Faith to Finish

by Brother Michael McCord

Lubbock Convention December 2009

 

Somebody said to me that they hadn’t heard much from me recently and I thought I would just tell you that you need a little bit of help adjusting your perspective. You see, it hasn’t been because I haven’t been speaking, it’s just been a problem with your location. They always say that to me as though that’s my problem because I haven’t been saying something. I think that I have been saying plenty, but you just haven’t been in the right place. You can ponder that (in the Spirit).

Turn to Luke chapter 4:

Luke 4:16-21 ‘And he came to Nazareth , where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.’

Turn back to Isaiah chapter 61 where Jesus was reading from:

Isaiah 61:1-2(a) ‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,’

And at that point, Jesus closed the book and it says He sat down and said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ear.”

I want to look at the rest of that passage, because if you notice, He stopped mid-stream in this prophecy, which goes on to say:

Isaiah 61:2(b)-4 ‘and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.’

There is a very clear delineation here between what Jesus said had been fulfilled and what was yet to come. He says there ‘the day of vengeance of our God’ that He is coming to proclaim and ‘to comfort all who mourn’.

Turn with me now to Ecclesiastes chapter 7 and we’ll read a passage there that has always been an interesting one to me.

Ecclesiastes 7:1-6 ‘A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting; for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.’

It opens up here and begins to talk about the day of death being better than the day of one’s birth. That is not really the way that we tend to look at things.

I began to think about this matter of death. I began to realize that in our language, at least in the English language, we have a tendency to look at this in two different ways.

You all know what an antonym is; a word that is the opposite. We often think of death as the opposite of life and it is, but we often do not use it in that format. We use the word “death”, for the most part, for the opposite of “birth”.

What I mean by this—to explain it—when you think of life, you don’t think of a moment in time. You think of life as a state of being; a life that you have and exist in. That is a very accurate portrayal of the word, “life”.

But when we talk about death, we most often think of it as the opposite of birth. We think of it as a moment in time; something that just takes place. We think of it as a moment of passage where you move from life into death.

The reality is, when the scripture speaks of death—while it does from time to time speak of it as the opposite of birth; an event that takes place in a moment in time—when the scripture is referring to death, it is talking about the opposite of life. It is talking about a state of being that you exist in all the time; not an event that happens in a moment in time.

It is talking about where are you today? Are you in death, or are you in life? What is the state of existence that you are in today? Are you in His life, or are you in death ?

Ecclesiastes states ‘the day of death is better than the day of one’s birth.’

When you think of that scripture and you think of a baby coming forth in new life and is birthed, what a great rejoicing takes place in the family! You can think back to the birth of Christ and think of the great thing that went on in that day and the contrast that the eyes of the Spirit look at things versus the eyes of man. In the day that Christ was born, the angels sang in the heavens; there was a star that pointed the way to the stable where the wisemen came; all of these things took place. The shepherds came; there were gifts that were laid at His feet. There was so much rejoicing and such a great time at His birth!

And then you think to 33 ½ years later, when He was hanging there on the cross on Golgotha, and you think who would have said at that moment—even His own mother; even the disciples who stood at His side, which of them was saying, “This is a better day than that day in the stable.”? Which of them was saying, “This is a better day.”? But, the testimony of His Father was, “This is a better day than the day that He was born because He has fulfilled at this moment that which I sent Him to do.” That was the testimony of His Father that the day of His death was better than the day of His birth.

If you turn with me, we are going to run through a few scriptures at the beginning. Turn to:

Romans 6:2-7 ‘God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.’

In the passage that we just read, the Apostle Paul was talking about the fact that he was baptized into the death of Christ. He was making the statement that, if we were in the likeness of His death, we would also be in the likeness of His resurrection.

Then you find Paul in:

Romans 7:19 -25 ‘For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God but with the flesh the law of sin.’

You find Paul in chapter 6 saying that he wanted to be planted in the likeness of His death. You find the Apostle Paul in chapter 7 saying, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

It becomes apparent inside those very two chapters of the truth—Brother Buddy (Cobb) has ministered on it often—that there are two kinds of death and there are also two kinds of resurrection.

You can read in John chapter 5 where Jesus is talking to the disciples and speaking to them about two resurrections that shall take place. He says in that passage:

John 5:25 ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

He goes on in this passage, and He builds a contrast here because He is talking about two resurrections. In the beginning He says that ‘the hour now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God and they that hear shall live.’ But then He goes on and He says:

John 5:28(b) ‘for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall ( all ) come forth, they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

These are the two choices. We are not talking here about the chronological difference between the first resurrection and the last resurrection, but instead we are talking about two kinds of resurrection.

He says here there is a resurrection for those who have done good; they are going to have a resurrection of life. Those who have done evil are going to be in the resurrection of damnation. There is a contrast that takes place here because He says that ‘in that hour all shall here the voice of the Son of God’, but they will not all in that moment live!

He says that those who now hear the voice of the Son of God—that those who are dead now —if they hear the voice of the Son of God, they shall live! This is the place where you and I stand; we are in a place where, if we can hear the voice of the Son of God, we can live!

There is an hour that is coming when they will all hear the voice of the Son of God. He said, ‘ all who are in the grave shall hear His voice.’ And then, they are going to come forth in one kind of resurrection or the other. What it is going to be dependent on is whether those who come forth in the resurrection of life—those who have done good—it is because they will have been there, as in this verse:

John 5:25(b) ‘the hour…now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

It is going to be because in the hour when they had the opportunity to hear the voice of the Son of God, they heard His voice, and they followed His guidance, and they came into a place of life. They were moved from death into life.

The Apostle Paul said in:

2 Corinthians 1:9-10 ‘But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver : in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;’

“He hath delivered me! He doth deliver me! And He will yet deliver me from this sentence of death!” He saw it as something that had not just been something done in the past, but something that was ongoing with him as he walked across the world of his day. He saw it as something, if he had been delivered and he continued to be delivered, that the day would come when he would be delivered fully from the sentence of death that he carried in himself.

Jesus Himself said:

Luke 12:50 ‘But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!’

What was the baptism? We read it in Romans 6:

Romans 6:3 ‘…that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?’

It was the same baptism that Jesus had to go through. He said, “How am I straitened until that be fulfilled.”

In the October 2009 Bowens Mill Convention, they were talking of two messages: the death message and life message and how these two went together. I thought of Apostle Paul who would not have called it two different messages, but simply one message because he said, “I come and I preach Christ and Him crucified and buried and raised again the third day.”

There is not a life message and a death message, but there is one message and it is the message of Christ. You can read it in:

2 Corinthians 4:12 ‘So then death worketh in us, but life in you.’

What kind of statement is that? What the Apostle Paul was saying was, “I allow this old nature to be put under.” He was talking about that struggle in Romans 7—“I come to the place where this old nature is and I reckon it dead, and I allow His life to come forth in me! Because I am living in this place of death—allowing His life to come forth in me—there is a ministration of life that flows out from this vessel, and it brings forth life inside of you because it is a life not of my own life—not of something I have learned from myself.” The Apostle Paul said, “It is not I that lives, but it is Christ that lives within me! As I give myself into the death of this old nature and I allow His life to come forth in me, there is a ministration of the water of the River of Life that flows from me that brings forth life into those of you that are following the same way that I have taught.” That was the message that the Apostle Paul had. He could see here how life and death were side by side because there were two kinds of death and there were two kinds of resurrection, and his cry in Romans 6 and 7 was, “Oh, that I may be found in the likeness of His death; that I may also come forth in the likeness of His resurrection!”

Paul realized that there was a day that was coming when ‘ all that are in the graves would hear the voice of the Son of God’ and he wanted to be among those who, when they were raised, they were raised in the likeness of His resurrection. He realized if he wanted to be a partaker in His resurrection, “I must be a partaker of His sufferings, also!”

Paul began to understand what the Master who had gone before him had seen—that there was a day that was greater than the day of His birth!

When Paul walked on that road on the way to Damascus and a great light shown from heaven, there was a great and glorious day that he never ceased to give testimony of! He gave testimony of that day as he walked throughout his life. He stood before governors, before kings, before Caesar himself to give testimony of that day, but his testimony was, that from that day, “I have not ceased to be obedient unto the heavenly vision which was delivered unto me at that moment because there is a greater day that is coming than the day of my birth! It is the day when I offer it all up to Him and I will obtain a crown—a crown of glory—not for me only, but for all those who love Him.” This was the message the Apostle Paul had.

Hebrews 5:6-9 ‘As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;’

I have read this passage and we have heard it many, many times. I began to suddenly think of the way we think of things and we pray for things. We say, “God, would you please answer? Would you please answer this prayer that I have?” I was reading this and I realized, “You know, this is really not my definition of an answered prayer.” Because it says, ‘in the days of His flesh He offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears’. I’m sure there are many things that we have offered up supplications for with many strong crying and tears. What was His prayer? ‘Unto Him that was able to save Him from death and was heard in that He feared’.

I was looking at that passage and thinking, “He was heard.” That’s really not our definition of an answered prayer. “God, would You save Me from death?” And having prayed this prayer, He finds Himself hanging on the cross in Golgotha and God saying, “I heard Your prayer and I answered it because You feared—because You feared Me.” And I thought, “God, this is not the way that we identify answered prayers!”

I will just throw this thought out for you to think of. How much time do you spend looking at things that you can’t see? That is what the Word says that you are supposed to do. Somebody comes over here and says, “Brother Bill, do you see that mountain over there? Do you see that angel over there?” Brother Bill will look for a minute and then he kind of “checks out” and looks for something else, because we would rather look at things that we can see.

The Apostle Paul says, “I am looking at things that are not seen!” He was looking at things he could not see instead of looking at things that he could see! This seemed to be what he thought was the highest way to move!

You see Christ here and as I read that passage, I suddenly realized there was one slight difference; because it said, ‘unto Him that was able to save Him from death and was heard in that He feared.’ I realized that in that moment He was saved from death; He was not saved from dying! He had to die in order to be saved from death; that through death He might overcome him who had the power of death!

This is the pattern that God has laid out for you and me; not that we would be saved from dying because we have to go that way—everyone has to take up his own cross and follow Him because there is a day that is better than the day of one’s birth, and it is the day of one’s death!

As Jesus hung there on that cross, the testimony of His Father was that He had completed everything that He had sent Him to do! When Jesus came there at the time of His birth—with all the rejoicing that went on—with everything that happened—it was all potential that lay before Him. For what would He do with that which His Father had called Him to?

As He hung there that day on the cross, He said, “It is finished! Father, I have finished that which You have sent Me to do.” The testimony of His Father was, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” He had spoken those words over His Son on the day of baptism; He had spoken them again there on the Mount of Transfiguration. We are told in the book of Romans (1:4) that He was ‘declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of Holiness by the resurrection from the dead’ because at that moment for the third time, as His Father looked down and said, “This is My beloved Son”, He was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead! There was a great day that took place then as the Father said, “This is a better day than the day when You were born, because now You can enter back into the glory that You had with Me before the world was. You have finished the work that I have sent You to do.” The day of death was better than the day of His birth.

I want to turn to 1 Kings and maybe “change gears” here for a minute. I want to look at three men. As we have had this great vision and hope put in front of us, I have found myself looking at this story of Elijah. I have spent quite a bit of time looking at this story of Elijah, and I want to look at one part of it. I was reminded of a word that Brother Bill (Grier) ministered sometime in the last year or two, which he called, “The Capacity to Finish”, asking if we had the capacity to finish.

You look here at the story of Elijah, and Elijah shows up in 1 Kings chapter 17, and he just “walks off the pages of the book” from nowhere. Nobody really knows who his parents were; you wonder what kind of training, background, family life; we know nothing of his background. He is just a single, solitary individual. He has a great entry. It’s just a great entry! Anybody would love this kind of entry. He just walks onto the stage of Israel —right up to the king of Israel and said, “It’s not going to rain and there is not going to be any dew. This is what the word of the Lord says, unless I say otherwise.” And he leaves! That is his entry!

Put this into today’s reality! You walk up before President Obama and say, “It’s not going to rain; there’s not going to be any dew; that’s what the Lord said, until I say so!” And you “check out”. The Secret Service would have you before you got out the door, I have a feeling.

But they think, “This guy (Elijah) is just nuts; just plain nuts!” This is a little line, incidentally, that my dad (Joe McCord) and Brother Bill (Grier) use to use a lot—“Just plain nuts!” Do you guys remember that? They would write this every now and then; it is from a Far Side cartoon, if you really want to know the truth; where the psychiatrist is sitting there and there is a guy on the couch and the psychiatrist has a notepad and this is what he has written on the pad, “Just plain nuts!” while the other guy talked. That is what Elijah looked like—just plain nuts!

I was thinking of this and thought that I’ve been in a few services in different streams and people give me CD’s to listen to all the time. I was listening to one of these a few years ago and there were phenomenal prophecies; they were actually far greater than this little pronouncement. People were making prophecies over nations, over cities, over people, and all this. There is just one difference between those and this with Elijah; five or six months go by and you kind of forget those things unless you drag out one of those CDs. Here with Elijah, five or six months went by, and I have a feeling that this had no impact on the king or any of them when this happened. Just another quack; nobody has ever heard of him; didn’t look like much; even the kids think he is a funny looking guy and made fun of him.

I wonder how long did it take? Six months, eight months, a year before a few of his advisors started saying, “Hey, King! Do you remember that nut back there a while ago? Do you think he had anything to do with this?” I expect there were probably two “camps” there; some of them said, “Ah, don’t listen to him, it’s going to rain; it’s just a drought.” But, a year, two years, three years and now what happens is the king decides there is not a whole lot they can attribute this drought to and he has everybody out looking for this guy; “Find where he is and bring him to me!”

There is a pretty good mark for the difference; do you want to know the difference between a true prophet and a false one? There it is; pretty black and white—‘ it came to pass’ .

They went looking all over the place for him, and Elijah, in the meantime, went to the widow woman and causes the cruse of oil to not fail; the meals were always replenished; he raised her son from death to life again. Then at the culmination of this time, he went up and that tremendous scene upon Mt. Carmel and he stands there, while he was not the only one who had not bowed the knee (to Baal), he was the only one who was standing there on Mt. Carmel as the sole person who was willing to stand and say, “Choose Baal or choose God, but choose ye this day whom you will serve!” He stood there upon that mountaintop and he mocked the priests through that long day; and then when the day was coming to a close, and he had that altar built, he called on the God of heaven to answer by fire and the fire came down and consumed it all! Then he went from that place to slay the prophets of Baal; then he went to the bottom of that hill and he fell on his knees and began to pray until the rain once again began to fall upon the land. He stood there as the man of God at that moment—the prophet who God had called—having done all these tremendous things, and I want you to pick it up in chapter 19, as Elijah runs for his life from Jezebel:

I Kings 19:4-8 ‘But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.’

You see Elijah here, in the beginning, and he said, “God, I have done enough.” That is really what he is saying. “It is enough! Take away my life!” He was saying to God, “God, what more could You ask me to do? I came and pronounced the word that You put in my mouth. I caused it that it would not rain upon the earth. I made a provision for the widow woman in the wilderness; I spoke the word of life over her son that he would not die. I stood upon Mt. Carmel and I stood against all those other voices; I silenced every one of them in Your name. I called down fire from heaven and caused the rain to fall again upon the earth. I have finished that which You have sent me to do! It is enough, O God! Take away my life. ”

Then Elijah makes a little statement that makes me wonder if he didn’t know what God had called him to. He said, “I am not better than my fathers.” What kind of a statement was that? You look at a man who to this point has been better than his fathers in every respect. He has moved the hand of God in ways that the earth had never before seen, but he says there, “I am not better than my fathers!” You see as he lays down to rest there comes an angelic visitation that puts sustenance into him, but you know all he does is go back to sleep until the angel comes the second time and gives him sustenance once again, and makes, what I find to be, a tremendously, profound statement, “Arise and eat because the journey is too great for thee!” What He is saying to Elijah is, “Elijah, your ministry is not finished! Elijah, your journey is not yet over! But as great a man of God as you are, as much power as you have had with the living God, there remains a journey ahead that is too great for you; you can not accomplish this in your own strength!”

You find that Elijah eats those cakes and he goes forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. And you know what happens at that point; he realizes that God is not just in all those other manifestations, but he hears the still, small voice of God. As Elijah goes from that place, you find that he is on a singular journey from this moment; he is on a journey to cross the river Jordan . He is on a journey that is leading him towards a place of translation.

As he goes along that journey, he calls Elisha, and there are other things that happen as he travels, but you can follow it there; all of those other things that are behind him. He is on a journey that is too great for him because he cannot get there on his own. He didn’t have the capacity to finish the journey in himself, but he stood there having seen some glimpse of what God had ahead for him; unable in his own strength to do it.

Keep that in mind and I want you to turn to 2 Corinthians chapter 12. This is the place where we stand and the journey is too great. Why should we be any better than those who have gone before? We stand on the shoulders of giants, like this man (Elijah) that we have read about; like this man here in 2 Corinthians chapter 12, the Apostle Paul.

2 Corinthians 12:2-5 ‘I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.’

I want to just say something here: all the different things you read in the Word, about false prophets and true prophets; you read in the Word about the different signs and wonders that would come at the end of the age. If you follow them through, you find out something—the Word itself will back this up—there is no difference between the signs and wonders of one group and another. Elijah called down fire from heaven. You can go to the book of Revelation, and you find out that he is not the only one who can call down fire from heaven. You can go through the Word and see and wonder how it would ever be possible to tell the difference between the two.

A young person asked me about this a few years ago; I said that I found there is one pretty sure way that you can find out. You can take those signs and wonders, whatever they may be, and the lives of the men who are standing there being used to perform them, and you can match it up with what the Word of God and the apostles had to say about it and just see; does it make a match?

Look at the life of Timothy; look at the life of Paul; look at the life of Peter. Do the reactions of those performing signs and wonders match up to the lives of these men?

I heard, a few years ago, a man giving a testimony of how he was caught up into the third heaven and he began to tell about all the things; he stood there for 45 minutes talking about what went on in the realm of the heavens he was caught up to. I immediately thought of this passage: ‘of such a one, I will not glory, but in my infirmities.’

I can tell you of a surety that that kind of a sign and wonder he was talking about does not match up with the life of the apostle Paul who said, “I was caught up into paradise and I heard things not lawful for a man to utter and I will not glory in those things, but I’ll glory in my infirmities that the power of the living God might be made manifest through me.” That is the mark of a true apostle of God! Not somebody who takes glory in the things that they can perform, but one who points and gives the glory to the One who performed it in the beginning!

If you need a litmus test, it is there in the Word; over and over again you can find it. Paul doesn’t say this is him, but from the context of it, you begin to see that it could not be anyone else. Many people feel this is what happened to Apostle Paul when he was stoned and left for dead outside of Lystra; we do not know.

You find the apostle Paul as a real person. You think of how Elijah entered this world. How many of you wouldn’t want to enter that way? Apostle Paul was caught up in the third heaven; did he revel in that? Sure he did, but he wasn’t going to tell anybody else all about it. He wasn’t going to use that to puff himself or his own ministry.

Paul said in verse 6, ‘I would desire to glory…’

2 Corinthians 12:6-9 ‘For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelation, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’

You talk about prayers that you think are not answered; I’ve been in many services where anybody who made that kind of a statement would be told, “Well, brother, you just don’t have enough faith.” And if Apostle Paul stood there before them and said, “I’ve asked the Lord three times for this and it hasn’t happened.” They would say, “Well, you just don’t have enough faith.” And think of the stunned looks on their face if he said, “I’m the Apostle Paul.” Who would dare tell the Apostle Paul, “Paul, you just don’t have enough faith.”?

But something happened here, Paul got an answer; it wasn’t the answer he wanted, but he heard the voice of the Lord say, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

You know something, I know you have all been pretty well taught; you know the difference between the two words in the Greek that are translated “ power ” in the New Testament. The one word is “ exousia ”, which means to “ exercise authority ” and the other word is “ dunamis ”, which we get our word “dynamite” from and is most often referred to as “ miracle-working power ”; the kind of power Christ used when He cast out demons and when He healed the sick and raised the dead. That is the way that word is used.

When you read this passage here in 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul uses that word not once, but twice. He uses that word in a different context than in the context we think of, of just a miracle-working power of God in the supernatural. He said, “My strength—My “ dunamis ” is made perfect in weakness.” That is the word of Christ to Apostle Paul. And then Paul goes on and he says, “Therefore, I would rather glory in my infirmities that the “ dunamis ” of Christ may rest upon me.”

You know the Apostle Paul is showing something here in a different way than you and I have seen it before. There is a concept in the church world today; they call it “Power Evangelism” and the concept behind it is, if we can go out to all these places where men and women have not heard of Christ, and we can perform great miracles in His name, and we can heal the sick and raise the dead in His name, that it will cause the masses to come unto Christ; they will be evangelized as they see the miracle-working power of God.

But I am telling you right here, inside the writings of Apostle Paul, you find out what the true miracle-working dunamis power of Christ is. Jesus Himself came and He manifested that same power to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to make the blind see again, to do all of those things, and the masses were not evangelized by it. But they stood there outside of Pilate’s house on the Day of Crucifixion saying, “Give us Barrabas! Let free the murderer! Give us Barrabas! Send Jesus to the cross! Crucify Him!” These were the same ones who had seen His miracles done; they didn’t understand! And the church today does not understand what Apostle Paul was teaching! This is true “power evangelism”! Where he says, “ Here in my infirmities, in my weakness, I will glory in those things because out of my weakness, it is now possible for His dunamis power to be made manifest in this mortal body!” This is what the translation really says. That is what the testimony of the Apostle Paul was!

That is what the testimony of the early Church was! They said, “How can these men do these things? Why is it that they will go to the lions! Why is it that all these things happen?

Paul says, in verse 10, “I take pleasure…”. When I read that, I thought the Apostle Paul was a step ahead of probably most of us when he says,

2 Corinthians 12:10 ‘Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses (and there is a qualifier here) for Christ’s sake…’

I have never forgot David Wilkerson talking once about people; he said that they want to lay all of their problem at the devil’s doorstep when he said that half of them had created the problem themselves.

He told this story; he said that this woman came to him and said, “Pastor David, I have these problems; the demons bother me at night. They jump up and down on my stomach and keep me awake all night long.” He said that he talked with her a little bit longer more and he said he finally told her, “Sister, that is not the demons bothering you; that is all the chips, Pepsi, and hot sauce you ate before you went to bed.”

He said then somebody came to him and said, “Brother David, the devil is after me. He got me in this situation and my car got all wrecked up.” David said he talked with him a little bit and said to him, “The devil didn’t get you in that situation. You stayed up too late watching movies; you were far too tired and you went out; you were not paying any attention to what you were doing; you backed into something and wrecked your car.” He said, “Don’t blame these things on the devil and think you are overcoming them because you have these great tests that God has put you in.” He said, “That’s your own doing!”

The Apostle Paul makes that clear here; he said those are the infirmities, the reproaches, the persecutions. He is going to glory in those that are for Christ’s sake. The others don’t really count. He says, “But when I am weak, then am I strong.” That is where it is translated to really say, “When I am weak, it is now possible for His strength to be made manifest through me.”

This is a true example of what it means to have the dunamis power—the miracle-working power of God—in your life and mine. This is the miraculous power of the living God being made manifest through Paul’s weakness.

You look at that picture of Apostle Paul and he is actually echoing when he says, “…it is now possible…”; he is saying the same thing that Jesus was saying in the Garden of Gethsemane; it was a different reason; “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me, but nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done.”

You see the great peace of Apostle Paul when he asks for the thorn in his flesh to be removed. Nobody knows what his thorn was; we have been speculating for 2,000 years, but I think it is God’s goodness that Paul never said what it was.

I was just listening to somebody saying that the only pattern that there is given in scripture is the pattern of the tabernacle, but the Apostle Paul tells us in Timothy that his life was a pattern. He says, “My life is a pattern for all who would come after.” It is a pattern of longsuffering. This is part of the pattern of Apostle Paul where he says, “I have this thorn in the flesh.”

How many of us have somewhere that we can relate to this kind of a thing? The question I would have for you and for myself is, “Are we able?” I have wondered sometimes, when I have asked God for something and I haven’t seen it come, and I haven’t thought that I have heard the voice of God giving me a clear word, I read this passage of Apostle Paul and I think, “How well his ears were tuned to hear a word that he did not want to hear.” That word came to him crystal clear, but it was not the word he wanted to hear; make no mistake about it. I don’t think the Apostle Paul would quit praying for that thorn to be removed except that he had gotten a crystal clear word from the Lamb of God.

Sometimes I wonder if maybe the reason we have a prayer, and we keep beating the door and beating the door and wondering, “Why isn’t it answered?” And the question would be, “Are our ears opened and tuned to hear the voice of the Son that we might live?”

Turn to Genesis, a very familiar passage, chapter 22. Here in Genesis, there is a story that we know well. It is the story of Abraham and Isaac when Abraham was asked to offer up his son. I just want to run back—you know the story of Abraham, but I think there is a pretty clear correlation to where you and I stand today. You see, Abraham was called; he was called out of Ur of the Chaldees. God called him and gave him a great promise. Abraham came and He answered that promise. He began to go out on a journey; we are told, not knowing where he went.

The great English preacher, C. H. Spurgeon, said, “God gives sealed orders.” He was referring to the practice of the British Admiralty of that time. They would send their ships of war to sea and they would give the commander orders that would be sealed; they could not open them until they were out on the open seas. The orders would then begin to direct them on the course of action they were to take. He likened this as a picture of what happened with Abraham, and I thought what a great picture it was because God called Abraham; did not tell him where he was going; did not tell him anything except what the end result would be.

What a picture of the calling that God has upon a people when He called us on a journey! Abraham answered that call and he started out on that journey and he answered with tremendous excitement—probably the same way that you and I answered the call when it came. The same kind of call that came to the child, Samuel, in the night, when his name was called out, “Samuel! Samuel!” until he was finally instructed to answer, “Lord, here am I!” and God sent him on a journey.

And so it was with Abraham and his wife; they went on to Haran . When his father-in-law had passed away, they set out on a journey again with that promise ringing afresh in their ears, “In you and in your seed will all the nations of the earth be blessed.”

He went out and then the “everyday” set in. He answered that call like you and I did, with a great amount of hope and excitement and joy at what was set before him. And then Abraham began to walk and you know the troubles he ran into along the way. This should give you and I great hope because Abraham is called the “Father of the Faithful”, and yet he is out there and he ended up fighting with his brethren; he ended up in strife with Lot; they were separated and God took care of that.

You find Abraham down in Egypt then, and he is down there with this great promise before him. I find the irony of this just amazing. He is down there with this great promise on a great journey for God, and there is nothing that can stand in his way, except for Pharoah maybe. He tells Pharoah, “She is not my wife; she is my sister.” You know the story well, and you know the amazing thing about this to me? Abraham turned so far from what God had called him to that he was unable to hear the voice of God.

Do you think that God maybe said something to Abraham? Do you think there was a little something God was trying to speak to his heart? “Abraham, don’t you believe what I spoke to you?” Abraham couldn’t hear it. So God gets a heathen king, the King of Egypt, and gives him a dream and says, “You go talk to Abraham.” And Pharaoh goes to Abraham and gives Abraham the word of the Lord. Abraham repents and turns away.

You know the really amazing thing? Years go by and Abraham finds himself with Abimelech. I did the math on this and as far as I can tell, Abraham is 98 or 99 years old at this point and Sarah is 89 and she must have been quite a “knock out” because all these years later Abraham is still worrying, “They are going to steal my wife from me; she is 90 years old, but they are going to take her away!” He has been through this once and you would think he would learn, but the “Father of the Faithful”—like I said, this should give us some hope—the “Father of the Faithful” goes back and does the same thing all over again, “Well, she is not my wife; she is my sister.” No, he wasn’t lying; it was a half-truth because she was his half-sister, but it wasn’t the whole truth. God has got him right back at the same point all these years later.

Abraham hasn’t gotten a whole lot better at his hearing, yet, because this time God has got to speak to Abimelech, “I’m going to kill you if you marry her; now go talk to Abraham!” Abimelech goes to Abraham and he says, “What have you done to me, Abraham?” These guys could hear the voice of God when Abraham couldn’t!

I thought, “What a picture of the “ fault lines ” that Abraham had that God was working on!” We look at these men, “heroes of the faith”, that they rightfully are, but they didn’t get there walking any different way than you and I walk; they walked through many of the same tests and the same trials.

Then you find the day finally comes; the great battle went on with Ishmael, and I thought of what happened there. You tell me if you see any similarities in this. The word tells us something; I read that story of Ishmael, and as I was rereading about the birth of Ishmael, something suddenly occurred to me; Abraham hasn’t given up on the promise of God. He doesn’t doubt God; he doesn’t doubt God there. I thought that was kind of interesting, and then I remembered something in Hebrews that said, ‘He staggered not at the promises of God through unbelief.’ So there is a scriptural basis for the fact that Abraham was not lacking in faith at this point. I don’t know what happened, but I couldn’t help but imagine what happened inside the tents of Abraham and Sarah. The day came and they were talking about this great call that God had put on their lives. They were talking about the journey that God had put them on and she begins to talk about how old she is and how old he is and they began to think, “ This just isn’t going to happen the way that we thought it was going to happen.

How many of you have heard something like that ever said? “ It just doesn’t look like the way we thought it was going to look. ” How many of you think back to the time when God called you out of your own “Ur of the Chaldees”, when God spoke to you in the night as He did to that child, Samuel, and the great excitement and joy as you came rejoicing to answer that call? And how many of you can look back now over the years and say, “Well you know, it doesn’t quite look like I thought it was going to look.”

And at that point, Abraham and Sarah hadn’t done anything wrong because it did not look the way they thought it was going to look. It hadn’t happened the way they thought it was going to happen. But then, they “ stepped over ” and said, “Well, if it’s not going to look that way , maybe it’s going to happen this way .” And at that point , they had stepped over the line from seeing the way that God had brought them and seeing that in their own weakness, His power could be revealed in them. They said, “Well, maybe, there is another way that God could help us out.”

I just want to say here, just because our “Western mindset” doesn’t always identify with this, that while it is not morally accepted in society today, it was perfectly alright what Abraham and Sarah did in the day they lived in; it was the normal manner in that day. It was not something immoral in the eyes of God in the day that Abraham lived in. If you doubt that, you can look at the 12 tribes of Israel and you will find that four of them, after the days of Abraham, four of the tribes of Israel came to be and were birthed in the same manner—by the handmaid of the mistress of the house giving birth to the sons who would be the sons of Israel. So you see, it was not something that was wrong in the eyes of God, in and of itself, but it was something that they would look to and said, “This is the custom of our day; this is what happens in our days. If we can’t have a son through the two of us, then I will give you my handmaid and the son that comes forth will be our son.”

This is how Ishmael was produced; it wasn’t produced through them thinking, “What God promised is not going to happen.” It came through them thinking, “It’s not going to happen the way we think it’s going to happen.” And, they were 100 % right in that assessment! But the minute they thought , “Now we have to show You (God) how it’s going to happen” , they stepped off track and Ishmael was brought forth.

You know when God said to Abraham, ‘You have to cast out the bondwoman and her son’, Abraham had an immediate response; it’s in the chapter previous where he says, “This is a grievous thing to me.” That word “ grievous ” is actually a Hebrew word that means “ evil ”. What he was saying to God was, “God, you are asking me to do an evil thing that I cannot do.” But, he finally came through and cast out the bondwoman and her son. And having gone through all this—having had this great call put before him and having answered that call—and now he’s been walking in the wilderness for all these years and God has been adjusting “ fault lines ” in his life.

I hope that as we go through this life of Abraham that you can see the similarities to your life and mine as we were called, and as we have walked for however long we’ve walked. God has been adjusting things and opening our eyes to the weaknesses that we have in ourselves; not so that He can make us into some super human beings, but so that He can show us that out of our very weakness, His strength can be made manifest, if we would lay down our own opinions, our own desires and our own ways; if we would come into that death that His son came into—not desiring His own will, but only the will of Him who sent Him.

Then He brings Abraham into this great place in chapter 22, verse 1:

Genesis 22:1-2 ‘And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt (and that is the word, “test”) Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.’

You look here at Abraham and it says, ‘…after these things’; all these things that had gone before—God, who had called Abraham and had given him a great promise; God, who had brought Abraham through all those ways along the journey was now bringing him to a stage where He was going to give him the capacity to finish. God had brought Abraham to a place where Abraham had nothing more to say to God.

You see, every other time that God had spoken to Abraham, Abraham had some sort of response: “God, this is an evil thing.” “God, what do You want this for? Oh, surely this couldn’t happen this way.” But this time, Abraham does not have a word to say.

God starts this test right in His words when He said, ‘Take thy son, thine only son, Isaac.’ Abraham didn’t say, “Wait a minute, God; I know this is the son of promise, but I have two sons.” Abraham doesn’t say a word. God said, ‘Take thy son, thine only son, Isaac, and offer him.’ Abraham doesn’t say, “God, this is a grievous thing; this is an evil thing.”

As I read that passage, I’m reminded of the word that angel gave to Elijah, ‘ the journey is too great for thee ’. Abraham set off on a three day journey that had to have been too great for him. A journey that in his own strength he had no ability to fulfill.

Genesis 22:4-5 ‘Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, (and what we are going to read here is what happens when a man looks not at that which is seen , but he is looking at that which is not seen ; because, here before he ever ascends that mountain, he says) Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

Do you see what Abraham is saying? “I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and I and the lad will come again to you.” There was a faith in Abraham’s heart that gave him now a capacity to finish that he had never known before. Here he stood with the promise of God before him; having seen the supernatural hand of God bring forth this son. But he was not standing now saying, “Oh God! This isn’t the way I thought that it would happen! This isn’t what I thought you were going to do!” He was not wringing his hands wondering what was going to happen! But here on a journey that was too great for him to behold, he stood and gave testimony to those who stood by, “I and the lad will go, and I and the lad will come again to you!”

And we’re told by the writer of Hebrews that his faith was of such at that moment that he knew that if God would cause his son to be slain that He would raise him again from the dead, if need be, because the promises of God, which are ‘yea and amen in Him’, would surely come to pass!

You see, at this moment, the picture of one of the patriarchs of the faith who now has come to a place where he had the “ calling ” faith that it took to bring it out, and he had the “ walking ” faith as he walked through the tests and trials, that God Himself has now brought him to a place to give him the faith to finish, that out of his own weakness, out of his own inability, the dunamis power of God—the miracle-working power of God—would be made manifest in his mortal being.

You find Abraham walks up that mountain and in verse 12 the angel of the Lord says,

Genesis 22:12 ‘And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.’

I read that passage and I heard the voice of God say, “What are you still withholding? What do you still hold back?” Because when Abraham came to this place, he wasn’t holding anything back, but it was all out there.

Genesis 22:15-17 ‘And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee…’

And now at this moment, we begin to see the promise that Abraham was given so many years before that is no longer just a promise. The Almighty God is speaking to him here; you can see it says, “An angel appeared” and then that angel begins to speak in the first person saying, ‘That in blessing I will bless thee’. The voice of the Almighty God, who had called Abraham those many years before, was standing there saying and echoing the words that the Apostle Paul would later speak, “Abraham, you made it to the end of the journey. This promise that I promised you so long before, though the journey has been too great for you, I have brought you all the way home.”

You find the testimony of Abraham in verse 13 where he finds the ram and offers it instead of his son.

Genesis 22:14 ‘And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.’

This was Abraham, no longer thinking he needed to protect those around him from whatever God was doing. Abraham no longer thinking that he needed to find out what he was supposed to do on behalf of God. It is Abraham standing there and he is saying, “In the mountain of the Lord, the Lord will see to it!” That is the way that verse literally translates; “The Lord will see to it!”

Abraham had thought, as he walked through the wilderness, that somehow he had to see to it; that there was some power and ability that he had in himself, but now he was coming to a place where he realized that, “I have just got to lay all these things down.”

As we read in Ecclesiastes, there is a day that is better than the day that you and I were called! There was a great calling out that took place for you and I! There was a great surge inside your heart and mine; it is what set you on a journey with the living God, whenever that began for you and me. No doubt, we can point back to that, even as the Apostle Paul did.

But as surely as He set us on that journey, it was not just so we could revel in what was done in that calling hour, but it is because He took us out of our old life and He set us on a journey with Him! It is a journey that goes toward the cross! If we are planted in the likeness of His death, we have a great promise that we will also be planted in the likeness of His resurrection! That was the cry of all those who throughout the word who said, “I am satisfied with one thing alone! When I awake in Your likeness —that Your life would be made manifest in this mortal body!”

As we stand here and we’ve heard about the manifestation of the sons of God, do you know what that means? It doesn’t mean that you are going to be some great thing on behalf of God! But what it is a testimony of, is the same testimony that the Apostle Paul had; that as we have walked with God, lo these many years, we can say, “God, You brought us to a place, why should we be any greater than that of our fathers?”

And the voice of the living God would say back to you and me, “There’s a journey ahead that is too great for you, but I have a little cake that is baked on the coals; I have a little drink here for you that will give you the ability to go forth from this day to hear the voice of the living God!” He has us on a journey! The same journey that Elijah was on; a journey to translation out of the realm of death into the realm of eternal life !

That is the path that you and I have laid out before us, and we can’t see it unless we can see into the realm of the Spirit. You can look at Elijah when he called Elisha; the thing that kept Elisha to the end was not the fact there was proximity required—he had to be there with Elijah to the very end, but Elijah did not say to Elisha, “If you are with me when I am taken, then you will receive the double portion of my anointing.” What he said to Elisha was one thing that Elijah could not do for him, He said, “If you see me when I am taken up.” And that is why when they came, Elisha stood there and he cried out because he wanted Elijah to know that he saw what was going on; he saw what could not be seen when he cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof!” He saw into a realm that mortal eyes could not see! That is what gave him the ability to carry the mantle of the one who went before.

And that is how it is for you and me; we have to be able to see that which is not seen! We have to be able to see those things which are eternal! If we keep our eyes on that which is temporal, we will choose instead to live all our days in bondage; bondage to the fear of death, which has kept men in bondage throughout their life! But God would bring a people out from the fear that they are going to lose something and set their eyes on a heavenly prize and say, “There before you is a great promise that you cannot fulfill in yourself, but I the Lord will do it, if you’ll stand! Stand in the mountain of the Lord! The Lord will see to it! He will see to it! He will see to it because He who began the work—He who called you and me—He who has kept us this far—He alone has the ability—that out of our weakness and inability, His strength might be made perfect in our weakness.

So God—God alone—will give His people the capacity to finish that which He has called us to do. So, if you and I sit and wonder, “God, how can these things ever be? How could this ever come to pass? How ridiculous are all these things that You have promised us”, we need to say the prayer of Apostle Paul, “When I am weak, Lord, let it be possible for Your strength—Your life—to be made manifest in this mortal vessel. Amen.”

I just want to say one more thing. We read there in Isaiah that He was coming back to ‘comfort those who mourn’. I don’t want to lose sight because of those around church and the world are feasting and just rejoicing; they don’t want to hear anything that has to do with laying down your own life. You read there that the ‘day of feasting is the end of all men’. You read how Christ came the first time, but I believe that on His eminent return, that when He returns, He will stand once again and open up to the book of Isaiah and begin to open the word again to where He left off; where He said the first time, ‘This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears’. He’s going to come back and pick up mid-stream, ‘the day of vengeance of our God which is coming upon all those who are unrighteous’, but He is coming with the day of vengeance of our God, but there is a great promise in that passage to a specific people because He says He is also coming to comfort all those who mourn.

So, if you find yourself in these days in the “House of Mourning”; if you find yourself in these days saying, “God, I just can’t seem to get any further with You; I just can’t seem to overcome this flesh! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Then take great comfort in the fact that He is going to come and comfort those who mourn in Zion !

It says in the book of Amos: ‘there are those who drink wine in bowls; who partake of the chief ointments’. They are taking all the gifts and the anointing of the Spirit of the living God. It ends that passage in Amos saying, ‘but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph’. They are not grieved for the fact that there is a son who is in prison still inside of this mortal realm, but there is a people who are going to rise; whose cry is, “Lord, let Your life come forth in me! Let that same life that Joseph had spring forth and begin to make a manifestation of Your life in this earth!”

There is a grieving and a groaning inside of us, if we are truly led by the Spirit of God; there is a groaning, not that this tabernacle would be put off, but that we would be clothed upon with the Lord from heaven.

If you’re among the people who have that kind of a mourning and that kind of groaning inside of you, “Lord, that Your life would be made manifest inside of me!”, then you can know that when He appears, because He is going to appear in ‘clouds of glory’; that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is! He is going to come and exchange your mourning for garments of praise! He’s going to come and do a great exchange program and to comfort all those who mourn in Zion !

So don’t feel bad if you look around you and you think all this partying and everything going on, “Why can’t I be a part of it?” But know of a surety that when He returns, He is going to comfort those who mourn in Zion . He is going to give them the ‘oil of gladness for the spirit of heaviness’, and that’s a promise for you and me. Amen.


   
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