REASONS WHY MIRACLES HAPPEN
BOOST YOUR FAITH
God wants to boost our faith in the power of the Atonement so we will know that it is God’s desire for all of His people to walk in divine health and to minister complete healing to others. The commission of Mark 16:17, 18 should not merely be words on a page, but a daily reality–
‘And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents, and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’
If you’re a believer, then you are a candidate for this commission!
HEALING IS FOR ALL
Surely He has borne [suffered for] our griefs [sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses] and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed (Is. 53:4, 5).
In a prophetic fulfillment of the healing power of Jesus’ suffering, Peter writes, “By whose stripes you were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24). It is done! The cross is a done deal. Both scriptures speak of how Jesus paid for sin and healing all at once through the Atonement. He not only bore our sins in His body, but also “surely” bore our sicknesses.
Although we see and acknowledge Christ’s suffering for our cleansing and healing, we must also see Him as the overcoming One. He didn’t merely suffer; He conquered sin, disease, death, and the grave! We must see Him as the victorious Christ who rose up on the third day with resurrection power over sickness, disease, and death. He took the curse of the Law and redeemed us so we could once again come into the blessing of Abraham and be whole in body, soul, and spirit (Gal. 3:13, 14).
VICTORY OVER SIN AND SICKNESS
Christians today often fail to see Him as the resurrected, victorious Christ. They still relate to Him as the suffering, afflicted, wounded Jesus on the cross. Much of the church presents Jesus that way today. Isaiah is saying that surely, in the same way that He has suffered for our iniquities, He was beaten for our sicknesses. After Christ suffered and died, He conquered the grave and rose victorious over sin and disease so we can now walk in victory over these same enemies.
It is vital that the church begins to emphasize the overcoming power of Christ! Yes, He suffered on our behalf, but now He is the conquering One who has overcome sin, sickness, disease, death, and poverty. If we will put our faith in the victorious Christ, we can receive the blessing of sozo — the forgiveness, liberty, and healing He has provided for all through His atoning sacrifice, a sacrifice freely given so we can live a victorious Christian life by overcoming sin and sickness.
THE FINGERPRINT OF GOD’S LOVE
The fingerprint of God’s love is on all thirty reasons miracles happen! Everything in the kingdom works by love. Faith, power, and the anointing have no lasting value unless motivated by love (Gal. 5:6). Thus the number 1 reason miracles happen is:
1. GOD’S LOVE
The Father’s heart of love for people is the number one reason miracles happen. His love, expressed through the Abrahamic covenant thousands of years ago, now blesses us as 21st century believers with salvation, deliverance, prosperity, and healing. Under the New Covenant, we can receive those same blessings because we are redeemed from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13, 14). Love, compassion, and tender mercies motivated Jesus’ ministry. “And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick” (Matt. 14:14).
2. GOD KEEPS HIS COVENANTS
God’s covenants are extremely powerful and sure because God is a God of His word. His promises are even surer than His name, than His very nature as God. If He promises something, He does it. It’s as simple as that! God’s promise of healing, “by whose stripes you were healed” is a sure thing we can stand on (1 Peter 2:24).
3. GOD WILLS IT
God wants to heal, and He’s willing to heal you. It’s easy to believe that He wants to heal, but harder to believe that He’s willing to heal you. The leprous man said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean” (Matt. 8:2). Jesus responded, “I am willing. Be cleansed.” Remember the Gentile centurion who didn’t even have to ask Jesus to heal his servant? Jesus simply said, “I will come and heal him” (Matt. 8:7).
Similarly, the disciples prayed for God to release Peter from prison. Someone knocked at the door and Rhoda answered. It was Peter! (Acts 12:13). Their answer was so immediate that they didn’t believe Rhoda’s report. Believe for an answer while you’re still asking. God wills it. He wants to heal you! Jesus is just as willing to heal us. Believe in His goodness and His desire to heal. He is saying to each of us, “My son, my daughter–I am willing. Be made whole.”
4. MASS EVANGELISM
Lost souls are God’s passion, and healing is the number one tool for harvest. A great multitude followed Jesus “because they saw His signs that He performed” on the afflicted (John 6:2). Jesus reached the entire nation of Israel with the Good News because He healed all kinds of sickness and disease and His fame went through all of Syria (Matt. 4:24). We tell the world that God is real, but they cry out, “Show me!” Jesus showed them. He healed them and reached them, and they followed.
Two men, who didn’t even receive prayer, were totally healed when Jesus touched their eyes. They became known as the “two blind men.” People were amazed by their testimony of God’s healing power, and the news spread all over the country. That’s the evangelistic power of healing and miracles.
5. DEMONSTRATION OF DEITY
The healing power of God provides convincing proof of God’s deity–it proves that He is God. Moses understood this truth. Remember when God told Moses in Exodus 33 and 34 that He wasn’t going to accompany them into the Promised Land, and that He would instead send an angel to travel with them? Moses told God that they wouldn’t go unless He did. Moses said that without God’s glory they would lose their distinction as God’s people. Without the miracle-working power of God, Christianity is just another religion. What makes God God other than the demonstration of His deity? Jesus proved His deity through the miraculous.
Jesus began His ministry by turning water into wine. The Bible says: “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him” (John. 2:11). This miracle was a manifestation of His glory as God in the flesh. This was the first miracle to demonstrate His deity. It was necessary so that His disciples would be thoroughly convinced that He was God. Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus said to His disciples, “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves” (John 14:11).
6. TO FULFILL THE PROPHETIC WORD
Isaiah gave us a prophetic promise of healing, hundreds of years before Christ. In Isaiah 53, he spoke of Christ’s suffering for our pain, sin, and sorrow before declaring: “By His stripes we are healed” (v. 5). Those many centuries ago, God prophesied healing in the Atonement. Isaiah prophesied that Christ would suffer for our pain, sorrow, and sickness just as He would suffer for our sin. Healing is for all, in the same way as the forgiveness of sin is for all. It’s not just for some. All! No one is excluded from salvation or healing.
The Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 8:16, 17) confirms that Jesus’ healing ministry fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. Jesus healed all in order to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy that He would eventually pay the price for our healing. Jesus didn’t come just to die for our sin, but also for our sicknesses. Jesus, through His healing ministry, established forever the prophetic promise of healing for those who put their faith in Him.
Faith is one of the vital reasons miracles happen. James 5:14 and 15 describe the power of faith: “The prayer of faith will save [or heal] the sick.” The faith of the person praying is important, not necessarily the faith of the sick person. As we pray for others in faith, they are healed. When we pray for healing, we are to believe for it before we see the healing manifested in the natural realm (Mark 11:24). In other words, believe before we receive.
This is a powerful principle. That’s why it’s so important to develop the eyes of our hearts–to see by faith things that don’t exist yet on earth (2 Cor. 5:7). Faith of the sick makes them well, too. Often Jesus told people that their faith had healed them. Consider the woman with the issue of blood (Matt. 9:22). Another person’s faith is very important too. Believers can stand in the gap for others who may be too weak or beaten down to fight in faith. By standing in the gap they exercise faith on the other person’s behalf. Consider the nobleman’s dying son, healed because of his father’s faith (John 4:47–50). Faith in Jesus and His desire and ability to heal is a vital ingredient for miracles.
8. HEALING ANOINTING
This is the power of God’s manifest presence. When it comes, it drives sickness and disease out. It doesn’t have anything to do with people’s own ability to believe God for their healing, but it has everything to do with how much of God’s presence is manifest on the person ministering healing. With a strong anointing, sickness comes under the authority of the presence of God.
On one occasion, Jesus was ministering and the “power of the Lord was present to heal them” (Luke 5:17). Read about Peter (Acts 5:15). People who were sick on beds in the street waited for Peter’s shadow to touch them. He carried so much of God into the street that miracles happened. Some of the Old Testament prophets described how this anointing will be seen in the last days (Hab. 3:3–5; Mal. 4:2, 5). The presence of Jesus drives away sickness.
9. TO PROVE THE MINISTRY
The release of healing power is an important way of proving or validating the ministry of God’s people. How will people know that we truly serve a living, powerful God, unless they see the demonstration of His power in our lives? Peter said to the crowd at Pentecost: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested [proven] by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst” (Acts 2:22). What proved the ministry of Jesus? Miracles, signs, and wonders did.
10. TO KNOW HIM
Here’s a wonderful reason for God’s power: every miracle is an invitation to know Him! Jesus rebuked the people because they didn’t recognize the true purpose of the signs, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26). There is nothing wrong with signs as long as we understand the reason for them.
According to Jesus, signs should prompt us to seek Him. The sign is a whole lot more than the “Wow.” He didn’t rebuke the people for seeking signs, but for seeking physical blessings like bread, instead of the Bread of Heaven–Himself. He was saying, “The signs were an invitation to know Me. I revealed Myself, My love, and My goodness by healing you.” You can be sure that you’ve had a touch of the divine when you have a massive cancer and a finger reaches from heaven, touches you, and the cancer is gone.
It leaves you with a greater desire to know this awesome God. Jesus ultimately wants us to seek Him, not for the loaves or the benefits, but to know Him personally. He wants a relationship with us. In John 6, the Lord spoke of Himself as the Bread of Life and called people to eat His flesh and drink His blood. That was His call for us to come into intimate relationship with Him. It’s His desire that when He heals us, we will want to know Him–the Source of healing–not just want more of His blessing.
11. HE IS STILL THE SAME TODAY
We can also expect miracles because Jesus is risen and alive today. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). He acts the same as He did two thousand years ago. He still does miracles and wonders today because He is alive and He is the same. That’s why miracles happen! Miracles couldn’t have passed away with the apostles, because then He wouldn’t be the same today. He is the “Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
God’s methods may change, but His nature never does. He is the God “who heals you” (Ex. 15:26). If He doesn’t heal the sick today, then He has changed. But God cannot deny His own name and nature.
Jesus made this powerful statement : “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Rev. 1:18). God heals today to demonstrate His resurrection power and sovereign dominion over the influence of hell and death.
12. HEALING COMMISSION
Miracles happen today because Jesus commissioned us to work the miraculous in His name. He heals us and works in power through us because of this commission (John 14:12). He also gave us another healing commission in Mark 16:15–18, telling us to go into the entire world to preach the gospel, and promising that signs would follow those who believe. Signs and wonders don’t automatically follow us because we are Christians. It’s a belief in signs and wonders–in the unseen–that releases the miraculous. It’s “according to your faith let it be to you” (Matt. 9:29)
Repentance! With every miracle comes a responsibility to change. Healings can actually bring a judgment against entire cities. I believe God does miracles in some cities in North America as a sign to them that they don’t know God–that they are godless.
Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. (Matthew 11:21–23)
God does miracles in cities, and in the lives of believers, in the hope that they will repent of their sin and unbelief. Supernatural signs demonstrate how real and awesome our God is–they call us back to the Father so our hearts are totally after Him.
14. SO THAT WE MIGHT BELIEVE
God does signs and wonders today so that we will believe in His power to do the impossible. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead so that people would believe that He was from God (John 11:42).
The apostle John confirmed this purpose for the miraculous: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30, 31). John was saying that Jesus performed signs to make people believe. And it is clear, from Mark 16:17, 18, that healing and miracles are some of the signs that provoke faith.
Miracles happen because of God’s goodness. Jesus said, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matt. 7:11). Our heavenly Father is a very good God–the Scriptures and nature testify to this over and over. He wants to lavish good gifts on us. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).
God gave His only Son to die for us and then He gave us the Holy Spirit to teach, comfort, and empower us. He also wants to continually pour heavenly blessings on us who will receive them by faith. God is so good that He wants to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).
A DISCIPLINED LIFE
A DISCIPLINED LIFE
“God has given us a spirit of discipline” (2 Tim.1:7)
“The fruit of the Spirit is self-control” (Gal.5:22,23).
Discipline is what modern believers need the most but want the least.
Much of the restlessness and the instability in the lives of many Christians can be traced to the basic fault of an indisciplined way of life. There may be other secondary causes, but somewhere behind all of them is a fundamental need for discipline.
The discipline I am speaking of is far more than just the use of alarm clocks. It involves self-restraint, courage and perseverance as the inner armor of the soul.
Many emotional disorders among believers are the accumulated result of years of self-indulgent living. I am not thinking of backsliders who drink and commit adultery, but of respectable Christians who never do such things, but who are nevertheless indisciplined. A lifelong pattern of running away from trials, of avoiding difficult people, of seeking the easy way, of giving up when the going gets rough, finally produces sick believers, who are incapable either of fulfilling God’s perfect will for their lives, or of functioning as useful members of the body of Christ.
The Bible says, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small” (Prov.24:10).
Days of adversity will come to all of us. Only by consistent, disciplined living can that strength of character be developed in us, that can enable us to face those days of adversity without fainting.
DISCIPLINE – THE KEY TO POWER
Many Christians go through an emotional experience of “the baptism in the Spirit”, that seems to be totally unrelated in their thinking to any form of rugged self-denial.
No-one can become genuinely holy, whatever experience he may have had, unless he is disciplined in all areas of daily living. The advantage that a man with a disciplined life has will be seen not only in greater holiness and spirituality, but also in greater efficiency and effectiveness in everything that he does for the Lord.
The strong disciplined character of Madam Guyon enabled her, even when imprisoned in a filthy French prison for many years (in the 17th century), to rise above her surroundings in her spirit, and to write:
“My cage confines me round
Abroad I cannot fly. But though my wing is
My heart’s at liberty. My prison walls cannot
The flight and freedom of my soul.”
There is tremendous spiritual power in such a life.
The advantage that the disciplined person has over the undisciplined one shows up in many ordinary matters of daily life.
The disciplined person picks up his clothes; the undisciplined one lets them lie around.
One wipes clean the bathroom sink that he uses. The other leaves it dirty for someone else to clean.
One plans his work and works to his plan. The other works haphazardly.
One is always punctual in keeping his appointments. The other is notoriously late. One is always on time for the meetings of the church. The other is never on time.
The difference in all these cases is not one of character, but of habit.
The believers who get God’s best in life are the ones who are thoughtful, systematic, thrifty, punctual and neat.
DISCIPLINE – THE MARK OF MATURITY
No-one can reach full maturity unless he is disciplined in daily life.
Our Physical Appetites
Discipline includes the subordination of the body’s physical appetites to the Lordship of Christ.
Paul said, “Like an athlete, I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, and not what it wants to. Otherwise I fear that after enlisting others for the race, I myself might be declared unfit and ordered to stand aside” (1 Cor.9:27 – Living).
This begins with discipline in our eating habits and the ability to say at the dining table, “No, thank you. I won’t have any more.”
It also includes discipline in the sexual area. The sexual urge has to be fully controlled in one’s unmarried days. But there is a place for discipline in this area even in married life. The man of disciplined character does not have to have a warm responsive wife, who caters to his every desire, in order to keep himself pure. It is by the grace of God that he keeps himself pure. If his relationship with his wife is happy, he is grateful. If it isn’t, and he has to practice total abstinence all through his life, he simply seeks for more grace from God, and experiences the keeping power of God. This has nothing to do with natural temperament, but with discipline.
It is true that Paul warned married couples against subjecting one another to abnormal strain in this matter (1 Cor.7:5). But what can a man do when difficult circumstances make the carrying out of this instruction impossible? Then the disciplined man still lives in triumph, for he knows that God will not allow him to be tempted beyond his ability (1 Cor.10:13).
That great man of God, F.B.Meyer, once said in this connection (to someone who was struggling with sexual temptation), “I have had a cross to bear in this area in my life, and it has made me the man I am.”
Our emotions too must be brought under control. God certainly wants us to be warmhearted. But the warm heart must be wise. Otherwise it can end up doing and saying many foolish things, that can be regretted later on. We must always distrust our sudden impulses to say or to do something.
“A good man thinks before he speaks; the evil man pours out his evil words without a thought…..There is more hope for a fool than for one who is hasty in his words or his matters� (Prov.15:28; 29:20 – Living Bible, and KJV margin).
Emotional attachments to friends must also be disciplined. Two friends may gradually become so “thick” that they become possessive and exclusive. Such inordinate affection is both unhealthy and harmful.
In conversations with the opposite sex, a certain reserve and distance must be preserved at all costs – for friendship can become affection, and affection can lead to lust – to the shock of both involved. That which began innocently may end disastrously.
The rugged advice of Jesus to pluck out the offending eye, and to cut off the offending hand or foot, is never more appropriate than in such situations. Our soul, our home, our happiness and our testimony can all be saved, only if we take drastic action in such situations, and put our feelings to death ruthlessly.
Don’t let Satan make you say, “I couldn’t help it.” Your emotions may not immediately obey your will. But your actions must.
In due course, your emotions also will follow the lead of your disciplined purpose and your decisive stand.
Don’t ignite fires that you will later have to fight feverishly to put out.
Disciplined character also means the mastery of our moods.
A certain amount of the swing of the pendulum is unavoidable here, as long as we are in the flesh – for sometimes, a failure in our work or study, or physical weariness can bring a temporary cloud of discouragement quite easily. But we can by discipline, ensure that our moods don’t hinder our work, our behavior, or our relationships with others.
When we are slaves to our moods, we can make foolish decisions, spend money unnecessarily, neglect our duties, and alter our behaviour to people around us. At first people may be puzzled. But gradually they will begin to say, “Just one of his moods” – with a hint of scorn. And they will then learn to be careful in their relationships with us, because they never quite know what mood they will find us in. All of this makes for a very poor testimony for our Saviour and for the salvation we profess.
A disciplined Christian however behaves just as well when he “feels bad” as he does when he “feels good”. He never complains that he doesn’t feel like doing something.
A consistent work for God can be done only by those who have learnt to conquer their moods, and to work even when they “don’t feel like it”.
No-one can qualify for the high rating of a truly disciplined man unless his tongue is restrained by wisdom and directed by love (James 1:26).
A man may have a disciplined body, mind, and will, and even disciplined emotions, appetites and habits, but a loose tongue betrays a fatal fault in his armour.
Frankness in speech is not necessarily a Christian virtue. Only a fool expresses everything that comes to his mind. Frankness is a virtue only when it is coupled with intelligent, loving tact and discretion. But it can become an evil thing when it is the uncontrolled expression of opinions, without regard to time, place or human feelings.
It often takes a far higher display of discipline to refrain from speaking than it does to speak.
Forbearance and patience are the virtues that we all need to develop.
A truly disciplined person is wise enough to subordinate less important things to the more important ones. Herein lies the most crucial problem that we face in our day and age.
We must learn to give first priority to the kingdom of God and His righteousness in practical daily living. This requires the discipline to reject day by day, that great list of activities that clamour for our attention and time, but that would hinder the doing of more important things.
Selection – selection – selection! This is the law of life.
We cannot do everything. So we must select. We cannot read everything. So we must select. Our spiritual stature will be determined exactly and entirely by our discipline in selecting our priorities.
If we “major in minors” and show “a first-rate dedication to second-rate matters”, if we allow our friends, our impulses and the convenience of the moment, to dictate our priorities, we will drift weakly with the tide of daily circumstances, and will end up as shabby, mediocre, carnal Christians – useless to God and useless to men.
At the same time, if we merely give lip-service to the priorities of the kingdom, and allow them to remain forever in the realm of “good intentions”, without rigidly adhering to them right now, the end result will again be zero character growth!!
Discipline in this area will push a man out of bed early in the morning to seek God, instead of rolling around for another half an hour, while wide awake.
Submission to Legitimate Authority
Another mark of the disciplined person is the ability to submit to legitimate authority gracefully. In most of life’s normal relationships, rebellion is both stupid and destructive.
Habitual rebellion is the mark of carnal Christians, not of spiritual ones. It does not require either intelligence or character to assert loudly, “No-one can tell me what to do.” But it requires both to submit graciously and with cheerful goodwill to authority. Insubordination is invariably the result of selfishness, and leads to misery and uselessness.
This does not mean that we are to blindly submit to the wishes and opinions of our authorities, if such submission violates our conscience. No. We must retain our individuality and our convictions, and know when to stand against authority, for the sake of truth.
THE DANGERS OF DISCIPLINE
Among the dangers there are in the pursuit of a disciplined life, the greatest one is imagining that discipline is the supreme value of life. It is not. A right relationship with God is the greatest of all treasures, and discipline must be seen as a servant, not a saviour!
A second danger is that of pride.
There is no doubt that discipline does make a man superior. If he is not watchful, the danger is that he will begin to feel superior too. There can be a sense of satisfaction in self-mastery, that ends up taking the glory to oneself, instead of humbly giving it to God. The most repugnant character of all is the disciplined Pharisee who is proud of what he has made of himself.
A third danger in the pursuit of discipline is that of going to the extreme of unchristian asceticism.
Christian discipline is far removed from pagan asceticism. Asceticism calls attention to itself; discipline does not. Asceticism says, “Touch not, taste not…”etc., (Col.2:20-23), whereas discipline deals only with those matters that affect our spiritual life.
Asceticism believes that all physical matter is evil, and tends to despise the good things of life. It denies joys and experiences that are the gifts of God, and believes that holiness consists of complete denial of everything earthly and physical. In contrast, Christian discipline never despises earthly blessings, but consecrates them to spiritual ends. It uses material things, but is not taken up with them, and does not abuse them (1 Cor.7:29-31). It does not abstain from physical enjoyments, but is self-controlled in the use of them, and uses them all for the glory of God.
It is true that Christian discipline may at times deny itself even God’s good gifts, but then such self-denial will be done not in order to be holy, but to serve God and others better – even as Paul gave up marriage in order to be more freely available to serve the Lord and the churches.
A fourth danger is that of undisciplined discipline!
We must not allow discipline to become our god. We must be willing to accept the interruptions of life, with an intelligent flexibility. Helping people – and not discipline itself – must be the supreme goal of all our self-discipline.
The discipline of the Pharisees was so rigid (the old wineskin) that it was incapable of holding the new wine of the kingdom of God. So their virtue – their discipline – became their downfall. That which should have fitted them better for the kingdom of God kept them out of it!!
DISCIPLINE AND HOLINESS
We must not confuse disciplined living with holy living. The two are not the same.
True holiness begins and ends with living for the glory of God, whereas discipline can, if we are not careful, begin and end with living for the glory of Self.
We must also avoid the age-old monastic mistake of assuming that discipline alone is the means of holiness.
Disciplined living is certainly necessary in maintaining holiness and in consolidating it into firm character. But no amount of discipline can make the sinful heart holy. Discipline may tie down certain bad habits, and restrain them. But it cannot create a clean heart. Only partaking of God’s nature in Christ can do that.
Even the discipline of suffering cannot make us holy. Suffering itself never purifies anyone. Suffering is meant to drive us to God Who alone can sanctify us entirely. True holiness is imparted to us and inwrought within us by the Holy Spirit, not because we have suffered, but because we have surrendered to Him in the midst of our suffering.
We are sanctified not by our tears, but by faith in Christ’s blood, and by submitting to the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. These are the secrets of a clean heart.
The work of holiness is an inward work. Discipline makes that work to be manifest in our external lives.
God’s grace alone can help us to discipline ourselves, and give us continual power to keep on denying self, even at times when all of our flesh cries out for an easier path. And God’s light alone can purify our motives in our search for a disciplined life. And without Christian motives, no discipline can ever be called Christian discipline.
False holiness is often seen in an extreme and unnatural self-discipline, that is practiced by restless Christians who whip themselves in order to conquer sin and to please God.
Such Christians live a life of tremendous strain. They are overscrupulous, legalistic, petty, quick to criticize others, afraid to laugh (lest they become lighthearted), and unnatural. Such behavior is often an attempt to compensate for some hidden sin, or to overcome some beast of lust within.
These are heroic efforts, no doubt; and so we do not despise them. But they do not lead anyone to true holiness.
It is through an honest confession of our sin, being cleansed and broken, and being filled with the Holy Spirit, that we partake of that “holiness which is no illusion” (Eph.4:24 – J.B.Philips). Then we can relax, breathe freely, act naturally and be normal human beings.
We will still put to death the deeds of the body – but the power for this will be given to us by the Spirit (Rom.8:13).
HOW TO BECOME A DISCIPLINED PERSON
1. Reinforce your motivation for a disciplined life. Think often of the disappointment that you will be to God if you fail to be the man or woman that He wants you to be, just because you are too lazy.
2. Begin with the simple things. A disciplined Christian will always seek to avoid making unnecessary work for others. So hang up your clothes. Make your bed promptly and neatly every morning. Keep the washbasin clean, and put your shoes in their proper place. Clean the tools that you use, and put them back where they belong. Don’t despise these trifles as being irrelevant to becoming spiritual. They are the very essence of it. They indicate that extra touch of foresight, carefulness, and thoughtfulness that makes the difference between a spiritual Christian and a carnal one.
3. Show respect to all men – even to the poor and lowly. When speaking or listening to someone, develop the habit of looking at him, as if no-one else mattered to you at that moment. When in a meeting, discipline yourself to keep your eyes on the speaker, instead of allowing your eyes to wander here and there. To gaze around at people, or down at your feet is rude and discourteous, both to the Lord and to the speaker.
4. Tackle the difficult tasks promptly. Do first the things that you would rather do last. Sit down right now, and write that letter (or that article), that you have postponed for so long.
5. Be punctual for the meetings of the church and for your appointments. The habit of being on time will never be acquired, unless you are convinced that Christian courtesy demands it, and unless you plan ahead and allow yourself a sufficient margin of time to get to the appointed place.
6. Don’t waste your time in idle daydreaming. Bring every thought into captivity to Christ. Make use of your spare time to read Christian books, or to fellowship with someone, or to help others.
7. Don’t be agitated when unexpected events throw your well-laid plans into confusion – for that is only foolishness. Believe on the other hand, that what seems to you at that moment to be nothing but human blundering, may be the gentle steering of God for your very best (Rom.8:28) – and so give thanks to the Lord for His orderings.
8. Love your critics. Cultivate an attitude of sincere gratitude for all correction. This is also a discipline. Getting offended when corrected is a mark of immaturity. Be willing to learn from the lowliest.
9. Be restrained in the areas of curiosity, prejudice and dogmatism. Don’t be a busybody in the matters of others. Don’t have a bias against any person or community. And don’t be stubborn in insisting that you alone are right. Watch yourself constantly in these areas.
10. Conquer gluttony. Eating is not a sin, but gluttony is. Paul said, “All things are lawful for me; but I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food; but God will (one day) do away with both of them…The body is for the Lord” (1 Cor.6:12,13).
One should eat heartily and with enjoyment. But we should know what is good for us, and how much, and have the self-control to stop when we should. The best exercise for health is the ‘push-ups’ from the dining table. Excessive overweight always leads to under-productivity in the work of God, and can also shorten our lives considerably.
If our lives are shortened, because of exposure to difficult climates in the Lord’s work, or other unavoidable factors, or because of persecution, we can die with honour. But if our life is shortened because of overeating, what will we say when we stand in the presence of our Lord?
11. Learn to wait. To grab something before God’s time is to spoil it. There is a time in God’s timetable for all things – for example, in the matter of marriage. Wait for that time, and don’t rush ahead. If you would be a disciplined person, learn to respect the time-tags that are found on life’s joys and responsibilities and privileges. We don’t help God by opening a rosebud – we simply spoil the blossom.
12. Welcome the difficult tasks in life. Cultivate a sense of responsibility in doing them faithfully. Ask yourself these questions:
Can I be depended on to fulfil any task assigned to me?
Am I quick to help when a job needs to be done, or do I find myself slipping away quietly?
Do I accept responsibility for my decisions, and also for my mistakes?
Can I be depended on in money matters?
13. Be systematic in prayer and Bible-reading. This is essential for a disciplined life. The discipline of determining to spend a fixed amount of time for this, at any cost, every day, will by itself bring rich rewards.
14. Avoid unnecessary luxuries and don’t be wasteful in spending money. “Suffer hardship as a good soldier of Christ” (2 Tim.2:3).
There are dangers in times of ease and prosperity that can be avoided only by some deliberate acts of self-denial on our part. “When the nest is feathered too well, the eaglets do not learn to fly”. This is where fasting has a real value. Our goal in life is Christlikeness, not a comfortable life.
The Christian life is serious, challenging and demanding. Following Jesus will lead us, not to a picnic, but to a battle. And let us remember that our Captain “never pleased Himself” (Rom.15:3).
As His disciples, let us then:
– have a passion for improving the quality of our Christian life;
– have a sense of stewardship towards life, to fulfil God’s will;
– be ready at all times for sacrifice or for service;
– apply ourselves faithfully at all times to the task at hand;
– ALL FOR JESUS’ SAKE!