demonstrate His presence.

Quoting Scripture in a time of temptation is not a talisman, but rather serves the purpose of getting our minds onto a biblical track, but we need to know the Word of God AHEAD of time in order to accomplish this. Thus, a daily habit of being in the Word in a meaningful way is essential. If we are aware of a certain area of constant temptation (worry, lust, anger, etc.), we need to study and memorize key passages that deal with those issues. Looking for both what we are to avoid (negative) and how we are to properly respond (positive) to tempting thoughts and situations—before they are upon us—will go a long way to giving us victory over them.

2. Live in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, chiefly through seeking His strength through prayer (Matthew 26:41). If we rely upon our own strength, we will fail (Proverbs 28:26;Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 26:33).

3. We are not to feed our minds with that which will promote sinful thoughts. This is the idea of Proverbs 4:23. We are to guard our hearts—what we allow into them and what we allow them to dwell on. Job 31:1 states, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman” (NKJV). Romans 13:14 states, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Thus, we are to avoid periodicals, videos, websites, conversations, and situations that will set us up for a fall. We should also avoid spending time with those who would encourage us down these wrong paths.

4. We are to pursue hard after God, replacing sinful thoughts with godly pursuits and mindsets. This is the principle of replacement. When tempted to hate someone, we replace those hateful thoughts with godly actions: we do good to them, speak well of them, and pray for them (Matthew 5:44). Instead of stealing, we should work hard to earn money so we can look for opportunities to give to others in need (Ephesians 4:28). When tempted to lust after a woman, we turn our gaze, praise God for the way He has made us—male and female—and pray for the woman (for example: “Lord, help this young woman to come to know you if she does not, and to know the joy of walking with you”), then think of her as a sister (1 Timothy 5:2). The Bible often speaks of “putting off” wrong actions and thoughts but then “putting on” godly actions and thoughts (Ephesians 4:22-32). Merely seeking to put off sinful thoughts without replacing those thoughts with godly ones leaves an empty field for Satan to come along and sow his weeds (Matthew 12:43-45).

5. We can use fellowship with other Christians the way God intended. Hebrews 10:24-25 states, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Fellow Christians who will encourage us in the changes we desire (best if of the same gender), who will pray for and with us, who will ask us in love how we are doing, and who will hold us accountable in avoiding the old ways, are valuable friends indeed.

Last and most important, these methods will be of no value unless we have placed our faith in Christ as Savior from our sin. This is where we absolutely must start! Without this, there can be no victory over sinful thoughts and temptations, and God’s promises for His children are not for us, nor is the Holy Spirit’s power available to us!

God will bless those who seek to honor Him with what matters most to Him: who we are inside and not just what we appear to be to others. May God make Jesus’ description of Nathanael true also of us—a man [or woman] in whom there is no guile (John 1:47).

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHY IS WAITING ON GOD SO DIFFICULT?

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Waiting on God is not only difficult; sometimes it seems impossible. We want things to happen in our own timing, according to our plans. But God doesn’t operate on our schedules, and expecting that He will sets one up for disappointment.

Waiting on God means going without answers to prayer, wondering why the wicked seem to prosper, and having desires delayed and hope deferred. God has a greater perspective of life’s events, and His perspective, plans, and schedules are perfect and holy, because He is perfect and holy. The psalmist tells us, “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30). If God’s ways are “perfect,” then we can trust that whatever He does—and whatever His timing—is also perfect. When we grasp that fact, waiting on God is not only made less difficult, it actually becomes joyful.

The promises of God are clear on this matter—in waiting on God, we find our strength renewed (Isaiah 40:31). But we are human, and we live in a fast-paced culture that demands everything now. That’s one reason why waiting on God is difficult. Sometimes, the prayers we lift up to the Lord of Hosts are answered immediately, and that encourages us to further trust and confidence. However, sometimes the Lord’s answers are delayed. Over a period of time, the Lord tests our faith, and that’s when we can really struggle. We may even start to wonder whether the Lord is really listening to our prayers.

Waiting on God should not cause the believer to doubt or to worry. The apostle Paul exhorts us to not be anxious about anything (Philippians 4:6). The King James Version translates this as the command to be “careful for nothing.” This means we are not to be full of care over anything; we should be mindful of nothing that might cause concern, except to bring it to God in prayer. Anxiety in the believer suggests a lack of faith, and that grieves the Lord (see Matthew 8:26).

Waiting on God can keep us out of trouble. Abraham had God’s promise of a son through whom the covenant would be fulfilled (Genesis 15:4). Abraham and Sarah tried and waited, but they could have no child. Rather than waiting on God and His timing, they unwisely took matters into their own hands, and Ishmael was the result (Genesis 16).

One divine attribute that will enable us to patiently wait on God is His sovereignty. We can have complete confidence in His total, independent control over every creature, event, and circumstance at every moment in history. Subject to none, influenced by none, and absolutely independent, God does what He pleases, only as He pleases, and always as He pleases. Nothing can stay His hand: “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:10). Once we better understand God’s sovereignty, coupled with His goodness, waiting for God to act becomes a matter of a child trusting in his father’s faithfulness, sure of his father’s strength.

Waiting on God is never easy, but we wait in the knowledge that God knows our situation, He cares for our needs, and He is good to the end. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHY DOES GOD ALLOW US TO GO THROUGH TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS?

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One of the most difficult parts of the Christian life is the fact that becoming a disciple of Christ does not make us immune to life’s trials and tribulations. Why would a good and loving God allow us to go through such things as the death of a child, disease and injury to ourselves and our loved ones, financial hardships, worry and fear? Surely, if He loved us, He would take all these things away from us. After all, doesn’t loving us mean He wants our lives to be easy and comfortable? Well, no, it doesn’t. The Bible clearly teaches that God loves those who are His children, and He “works all things together for good” for us (Romans 8:28). So that must mean that the trials and tribulations He allows in our lives are part of the working together of all things for good. Therefore, for the believer, all trials and tribulations must have a divine purpose.

As in all things, God’s ultimate purpose for us is to grow more and more into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). This is the goal of the Christian, and everything in life, including the trials and tribulations, is designed to enable us to reach that goal. It is part of the process of sanctification, being set apart for God’s purposes and fitted to live for His glory. The way trials accomplish this is explained in 1 Peter 1:6-7: “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The true believer’s faith will be made sure by the trials we experience so that we can rest in the knowledge that it is real and will last forever.

Trials develop godly character, and that enables us to “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:3-5). Jesus Christ set the perfect example. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). These verses reveal aspects of His divine purpose for both Jesus Christ’s trials and tribulations and ours. Persevering proves our faith. “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

However, we must be careful never to make excuses for our “trials and tribulations” if they are a result of our own wrongdoing. “By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler” (1 Peter 4:15). God will forgive our sins because the eternal punishment for them has been paid by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. However, we still have to suffer the natural consequences in this life for our sins and bad choices. But God uses even those sufferings to mold and shape us for His purposes and our ultimate good.

Trials and tribulations come with both a purpose and a reward. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. . . . Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:2-4,12).

Through all of life’s trials and tribulations, we have the victory. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ.” Although we are in a spiritual battle, Satan has no authority over the believer in Christ. God has given us His Word to guide us, His Holy Spirit to enable us, and the privilege of coming to Him anywhere, at any time, to pray about anything.

Prophet Nathan Emol

THE NEED OF THE WORLD OVERWHELM ME! AM I TOO SENSITIVE?

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Sensitivity to the world’s needs is a healthy sign that you are not completely self-absorbed. Pain, hunger, sorrow, and tragedy are regular occurrences in this once-perfect world, now ravaged by the effects of sin (Genesis 3:16–19). With the invention of satellite and the internet, we are bombarded by information from around the globe as it is happening, and our responses to the needs we see can range from apathy to anxiety to hopelessness. Apathy is not an option for a Christian, but neither is anxiety or hopelessness. We want to remain sensitive to needs and be aware of the desperate struggles in the world, but we also must learn how to set emotional boundaries for ourselves. Without those boundaries, we may become depressed or angry. We want to be sensitive to needs without being overwhelmed by them. We want to sorrow over the world’s condition without losing hope.

Jesus should always be our model. We can look at His years on earth to see how He handled living in a world filled with needs. His heart was sensitive: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). The Bible records two times that Jesus wept: He wept at the gravesite of Lazarus (John 11:35), and He wept over the stubborn sin of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41–42). His heart was tender, and seeing the effects of death and sin moved Him to tears. But Jesus did not allow Himself to be overwhelmed. He saw the enormity of the problem, but He did not give in to anxious thoughts or sink into depression. He knew who He was and why He was here. He had come to earth on a mission (Luke 9:51). He was not merely sad about the human condition; He had compassion, and He did something about it (Mark 1:38; Luke 4:43; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Paul is another example of one who was sensitive to the needs around him. He poured out his life as a drink offering for the benefit of others (Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6). In Romans 9:2 Paul expresses sorrow over the lost condition of his fellow Hebrews. The Corinthians, in particular, saddened him with their immaturity and carnality, and he expressed his sorrow to them: “For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you” (2 Corinthians 2:4). The needs of the world often caused Paul grief, but it was not an impotent grief. He was called by God to be a preacher to the Gentiles (Romans 15:16), and he faithfully did what he could to further the gospel of truth.

It is good to be sensitive to the needs of the world (Proverbs 14:21; 19:17). One of the characteristics of the wicked is their “unfeeling heart” (Psalm 17:10, NASB). But our sensitivity must lead to positive action. The needs of the world, as weighty as they are, can overwhelm us when we remain motionless in our sorrow. We click through stories of tragedy, feel an ache in our hearts, but do nothing. Because the needs seem so overwhelming, we cannot imagine that we can do anything about it, so we do nothing. However, taking action of some kind puts our sorrow to work. Christian humanitarian organizations abound that are dedicated to the very issues that grip our hearts. By serving, giving, and supporting Jesus’ hands and feet on earth, we can channel inner turmoil into outer productivity.

We cannot solve all the world’s problems, but we can help someone. We may not be able to end world hunger, but we can feed one hungry child. We cannot singlehandedly stop human trafficking, but we can join our resources with ten thousand others to rescue some victims. We feel overwhelmed when we don’t know what to do. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). We should be sensitive to needs and then allow our sorrow to propel us to action. God does not hold us responsible for solving the world’s problems, only for being obedient to everything He has placed before us (Proverbs 3:27; John 9:4; 2 Corinthians 9:7). When we do that, we can entrust the rest of it to Him.

Prophet Nathan Emol

IS SUFFERING FOR CHRIST ALWAYS GOING TO BE PART OF FOLLOWING CHRIST?

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The Bible talks a lot about suffering for the sake of Christ. In the era in which the New Testament was written, followers of Jesus were often ostracized by their own families and communities. Some of the worst persecution came from the religious leaders (Acts 4:1–3). Jesus told His followers, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). He reminded His disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18).

Second Timothy 3:12 says, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” As in biblical times, many Christians today have found that making a public declaration of faith in Christ can result in imprisonment, beatings, torture, or death (Hebrews 11:32–38; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 3:8; Acts 5:40). Often those of us in free nations shudder at the thought, but we feel relatively safe. We understand that there are thousands who suffer daily for the sake of Christ and are thankful we don’t have to. But is there only one kind of persecution?

Jesus stated clearly what it means to follow Him: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:23–25). Our modern understanding of the phrase “take up their cross and follow me” is often inadequate. In Jesus’ day the cross always symbolized death. When a man carried a cross, he had already been condemned to die on it. Jesus said that, in order to follow Him, one must be willing to die. We will not all die martyrs’ deaths. We will not all be imprisoned, beaten, or tortured for our faith. So what kind of death did Jesus mean?

Paul explains in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” To follow Christ means we die to our own way of doing things. We consider our will, our rights, our passions, and our goals to be crucified on the cross with Him. Our right to direct our own lives is dead to us (Philippians 3:7–8). Death involves suffering. The flesh does not want to die. Dying to self is painful and goes against our natural inclination to seek our own pleasure. But we cannot follow both Christ and the flesh (Luke 16:13; Matthew 6:24; Romans 8:8). Jesus said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

Paul suffered more than most for Jesus’ sake. He said this to the Christians at Phillipi: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:29). The word granted here means “shown favor, given freely as a gift.” Paul does not present suffering as a curse, but as a benefit.

Suffering can take many forms. By choosing to obey the Lord Jesus Christ, we are setting ourselves at odds with the world. Galatians 1:10 says, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (NASB). By closely adhering to the teachings of the Bible, we set ourselves up for rejection, mockery, loneliness, or betrayal. Often, the cruelest persecution comes from those who consider themselves spiritual but have defined God according to their own ideas. If we choose to take a stand for righteousness and biblical truth, we ensure that we will be misunderstood, mocked, or worse. We need to keep in mind that no threat of suffering deterred the apostles from preaching Christ. In fact, Paul said that losing everything was worth it “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10, NASB). Acts 5:40–41 describes the reaction of the apostles after they received another beating for preaching about Jesus: “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”

Suffering in some form is always going to be a part of being a true follower of Christ. Jesus said the path that leads to life is difficult (Matthew 7:14). Our hardship is also a way of identifying with His suffering in a small way.

Jesus said if we deny him before men, He will deny us before His Father in heaven (Matthew 10:33; Luke 12:9). There are many subtle ways to deny Christ. If our actions, words, lifestyle, or entertainment choices do not reflect His will, we are denying Christ. If we claim to know Him but live as though we didn’t, we are denying Christ (1 John 3:6–10). Many people choose those forms of denying Christ because they do not want to suffer for Him.

Often our greatest suffering comes from within as we battle for control over a heart that must die to its own will and surrender to Christ’s lordship (Romans 7:15–25). In whatever form suffering comes, we should embrace it as a badge of honor and a privilege that we, like the apostles, have “been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”

Prophet Nathan Emol