‘Pray and ask God for everything you need.’ Philippians 4:6 NCV
Can you imagine walking into a restaurant and asking if your order is ready? ‘When did you call it in?’ the server asks. ‘Oh, I didn’t,’ you reply. ‘I just thought perhaps you might have something with my name on it.’ That’s as ridiculous as expecting God to answer prayer requests you haven’t made—or haven’t made in faith. The Bible says, ‘The reason you don’t have what you want is… you don’t ask God.’ (James 4:2 TLB)
Will God give you everything you ask for? No. ‘Even when you do ask you don’t get it because… you want only what will give you pleasure.’ (James 4:3 TLB) Your request must be in harmony with God’s will. ‘If we ask anything… according to His will… He…hears.’ (1 John 5:14 AMP) Jeremiah said, ‘The Lord is good to those who wait…expectantly for Him.’ (Lamentations 3:25 AMP) Expectant prayer demonstrates confidence in God’s goodness. So instead of fretting, or talking about it to everybody but God, or taking matters into your own hands, say, ‘Lord, I’m going to trust You with this regardless of the outcome,’ and He will honor your faith.
Paul writes, ‘Pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks.’ Do you need a job? Help overcoming a problem? The salvation of a loved one? A deeper spiritual walk? Physical or emotional healing? Guidance? Jesus said, ‘It gives your Father great happiness to give you the [benefits of His] Kingdom.’ (Luke 12:32 NLT) God wants to be good to you, so tell Him the ‘desires of your heart.’ (Psalm 37:4 NKJV) Then thank Him and believe the answer will come—in His time!
‘He will increase what you have.’ 2 Corinthians 9:10 CEV
Some people think God is opposed to our having money, or that He doesn’t want us to have very much of it. But the Bible says, ‘He will increase what you have, so… you can give even more to those in need. You will be blessed in every way, and you will be able to keep on being generous.’ (2 Corinthians 9:10–11 CEV)
Want some good advice? Get God involved in your finances, and keep Him involved! It’s an area in which you can have an interactive relationship with Him, but you need to invite Him in. Think about it. Have you ever heard anyone pray, ‘Lord, I’ve withheld from You all these years while I followed my own plan. As a result, I’ve gotten into this financial mess. But I still think my plan can work, so I’ll figure things out on my own and You can go help somebody else’? No, when the bottom drops out of the financial bucket we want God to get involved, so we focus on persuading Him to come to our rescue. At this point our prayers become an S.O.S. ‘Help, Lord! Please do something! Anything!’ We reach a point where we’re finally willing to acknowledge that He controls everything. We’re no longer bashful about asking Him to do what we’ve always known He’s capable of doing: to move some money here, or take away some financial pressure there.
So what’s stopping you from asking God to get involved now—before the bottom drops out? Doesn’t it make sense to position yourself to receive His direct intervention as soon and as often as possible?
‘They…fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him.’ Acts 20:37 NKJV
Emotional intimacy is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone. It fills their souls and yours too. It eliminates our loneliness. And yes, even in our macho society the Bible suggests emotional intimacy between men. The elders of the church at Ephesus, realizing they would never see Paul again, ‘wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more.’ (Acts 20:37–38 NKJV) Famed athlete Bill Russell says, ‘Most people have a harder time letting themselves love than finding someone to love them.’
So, what can you do? (1) Understand the source of your fear. What happened to make you avoid a desire to be known? (2) Accept yourself completely—every feature, every imperfection—as God’s masterpiece; then you can stop worrying about someone rejecting you because you’re not perfect. (3) Test the waters. Start gradually with a few friends and begin to share your needs and how you really feel. Confess your struggle with your weight, self-image, habits or other issues. Instead of pretending you’re something that you’re not, ask for support. Find joy in being authentic. (4) Practice saying, ‘I love you’ to the significant people in your life even if it feels foreign to do so. Stop fearing. ‘I love you’ doesn’t translate, ‘I want to be your slave,’ nor does it say, ‘I’ll tolerate anything and remain in relationship with you.’ It just means ‘I’m committed to our relationship, and I believe that by God’s help we can work through the problem.’
‘They were both naked…and were not ashamed.’ Genesis 2:25 NKJV
Adam and Eve had no secrets from each other. ‘They were both naked…and were not ashamed.’ As a couple, God said they had power to rule the world. And that’s when Satan entered the picture. What did he attack? Their intimacy! ‘The eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.’ (Genesis 2:7 NKJV)
The word intimacy means ‘to be open, transparent, and trusting.’ When Adam and Eve lost that, they started hiding from God—and each other. And we’ve been hiding from each other ever since. Emotional intimacy is the bedrock of any meaningful relationship. Without it, relationships become shallow and unfulfilling. We are afraid of revealing to others our fears, needs, insecurities, secrets, hopes, dreams, weird opinions or our undesirable parts. And this fear is rooted in the fear of loneliness: ‘If you really knew me, you’d leave me.’ Or the fear of inadequacy: ‘You may be disappointed in me because I cannot fulfil all your expectations.’ Or the fear of losing control: ‘Now that you know how I feel, you may use it to control me.’ Women play ‘hard to get’ and men play the ‘tough guy’ who doesn’t need anybody.
What’s the answer? Learning to pray together. Our most honest moments are before the God who already knows everything about us. When we share such moments the barriers come down, our hearts tenderize toward one another, and we move closer together.
‘With her enticing speech she caused him to yield.’ Proverbs 7:21 NKJV
Psychologist Henry Brandt tells how his son got upset when he wouldn’t permit him to go out alone in a car with a girl down to the lake after dark. ‘What’s wrong, Dad?’ demanded the son. ‘Don’t you trust me?’ Brandt replied: ‘In a car, alone at night, in front of a lake, with a beautiful girl? I wouldn’t trust me!’ Solomon got involved early and strongly in the lives of his children, and educated them about God’s perspective on sex. The three largest sections in Proverbs dealing with one topic are found in chapters 5 through 7. In chapters 5 and 6, Solomon dealt exclusively with premarital sex—fornication. He devoted almost the entirety of chapter 7 to extramarital sex—adultery. And in between, he gave a frank discussion of sex within the will of God.
For too long pastors and parents have kept their heads buried in the sand, hoping this topic would just go away. But the subject can’t be avoided. Pollster George Gallup stated: ‘There’s no question about it, sex-related issues are going to become the most important issues facing all churches in the foreseeable future. Abortion, AIDS, premarital sex, homosexuality—all those are going to be at the vortex.’ Solomon warned his son, ‘With her enticing speech she caused him to yield.’
So whether you’re a father, a mother, a single parent, or even a grandparent, your child won’t make the wrong move if they’re not in the wrong place, with the wrong person, at the wrong time. So teach them, ‘If you don’t want to get burned, stay away from the fire!’
‘My son, hear the instruction of your father.’ Proverbs 1:8 NKJV
In Proverbs the words my son are used twenty-three times, and the word father is used nineteen times. So it’s a letter from a father to his son. It’s also a letter from a father to other fathers, about being a good father. It not only teaches a father how to lead his children, but how to live before them.
Interestingly, the letter contains a lot of warnings about the misuse of sex and the heartache it can bring. We’ve probably all heard the story of the twelve-year-old boy whose dad said, ‘Son, don’t you think it’s time we had a talk about sex?’ The little guy said, ‘Sure, Dad. What do you want to know?’ The sad truth is that today our children are getting their sex education in school, from their friends, from the internet and from experimentation—but not at home. Solomon writes, ‘Why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman?’ (Proverbs 5:20 NKJV) Sex education is the answer—as long as it involves the right teacher, the right classroom and the right curriculum. And the right teacher is you, Dad; the right classroom is your home; and the right curriculum is the Bible. A study of 10,000 high school students revealed that strong parental values and supervision have the most significant effect on a teen’s sexual activity. Parents who had a close relationship with their daughters and supervised their schoolwork and activities, were able by 42 percent to curb the likelihood that they’d ever become pregnant out of wedlock.
So Dad (and Mum), speak up. Get involved. You can’t afford not to!
‘You will be given a full amount in return.’ Luke 6:38 CEV
One night a man came to Mother Teresa’s house and told her about a family of eight who hadn’t eaten for a week. When she got there she saw the faces of little ones suffering from malnutrition, so she gave them a sack of rice. Then the children’s mother did something interesting. She kept half the rice and went out carrying the other half. When she returned Mother Teresa asked, ‘Where did you go?’ She answered, ‘To my neighbors; they’re hungry also.’ Mother Teresa says, ‘I wasn’t surprised that she gave; the poor are usually very generous. But I was surprised that she knew they were hungry. As a rule, when we’re suffering we’ve no time for others.’
The Bible teaches that when you focus on the needs of others God will make sure your needs get met too. (See Ephesians 6:8) So if you want it, give it! Here’s why: (1) Giving is the key to blessing. Jesus said, ‘If you give to others, you will be given a full amount in return. It will be packed down, shaken together, and spilling over into your lap.’ (2) The seed you sow now decides the size of the harvest you’ll reap later. No seed is too little to multiply if you’re willing to sow it. By finding a cause greater than your own self-interest and pouring yourself into it, you discover two things: first, it’s ok to acknowledge your limitations as long as you don’t build your life around them. Second, God’s blessing is released when you give what you have instead of talking about what you don’t have.
So if you want it, give it!
‘God has heard your prayers and knows about your gifts to the poor.’ Acts 10:4 CEV
Up until this time the Gospel had been preached exclusively to the Jews. But all that was about to change: ‘One afternoon at about three o’clock, Cornelius had a vision. He saw an angel from God coming to him and calling him by name… “God has heard your prayers and knows about your gifts to the poor. Now send some men to Joppa for a man named Simon Peter.”’ (Acts 10:3–5 CEV) As a result of Cornelius’ prayers and generosity, he became the first Gentile to hear the Gospel and be saved. What a payoff!
God hears the kind words you speak to others when they’re hurting. He sees your sacrificial giving when you can least afford it. By doing what you’re doing, you’re paving the way for God to help you. He’s storing it all up so that in your time of need you’ll have a rich account to draw on. A lady was praying about starting a pet-grooming business but she couldn’t afford to advertise. So she went to her local animal shelter and volunteered to groom the pets to increase their chances for adoption. Interestingly, the harder she worked, the more her own business grew by word of mouth until she ended up with more clients than she could handle.
You say, ‘Does that mean if I don’t help others God won’t help me?’ Thankfully, no! God’s love is unconditional. But when you say ‘no’ to an opportunity to give, you miss out on an opportunity to receive. The principle of reciprocity is simple: when you’re generous with others, God promises to be generous with you. (See 2 Corinthians 9:6–8)
‘The hand of the diligent makes rich.’ Proverbs 10:4 NKJV
Never assume your instructions are clearly understood and will be carried out. The Bible says, ‘The hand of the diligent makes rich,’ and the word diligent means paying careful attention to details.
When you give someone instructions, check to be sure they’ve made a note of them. If not, you should be concerned. The unlearned and uncommitted tend to trust their memory with everything, but the shortest pencil is still better than the longest memory. When someone doesn’t consider what you’re saying important enough to write down, they are sending you a signal; the light is flashing red. Even if their intentions are good, in their busyness or overconfidence your instructions can easily be forgotten. Those who are follow-through people always ask additional questions about the assignment and instructions you give them. For example, when you ask them to telephone somebody about a particular matter, they should automatically ask you: (a) Is there a deadline on this? (b) When do you need a report back on the results of this call? (c) Is there any additional information I need to know? If those kinds of questions are not forthcoming, chances are that person is not giving enough thought to their assignment. When someone tells you, ‘I’ll try to get to it,’ that’s another flashing red light, because much of the time they won’t. The word try often reveals halfheartedness. Give your instructions to one specific person—not two. Document the date you gave it to them and when you need them to report back.
In other words: only give instructions to someone who is qualified to receive and implement them.
‘They didn’t even smell of smoke!’ Daniel 3:27 NLT
When King Nebuchadnezzar threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into the fiery furnace, God brought them out and ‘they didn’t even smell of smoke!’ We’ve all encountered people who still ‘smell like smoke’. Their attitude says, ‘I’ve been through a hard time, and I’m still upset about it.’ How about you? Have the experiences you’ve been through hardened your heart or softened it? When you speak, do you sound positive or negative? Are you bound by the memories of your past? Do you talk about your pain to anyone who will listen? Don’t you see what you’re doing—chaining yourself to the past? When circus elephants are young and unaware of their strength, they’re bound by a chain to a stake to limit their mobility. Later when they’re full-grown and have the strength to break that chain, they’re still bound by it. Why? Because they accept this limitation as permanent!
But it’s not the chain that binds them, it’s the memory! If you are bound by painful and debilitating memories, the word for you today is: ‘Lord our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone do we honor. They are now dead, they live no more; their spirits do not rise. You punished them and brought them to ruin; you wiped out all memory of them.’ (Isaiah 26:13–14 NIV)
Whatever your haunting memory is, you must begin to declare your deliverance from its bondage. By standing on God’s Word, you activate its power to set you free.