The second touch – from a blind man to a visionary
So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.” Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly. (Mark 8:23-25)
One of the attitudes that we must cultivate in order to benefit spiritually from the scriptures is that we must recognize that every event recorded in the Bible has a prophetic application to us as God’s people. Just as the deliverance of the bent-over woman speaks of God’s desire to help us take our eyes off the ground and prophetically look to the future, this healing of the blind man also represents much more than a mere historical narrative. The Holy Spirit is making a statement about us as God’s people. Perhaps Jesus did not heal the blind man all at once in order to expand on his emphasis of our need of objectivity. We must be willing to admit that we are much like this blind man . . . our vision is out of focus. The Lord’s second point of contact is the focus of objectivity. Many people today do not see others as they should. They are confused, mistaken, insensitive, often arriving at absurd interpretations about the people with whom they relate.
Beyond the touch of upward and forward vision, we must also receive the Lord’s touch of focused vision. A God-given vision of others enables us to envision worthwhile and significant projects. Rather than cultivating a vision for the nations, God wants us to have a vision of people. Spiritual objectivity occurs when Jesus sees people’s needs through our spiritual eyes.
Looking up: our responsibility
“Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly”
After Jesus put his hands on the blind man a second time, he asked him to look up in order to receive the restoration of his sight. Look up expectantly to the challenges and purposes that God sends to you. This is what will give your vision objectivity. You must put forth an active effort in order to receive a focused vision, in other words, you must exercise faith and trust.
Isaiah described this principle in the following manner: “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.” The word translated “mind” here implies forming, or molding direction.
The principle foundation of objectivity is our trust in God. To trust is to confide in, or in other words, to agree with the faithfulness of someone. God personally reveals His faithfulness to us and it is our responsibility to agree or to disagree with it, in other words, to trust or distrust him. If we fail to put our trust in God as we live, we will become spiritually hunched-over and isolated. If we trust in him, he will straighten us up and give us the correct vision of his specific purposes.
Trust is an intimate and personal attitude that characterizes people and relationships that are truly free. The first aspect of the restoration of objectivity is the strength of mind or purpose in God based on trust. God will form, mold revelation and impart clear direction that is just as personal as our own identity is.
The power of the second touch: the three aspects of objectivity
After the Lord touched the blind man the passage says that he saw everyone clearly.
He saw distant objects clearly. The vision gained depth. The stronger your vision, the further you will see. Through objectivity, we begin to unmask new horizons that we have never perceived before.
He saw people clearly. The vision became clear. The stronger your vision, the more details you will perceive. We can focus on matters that will cause an impartial and complete discernment of the situation.
He saw everyone. The vision included people. The stronger your vision the more people you will be able to see, and the more you will understand in God what their true needs are. We begin to enjoy the compassion of God for people. Objectivity leads us to be practical with people concerning their real needs.
Seeing the blindness: divine objectivity
But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. (Luke 13:12, 13)
In order to be spiritually objective one must be personal. God is highly sensitive to and considers our individuality. Jesus sees our blindness from afar and perceives our myopia. He also considers our mistaken tendency to look in foolish and absurd spiritual directions in search of solutions. In some way, he will approach us and help us correct our vision. God’s purpose is specific. Jesus approached the bent-over woman and her problem in a specific manner for a specific purpose.
The most important element in this story is neither the woman nor her infirmity, nor even the amount of time that she had suffered because of it, but the fact that Jesus came to her. Whenever Jesus approaches us, he always comes in a personal way. His objective is to restore our objectivity. Jesus is not a force, neither of positive philosophy nor of eastern religious opinion. He is man’s creator and redeemer. He loves us intelligently and cares about each detail of our lives. Obviously, this woman’s dilemma was recorded in the Gospel account because it represents situations that occur in each of our lives. This passage demonstrates four ways that Jesus objectively comes into our lives:
Visual contact “when Jesus saw her”
This “encounter” with Christ was the most prophetic moment of this woman’s life. Jesus made visual contact with her through his gaze of compassion. He perceived her misfortune. When God comes to us, he always begins with an objective vision. After 18 years of suffering her chronic infirmity, her time for healing had come. She was at the right place at the right time. Even though we sometimes fail to perceive him, Jesus is with us and sees us. He not only sees us, but he also sees that which prevents us from seeing him!
Emotional contact “he called her to himself”
When Jesus sees us, he calls us. He approaches us and at the same time attracts us to himself. This demonstrates his emotional contact of compassion and understanding. He tapped into her ability to hear him in order to free her. Although she could hear him, she had a hard time directing her need for provision to him. The call of God may be ignored, but it is never misunderstood. God is an expert in communication.
Verbal contact “and said to her”
When Jesus calls us to himself, he tells us what he wants to do in and through us. This verbal contact (in whatever form it comes to us) restores our faith. He came to proclaim liberty to the captives declaring, “Woman you are loosed from your infirmity”. This word straightened her faith and then her body, knocking down all her unbelief and hopelessness in the process.
Physical contact “and he laid his hands on her”
When Jesus speaks to us, he also touches us supernaturally. This is not only the touch of the hand, but the touch of the heart, the touch of identification and the touch of healing. His touch will release power in our lives. Jesus passed something on to her. He imparted his grace upon the life of that woman. He demonstrated all of his empathy. In that moment, through faith in the sacrifice that he would yet make, Jesus took her infirmity upon himself: “and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God”.
So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound — think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?
This diagnostic aspect of God’s touch is extremely important. This woman’s situation was spiritually evil. Here we can perceive how Satan wants to destroy our vision, our dreams and principally are spiritual objectivity. The Bible relates how Satan tried to attacked the fulfillment of Joseph’s dream through his brother’s jealousy, how he attacked Mary’s vision by inspiring Herod to kill the children two years or younger, etc. Many times these terrible attacks will come in an indirect and subtle manner.
The purpose of this spirit of infirmity was to cause this woman to look to the ground of her life, casting her into an enslaving routine of inferiority and unbelief. Jesus described this woman’s situation as a “prison”, someone who Satan had kept prisoner. Lack of vision and spiritual objectivity is a type of bondage imposed by Satan. This woman had already served a sentence of 18 years of imprisonment in “Satan’s prison”.
What about you? How long have you been walking in circles looking at the ground of life, steeped in inferiority, idealizing your problems, licking your wounds and caressing your self-pity? We must discern these types of situations as much more than mere emotional difficulties: they are true demonic prisons. After 18 years, attending the same church there was still no one who could spiritually discern the source of and solution to this woman’s affliction. This is more than sad, it is shameful.
How many people are like this in our churches? Some of them have no idea that they are potential Satan worshipers, imprisoned and blinded by sensuality, disobedient to parents, full of religious hypocrisy and other iniquities that nurture terrible disorders of spiritual vision. Apart from a spiritually unfruitful existence, such believers end up easily manipulated by demonic forces becoming chronic hotbeds of confusion, rebellion and division.
A daughter of Abraham
This is perhaps the principal point at which we must wake up from our spiritual stupor. This woman was part of the church of that day. We must admit that in some way she was a faithful believer. Otherwise Jesus would not have called her a daughter of Abraham, an heiress of saving faith. From this story, we can diagnose one of the greatest evils that a person can go through from within the church: a vision compromised by the lack of spiritual objectivity.
History and destiny: structure and objectivity
There is a connection between our past and our destiny; between our structure and our objectivity. In some way, every human being has an innate desire to have direction and purpose of life. Why is it that in the church there are so many apathetic and spiritually sleepy members? Even though they possess the most powerful message of the world, able to change the eternal destiny of people, many hold on to life with no spiritual expectation. Again, we must learn to recognize this as demonic! An English atheist once said: “If this business of heaven and hell that Christians claim is really true, I would be willing to cross England on my knees in order to gain a single soul!” Unfortunately, most people who claim to be a Christian would not even cross the street to win a soul! Such is the evil reality of the lack of objectivity in so many believers’ lives!
A correct and healthy spiritual structure is based on a resolved past. Objectivity is the effect of the manifestation of this structure in a promising future full of expectation. Structure is the cause that brings objectivity as its effect. A body with no bone structure is nothing more than a pile of organs. Structure promotes form that provides the just and correct functioning of an organism. This woman had an unresolved past which manifested itself through a terrible deformation of her spinal column. Our vision will be just as defective or functional as our structure is.
We need divine knowledge and perspective with respect to our past, a deep encounter with the mercy of God. This will help us overcome traumas, learn new attitudes, examine values and patterns of behavior, correct spiritual errors to which we have been addicted far too long, shake off spiritual ticks and twitches that are nothing more than the manifestations of religious hypocrisy.
The correct question is not how long you have been in the church, but how great has the consciousness of eternity affected you. Many times we need to discover how fragile, vulnerable and incompetent we are.
What are you living for? Purpose and destiny are moral synonyms. By failing to answer this question, we declare the death of our faith. Faith without vision and objectivity is dead. Without vision the people perish. Without prophecy, they corrupt themselves. If we strive for nothing, we will achieve nothing! Without objectivity, we condemn ourselves to inactivity where idleness, depression, apathy, laziness, monotony, and frustration thrive. These things are all children of a small or selfish vision and lack of spiritual objectivity in life.
Lifting up our eyes
Jesus said, “Lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” (John 4:35). Few people understand and obey this commandment. Jesus was preparing his disciples to receive the promise of the Father: “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28) Visions, goals, objectives, dreams and prophecies are highly spiritual elements. These things come only through the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon all flesh.
Without the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our lives, our conflict with our past and our uncertainty of the future will indelibly mark our present. It is tragic to see Spirit filled believers with no vision of eternal consequence, living a Christianity that amounts to mere “feelings of God’s presence”, looking merely to selfish interests and personal whims, tolerating a life devoid of bold projects, and blindly feeding on fantasies of conquests of future feats without the willingness to pay the least price.
To what extent does the story of this bent-over woman who could in no way raise herself up, correspond to your story? We must not lose sight of God’s promise of the outpouring of his Spirit upon us in prophecy, visions and dreams equipping us with objectivity, ability to develop far-reaching plans and strategies, and strong conviction of a consistent purpose for our lives. Objectivity is an indispensable attribute of vision. Objectivity is vision’s focus. Vision without objectivity becomes just as foggy and nebulous as a life without purpose.
A myopic bent-over vision
The lack of objectivity in prayer is invariably the result of the lack of spiritual objectivity in many aspects of life. A lack of spiritual objectivity is a type of spiritual myopia. This is a very important principle to examine. The ability to lift up your head can significantly change your history and give you a new perspective to your existence.
The Bible speaks of a woman who although she persevered for many years in the church had lost her objectivity and suffered spiritual myopia. The focus of her spiritual vision was adversely affected due to a structural trauma that she suffered. She was bent over by a spirit of infirmity.
Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”
The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound – think of it – for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” (Luke 13:10-16)
This woman represents those in the church that for some reason lose their ability to focus on God’s will. I believe that the principal aspect of vision is the spiritual objectivity through which we face life, the future and eternity. Vision without objectivity falls prey to Satan’s manipulation. This spiritual myopia becomes a servant of the enemy spiritually imprisoning many people .
This woman’s situation demonstrates more than anything else, how religiosity can cause people to be bent over with a distorted vision and spiritual myopia. The Pharisees with their legalistic notions were even more bent over than this unfortunate woman.
The Bible affirms, “Without vision, the people perish”. Much of the corruption that has jaded great ministries springs from this principle that people walk through life bent over with no spiritual objective in sight. Lack of objectivity wounds purpose and compromises destiny. We can observe four facts that reveal significant spiritual principles in this woman’s story.
This woman was spiritually myopic but not blind
It is important to understand the subtlety of this detail. Many people have vision, some have too much vision, but what they don’t have is objectivity. Vision without objectivity loses its practicality becoming empty, impractical or stubborn in a negative focus. Life becomes static and captive to the superficiality of laziness.
The principal objective of the enemy is not to blind us, but compromise our spiritual objectivity, tearing away our prophetic ability to focus and invest on the correct goal. In this way, people stop working towards the solution and begin to overburden the ministry and cause problems in the church. It seems like a universal principle that whoever does not produce fruit causes problems. This dynamic facilitates the action of the enemy against a ministry.
This woman may have even had 2020 vision, but it was subject to infirmity. Because of the fact that she was bent over her vision was poorly positioned. Something always pulled her vision down. The only view that she was predisposed to focus on was the ground at her own feet. Jesus called her bondage a prison of Satan.
Spiritual myopia and deformed structures
Structural problems always lead to other problems because of the simple matter of collateral effects. Some structural deformities can be so serious that one loses the ability to stand erect. The verse tells us that she “was bent over and could in no way raise herself up”. Perhaps with plenty of effort she would be able to see what was in front of her. Her vision was seriously compromised because of an infirmity that affected her physical structure.
The backbone or spine speaks of moral posture and character. Someone once joked that the Lions couldn’t eat Daniel because he had a lot of backbone. According to human anatomy, the bones of the spine are the hardest in the human body. Character is the backbone of the soul.
Just as the principal causes of physical crippling have to do with damage to the spine, in the same way, damage to our character cripples our spiritual life and vision. There is no way to separate these two things. Many traumas and abuses suffered in life end up conditioning our will to a sinful routine that corrupts the character, affects our sensitivity and distorts vision.
The biggest problem in the world today is not lack of resources as many insist and affirm, but a lack of character and absence of purpose. Society is running up a huge deficit of structural morality and objective vision contributing to an ever-expanding and universal experience of human suffering.
This chronic shortage of objectivity suffocates the desire to live and is one of the principle entryways through which depression enters and plagues a person. Depression is always founded upon a lack of hope. On the other hand, objectivity engenders a solid hope expressing the essence of faith and the desire to live.
Spiritual myopia and an unhealthy focus
If the spiritual structure is deformed, the focus becomes misdirected and thus unhealthy. It is important that we perceive spiritual problems and infirmities that compromise our vision and consequently our spiritual objectivity. Too often, these spiritual problems draw us into selfishness considering only our own interests and problems.
We can make a list of some of these basic aspects of the unhealthy focus of our vision. Selfishness is vision focused on our own interests; criticism is vision focused on our own disappointments; self-pity is vision focused on our weaknesses; inferiority is vision focused on our own inability; covetousness is vision unhealthily focused on our own desires and sensuality is vision unhealthily focused on our own feelings. The list goes on. This spiritual crookedness defines the essence of idolatry. This examination confirms the old destroying perspective of sin, which can be defined as “missing the mark”.
All of these sins affect the spiritual structure of life and deform our character forcing our eyes onto our own naval. For this reason God prophetically challenges us (Isaiah 58) to depart from ourselves, having a broken will and our soul completely open to the needs of others. Brokenness causes our life to spring forth with the solutions of God for a world in need. Isaiah uses figures like a watered garden and springs whose waters never cease. Only broken people can perceive other’s needs and the urgency of the kingdom of God. Brokenness is a great key for us to develop a prophetic structure that makes a life of objectivity and effectiveness possible.
Overcoming spiritual myopia through acceptance of diversity
God objectively looks at our lack of objectivity. We should thank Him for that. God is a personal being. The Bible calls him the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; a God of people and not a cosmic force. He is a person that objectively desires to relate to us.
In order to be objective we must respect uniqueness and value personality. An error in objectivity that many people frequently make is prioritizing “things” instead of “people”.
God also sees us as an individual in a crowd, before he calls us by name. It was God who planned and formed our identity. Everything in the moral world works personally and specifically. God treats us in a just and unique way. There is nothing more unjust than treating different people in the same manner. Such was the great mistake of the failed communist regime.
Objectivity in this sense can be defined as the capacity to evidence uniqueness and promote unity for the sake of diversity. Each person, with his unique characteristics, has the potential to fit in and interact with the universe of which he belongs. For this to happen, sensibility and empathy are necessary. Jesus was able to show compassion to the religious legalists despite their hard hearts, He was able to see the blindness of the blind, touch the lepers without contaminating himself and feel the insensibility of the insensitive. He knew how to objectively deal with the root of the problem in each person’s situation.
Overcoming spiritual myopia through positive influence
He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed. (Proverbs 13:20)
Unfortunately we live in a world where the majority of people are spiritually lost and for this reason are failing to properly live out their lives. We live in an age in which few people understand what life is and how we should live it. The proof of this is the number of people filling up the classes of psychology and a growing ocean of those who experiment with existentialism, new consciousness, new age, drugs, the occult, and so many other forms of alternate reality.
We must not abandon spiritual objectivity because most people have no defined spiritual purpose for their life. Unfortunately, people who do nothing that is spiritual always want someone to do nothing with them. We must be aware of the people who distance us from God’s purpose and those who draw us closer to it.
Effective prayer and spiritual objectivity
The secret of successful prayer is to know how to focus requests in prayer according to the prophetic need of the moment. We must learn how to cultivate and employ spiritual objectivity as the target of our prayer. Jesus did this when he prayed for his disciples.
I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. (John 17:9)
Defining spiritual objectivity
I believe that this verse expresses the most complete definition of spiritual objectivity given in the Bible. Spiritual objectivity is simply the ability to “hit the right target” in prayer. There are far too many people aiming at the wrong target.
Many people proceed to climb what they perceive as the “ladder of success” only to discover that the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall when they reach the top. Objectivity implies leaning the ladder on the right wall in order to reach the right target. For Christians this means investing in the things and people who the Father has given them to distribute to others.
Objectivity is also the power to transform our dreams into reality through elaborating and following executable projects. Many people idealize projects that are so abstract and unreal that they are impossible to implement into anything doable. This is frustrating. Every illusion is a promise of disappointment. Many people never wake up to live out and experience their dreams. To cultivate the art of dreaming is very important; however, it is more important to know how these dreams will materialize in a practical manner. Objectivity is one of the principle measurements of distinguishing dreams from illusions.
The practice of spiritual objectivity speaks of the ability to establish living examples in accordance with the divine plan. We must hear God’s voice in order to recognize the right priorities that we must focus on in harmony with the moment. Spiritual objectivity is the fruit of intimacy with God’s divine purpose manifesting itself through a deep sense of destiny concerning our inheritance in God
Spiritual objectivity in prayer
The lack of objectivity communicated in many prayer meetings is tragic. Many prayers are as long-winded as they are empty, as religious as they are mystic and as foggy as they are unbelieving. It is common to hear prayers that are the exact opposite of what Jesus prayed: “Lord, bless all of the nations of the world and all the churches on the face of the earth!” Jesus simply prayed: “I ask not for the whole world”.
We can define prayer without objectivity as prayer that requires no evaluation of results. Effective prayer of the righteous involves specific motives and implies unquestionable effects and answers. They are shots fired under the precise guidance of a target. Spiritual objectivity in prayer demonstrates the exercise of faith. Vague and wide-reaching prayers attest to religiosity. They try to impress, but deep down inside those who offer them do not believe what they are praying.
Jesus did not meander in prayer; He enjoyed a focused intimacy with God through the Holy Spirit that pointed to prioritized responsibilities. He knew where He wanted to go. His prayers had a clear focus. When we speak of prioritized responsibilities we are principally speaking about praying for people and for the vision that God has directly given to us.
Jesus made it a point to limit His prayer. His prayers were short and sweet. His disciples would soon be under the same crossfire. He said: “I do not pray for the world”. He targeted his prayer to his primary scope of responsibility. Although they were few, Jesus interpreted the value of his responsibility to his disciples as far superior to that of what he had with respect to the whole world. This focusing power is distinctly impressive and strategically necessary.
We have the responsibility to know “who” and “what” God has entrusted to us. If you do not know whom God has entrusted to you, you must find out, and begin to cover these people in prayer. We must learn to pray specifically for the people who God has chosen and has given us to care for independently of our present position of leadership. These people constitute and represent a specific purpose of God, which we must strive to attain. Do not shrink from this objective responsibility! Do not question God as Cain did irresponsibly inquiring, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). God always entrusts people to other people.
The greatest responsibilities are usually small ones. God pays attention to how we face small responsibilities. This is the way that God tests us and knows whether we will remain faithful to Him or not. God is adamant in this: if we are not faithful in the little, we will not be faithful with much. No matter how much you desire or even “pray” for much, if you are not being faithful in the little, your prayer will be irresponsible and if God were to answer it, you could even be destroyed. Therefore, God will not give you the much.
Due to the fact that we are concentrating temporary daily posts exclusively to the Spiritual Maturity blog http://goo.gl/dTsw2S posts to this blog will be suspended until the second week in February. After February 7th, we will continue with weekly posts to this blog. In the mean time we invite you to read and comment on the posts about Spiritual disciplines posted on the Spiritual Maturity blog.
Thanks and God bless you.
Whatever we love, whatever we fear and whatever we believe in determines the values that we establish in our lives. The way we deal with our affections, fears and beliefs determines our ability to advance in the strength of our convictions. As we develop the character of perseverance with respect to our affections, fears and beliefs, we will prevail in the many constant spiritual battles that we face.
Are we fighting the good or the bad fight? Are we advancing or have we already abandoned the race? Have we kept the faith or have we already abandoned our convictions? By answering these questions we can determine if we have persevered or given up; if we have overcome or if we have been overcome. The effectiveness of our prayer life vitally depends on these answers.
When Jesus faced his last minutes of life here on the earth, in prayer, looking into God’s eyes, he could say with absolute authority, “Father, everything that you gave me to do I have done! Everything that you expected me to be I have been! I have glorified you on the earth, having fulfilled the work that you gave me to do. It is finished!” Jesus only yielded His spirit after declaring that He had completed His mission. He refused to die before that.
Through his work on earth up to and including his work on the cross, Christ summarized and established the highest definition of prosperity and success through his declaration “It is finished”. There is no true prosperity without perseverance. Death is not the greatest evil that can befall a person. The greatest tragedy and worse situation in someone’s life is not death, but a life without purpose. The purpose of God is a reference point for perseverance. Without this reference point and without perseverance, our lives will be wasted. How frustrating it is to look at all the years some people have lived and perceive that they are living a life with no eternal significance.
A fundamental element of prayer is to persevere with integrity to fulfill God’s will, and to finish the work that has been entrusted to us without getting discouraged, responsibly fulfilling the conditions of the promises that were designated to us by the mouth of God. Each step of perseverance is a hymn of worship. We glorify God by persevering! This is one of the principle aspects of worship! We can keep the doors of heaven open overcoming accidents along the way and advance towards the prize of the heavenly calling.
In order to persevere there must be brokenness. The fatal blow against death was the conclusion through the last words of Jesus: it is finished! A perfect ending! Words such as these can only be spoken from the cross! Perseverance is for people who are being crucified. There was no place for surrender in the life of Jesus. Through His perseverance Jesus crucified death and subverted its kingdom by interceding for the entire human race!
How to identify and overcome the law of fear
God’s Word assures us: “The fear of the wicked will come upon him” (Prov. 10:24). Job testified: “That what I feared came to pass.” This is a spiritual law that reigns over the behavior of fear. Through fear we create areas of spiritual, moral and sentimental vulnerability. The tendency is to lower our guard and give up. The enemy will attack us in whatever areas we fear. Areas in our lives where there is fear establish the targets of the enemy’s attack. That is the way that it works.
Only the fear of God can overcome fear. Godly fear opens the doors to revelation for us to know God thus conquering all other fears. Consequently, fear, when overcome, gives place to prayer and boldness.
Strongholds of fear: where believers try to hide
Fear is easily able to build strongholds in the human heart. It slowly infiltrates and establishes thoughts and sophisms that paralyze us. This can be diagnosed when we retreat to certain hiding places.
“Now the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not stay in the stronghold; depart, and go to the land of Judah. So David departed and went into the forest of Hereth.” (1 Samuel 22:5).
God commanded David to leave his hiding place and go to the land of Judah in search of King Saul, his persistent persecutor. The cave was a physically safe place, but spiritually harmful. David had to face and overcome the fear that he had nourished within of King Saul. The biggest enemy of the moment was not King Saul, but the oppressive fear that was little by little destroying David’s confidence in God. The place where we face fear is the territory of dependence on God. Or in other words, boldness is the territory of miracles. God wanted David in this place.
One of the most common places to hide from God is in the church: behind a religious label, behind the fame of the denomination, behind the ministry, behind a title, job or position. However, God will certainly bring changes to flush us out of these hiding places that undermine our dependence on the Holy Spirit. He is always trying to push us to courageous action, albeit in harmony with His Word, or in other words, with boldness, but not presumption.
Many Christians in the church are just like Adam in the Garden of Eden, hiding from God, intimidated, inhibited, dodging God and His will. One of God’s greatest challenges is dislodging believers from their hiding places. Jesus denounced some of these hiding places in which we excuse ourselves from the divine calling:
Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind. (Luke 14:15-21)
We have here three structures that are commonly used to justify our fear and lack of disposition with respect to the call of God: business, work and family. The worst part is that we begin to use inexcusable excuses with respect to these things: who would buy a parcel of land before seeing it? Who would buy a yoke of oxen or a car without taking it for a test-drive? It is very strategic when we use the health of our marriage, family or children to support our excuses for lack of involvement in God’s work. However, the backdrop of these excuses and strategies is fear and inertia.
Fear can easily lead a person to care much more about these things to the point of sacrificing God’s invitation. This is the terrible power that insecurity has of compromising even our eternal destiny.
Just as Jesus mentioned in this parable, it is not surprising that today the people with the greatest logical, financial and social potential are not lined up with the will of God, while unbelievably the people who God uses most in His kingdom are the poor, lame, blind and handicapped, people who are humanly incapable, yet available. The worthy become unworthy and the unworthy become worthy. God’s principal requirement to use a person is his availability and devotion. The manner that we deal with our fears will define whether we genuinely finish our race or not. If we listen to our fears, the race will be lost, but if we listen to God’s direction and persevere in obedience to his voice, then we will finish the race and receive the crown.
There are three things that affect our perseverance that define true success, guarantee lasting prosperity and sharpen our prayer life: our values, our fears and our convictions. These are the determining aspects of our walk with God.
Respectively, this presents three matters that we must answer personally to God: who do we really love? Who do we really fear? In whom do we really believe? Certainly, the answer to these questions, explains a lot about the level of effectiveness of our prayer life.
“I fought the good fight” – changing our values
The first aspect of perseverance is our values: What do we love? Where is our heart?
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)
If there is a “good” fight, there must also be a “bad” fight. This conflict between the good and the bad fight is the collateral effect of our values. Perseverance loses its meaning when our values have been corrupted.
Who do we truly love, God or Mammon? Where is our treasure? We are servants of the one that we love! This is a law. Our intimate values are related to what we love. The efficiency of our prayers is deeply tied to our values. A spiritual distortion of our set of values concerning the character of God compromises our intimacy with Him and undermines the effectiveness of our prayer life.
That which we love compromises us deeply: (Hosea 9:10b). We mold ourselves to the values that we have chosen for our lives. We take the form and the manner of that which we love. Our set of values determines our character, and as a result determines our destiny. All transformation is preceded by a change of values. You cannot change a person without changing his values.
The Word of God clearly determines that there will be things that we love and things that we do not love. We must love what God loves and hate that which He hates. We can intelligently choose what we must love, resisting the flood of worldly sophisms by being a voice that cries in the desert where the convenience of sin prevails:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
Mind and heart
There is a much greater distance than 18 inches between the head and the heart. I would like to evaluate this distance. Honestly, what are our values? Are we fighting the good fight of life? How can we generally determine our true values? It’s simple, by paying attention to the things in which we invest the greatest part of our time, money, life, effort, etc. In this way, we can easily detect our set of values and evaluate their relative nobility.
It is also fundamentally important that we confront: how we relate to the values transmitted by the gospel? Where do we hold these values, in the mind or in the heart? This question establishes the difference between the superficial and the profound, between theory and practice. There is often a great disconnect between intellectual and practical values that exposes our spiritual inconsistency.
It is common to see people with an enormous head disproportional to their own body and their stunted and sick heart. People full of rules and poverty of life, saturated with theories yet empty in practice, full of snobbish theology but devoid of experience, just as Paul said, “They have a form of piety but deny the power of God.” (Titus 1:16)
To better illustrate the situation, allow me to test you with two questions. We can form the first question in the following way: “Do you think it’s important to pray?” When we ask an individual or a church group this question everyone answers in the affirmative. Since it is a theoretical question, it is also a very easy question to answer or “irresponsibly answer”. This question will certainly reveal our intellectual values, our “religiosity”.
However, a second question touches our lifestyle, which is what defines the essence of our values. “Do you have a prayer life?” While this question is similar it is completely different while touching on the same subject, it demands a separate response. Because it is a practical question, it could be very difficult to answer because it requires us to pay a price. A lot of hypocrisy can be revealed through questions like this one.
When answers to these two questions don’t coincide, it indicates that we are facing a crisis of integrity with respect to the content of the question, whatever it may be. The first question isolates us from the commitment of character, while the second question confronts it directly. If we ask the wrong question, we will have the wrong answer. When we ask the right question, we perceive that we cannot assimilate the gospel merely in theory.
It is not enough to answer certain questions from God’s heart with the correct biblical theology. If we ask for example, what is the value of a life? What is the value of a human soul? Would it be enough to cite a verse of the gospel just like a child answering a multiplication question: “A soul is worth the whole world”? I don’t think so.
This may be the theologically correct answer, but perhaps the most inconsistent one that we can offer. We can only express the value of a soul by the price of the life that we are paying for the salvation of souls. This is certainly the answer that God wants to hear from us independent of our theology and accumulated degrees. This requires an effective prayer life.
I have learned that the best place to be is in the center of the God’s will. My set of values still needs to be transformed. The things that we love will determine if we are fighting the “good” or “bad” fight of life and if are perseverance is worthwhile or not.
“I finished the race” – conquering our fears
The second aspect of perseverance deals with the ability to face fear and laziness. Who do we fear?
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)
The greatest obstacles in the course of a life are internal. It was not the fortified cities or the military acumen of the inhabitants of the Promised Land that defeated the people of Israel when they spied out the land, but fear and unbelief. In other words, the greatest challenges are not our external difficulties, but fear and internal insecurity.
Family breakup, violence, abuses, daily stress and so many other harmful situations have imposed a chaotic backdrop of insecurity, fear, and even panic. Many people have already gotten used to living under social and spiritual intimidation. They are addicted to fear and various aspects of their lives have been blocked. Traumas and complexes destroy our initiative and dull our capacity to take risks in favor of fulfilling the will of God. Besides castrating our development and preventing advances in life, all paralyzing fear destroys the spirit of prayer. In order to persevere we must be bold and overcome the oppression imposed by fear.
There is a type of fear that works as a safety valve and alerts us to dangerous situations. This is a protective fear, but it must be limited in a healthy manner. Its message must be correctly received and followed. However there is another type of fear that is spiritual and is based on intimidation. It is not wrong to feel fear, it is wrong to be manipulated by fear. When fear overcomes our convictions we begin to frustrate the plans of God.
In these last decades the world has grown to understand the power of terrorism as a strategy of war. What is terrorism? It is when someone through an act of atrocity makes a threat greater than what they represent. Terrorism is an optical illusion. It is when you believe an enemy even more than he believes in himself.
Who is the greatest terrorist? Satan. He has no power yet causes us to believe that he does. The truth is that all the disadvantages are on his side. This makes terrorism and intimidation his principal weapon to combat people’s peace and faith. He seeks to establish a general climate of violence and insecurity through which he remotely controls society.
Satan spreads fear, acting, controlling and manipulating through intimidation. This can deter us from completing missions and tasks that were entrusted to us resulting in personal discredit and dismay with our relationship with God.
Spiritual fear can be defined as faith in the enemy and in his life. Fear is not spiritually neutral, in reality it is a negative faith. There are people who have is surprisingly “great” faith, however it is a negative faith. They strongly and intensely believe that nothing will work out, that they can do nothing, that they will never succeed and that the worst is coming, etc. They have been totally undermined by intimidation. They are easily conformed to this present age allowing the visible contrary circumstances to mold them. They live an existence of confessing defeat.
Fear is nothing more than faith in misfortune. Through fear, we set up our own defeats and edify the will of the kingdom of darkness to the detriment of our advances in God.
“I kept the faith” – keeping our convictions
The third aspect of perseverance is maintaining a positive balance of faith. Whom do we believe in?
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith (1 John 5:4)
You have to believe first in order to overcome afterward. Faith is already the victory in itself that overcomes the world whose prince is Satan. What we believe determines our character of perseverance as an intercessor.
The ability to maintain our convictions, assimilate the truth and fight expectantly in prayer is fundamental in the knowledge of God’s character and in the cross of Christ. It is common to see people who have gone through many things to lose their faith, give up on people, break promises and abort the divine plan. Disappointments along the way have an incredible potential of destroying our confidence, producing amnesia with respect to God’s promises leading us to neglect principles.
The matter here is not merely ceasing to believe in the truth of God. When this happens, we simultaneously begin to believe in many satanic lies. That is the way we become spiritually insane. For each truth of God, Satan has a very convincing argument. There is no middle ground or “no man’s land” between the truth and a lie. Whether we like it or not our faith will be the direct result of this conflict.
The transformational dynamic: believe and be
Those who make them are like them; So is everyone who trusts in them. (Psalm 115:8)
This verse expresses an important spiritual principle: “We are what we believe.” It is impossible to lift up an idol and not trust in it. The definition of an idol is anything that occupies the place of God. Idolatry destroys dependence on God. When we trust in an idol, we assimilate ourselves spiritually in its essence. We impose upon ourselves the spiritual process of similarity with respect to that which we idolize. Therefore, our spiritual identity is intimately tied to that which we believe.
The Bible talks about Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of lentils, a tasty red soup. He put food above his birthright, despising his divine purpose. He earned the name of Edom, which means “red”. He became red just like that bowl of soup. Edom passed on this identity to his descendants forever.
Someone once said, “Don’t tell God how big your problem is tell your problem how big your God is! Many people have a tendency of believing in their problems more than in God. It is very common to see people who because of idolizing their problems are afflicted with a deep distortion of spiritual identity, or in other words, more than having a problem, they become a problem. They take the form of the problem. They live in accordance with the problem. They constantly confess defeat. The problem has become the center of their spiritual life, taking the place of God. They go to church but instead of worshiping God, they worship the problem. They still pray, but their faith still rests on the problem.
The religious hypochondria that stems from unbelief explains why so many people are spiritually bound slaves of long prayer lines for healing. Our positive process of transformation depends upon what we believe. We are spiritually conformed to the image of what we believe. Spirituality is the result of a continuous conflict between the truth and a lie, a visible and invisible reality, adverse tests and the faithful promises of God.
We must ask ourselves what we really believe in most, the truth of God or the lies of the devil, the flaming arrows of resentment or forgiveness, God’s solutions or the adversity of the adversary, God’s promises or the spirit of condemnation. The level of our spirituality depends on the result of this conflict, which will be either a collection of defeats, emotional breakdowns, complexes and chronic problems or a life of victory that emerges and fulfills the will of God.
Our attitude and response to each difficulty, test or conflict we face must result in the divine witness of approval that brings effectiveness to our prayer life.
In perseverance possess your soul
I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. (John 17:4)
Perhaps this is the most powerful declaration that anyone has ever made in history. The one thing that determines whether we are prepared to die or not, is if we persevere and finish the work that God has prepared for us. Christ’s words cut sharply across the heavy spiritual atmosphere that hung over him as he faced the cross. In spite of the darkness and gloom of the prophetic moment that Jesus had to face, this declaration slashed apart the darkness that tried to separate him from God the Father.
His ostensible posture of godly character decided the course of his life as he resolutely walked in the perfect will of the Father. He followed, pursued and succeeded in materializing the whole plan of God. Here Jesus illustrated the needed attitude and paid the necessary price to glorify the Father on the earth through his perseverance to follow through to the end and consummate the work and the call that the Father had entrusted to him. He was correct to declare, “It is finished.” Death did not interrupt his life on the earth. He completed his task, fulfilled the Scriptures, trampled death, accomplished man’s salvation and entered into eternal glory. Thus, he established himself as an eternally effective intercessor on our behalf:
Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors; And He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12).
The spirit of obedience is the essence of perseverance
There is no obedience without perseverance and there is no perseverance without obedience. This statement may smack of stubbornness but spirit of obedience is what makes the difference. Obedience distinguishes perseverance from stubbornness. The word obedience originally came from the term “to give ear”. Obedience is tied to our spiritual hearing. In order to obey we must hear. Without a correct understanding and perspective of obedience, we may exercise discipline in a harmful and abusive manner.
Christ’s statement in his priestly prayer (verse 4) includes three fundamental aspects of obedience:
“I have glorified you on the earth”
Obedience begins with the motivation to glorify God. The first aspect of obedience is motivational. It demands victory over the lust of acceptance. The difficulties of life normally flesh out boasting in all human motivation and this can fatally compromise the course of our life in all aspects. We must constantly attribute all glory to God if we want to see him work through us. The first enemy to be conquered is our ego and its devices, schemes and strategies of emotional dependence and boasting.
“Having finished the work”
Obedience is not just saying that you will do something and begin to do it. Obedience always implies finishing your work, persevering until the successful conclusion of everything that God has designated you to do. Many people’s lives consist of a collection of false or unmet promises or things that they began, but later abandoned. How many times have we neglected to persevere in that which God has entrusted to us? This is a sin against the spirit of the righteous man’s prayer, debilitating the character of perseverance and inhibiting faith. God certainly hears prayers, but He only responds to faith. Faith is a progressive conviction that depends upon the dynamic interaction with the revealed will of God.
“The work that you have given me to do”
Obedience also implies not doing what God did not command you to do. Jesus fulfilled the work that the Father gave Him to do and not that which the Father did not give Him to do. This may seem to be an obvious detail, but it is amazing how so many people are doing so many things other than what God has commanded. In this way, we become potential candidates of doing the work of God without God and even in opposition to God.
A position taken up in these three aspects revolutionizes our spiritual life. We supernaturally gain a deep discernment in prayer that makes it sharp, cutting and penetrating against the resistance imposed by the spiritual world in the critical moments of life.
The crucifixion of Jesus
For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2)
Jesus concluded His life on a cross, with no apparent sign of success. He became poor (2 Corinthians 8:9), crucified naked between two thieves he lost his reputation, did not study in any great or famous schools (John 7:15), spurned political success and a life of palace courts (John 6:15), manifested God’s power by leaving his in heaven (Matthew 26:53), yet completely fulfilled God’s will for his life. This is a strange but genuine way of defining true success. He simply persevered completely in God’s purpose.
Jesus made it clear that through our perseverance, we will possess our soul. Perseverance is one of the most meaningful principles of victory. Through perseverance, you advance in the direction of that which you have already reserved for God. The sting of death we must conquer here is the lack of perseverance.
Which will we choose perseverance or abandonment? The choice is a matter of life or death! We can only fight against death through the cross. Either death crucifies us through our own abandonment or we crucify death through our perseverance!
The crucifixion of Paul
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:6, 7)
When Paul wrote these words, he was already looking into the cold eyes of death yet he had no fear. The truth is that he was the one that was scaring death. The sign of perseverance produced a supernatural security. He knew what was awaiting him. (2 Timothy 4:8) He was able to turn death itself into an eternal opportunity to pour his own life as a libation to the Lord. Paul completely yielded himself to the Holy Spirit.
In what prophetic moment are you living? What is the prophetic moment that your church and city are living in? What is God doing in your life right now? What is God changing at this time? What is the Word of God for this moment? The simple fact of hearing God with respect to these matters can place us in a strategic position of prayer and intercession: “He who keeps His command will experience nothing harmful; And a wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgment, Because for every matter there is a time and judgment, Though the misery of man increases greatly.” (Ecclesiastes 8:5, 6)
It is God’s intent that you pray discerning the spiritual moment in which you live and it would be tragic for you to ignore the prophetic occasion. “You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.” (Matthew 16:3b). This is one of the principle confrontations of Jesus with the Pharisees. Even after this harsh rebuke they continued to be blind in relation to the Kairos of God. The result ended up being tragic: (Luke 19:44). When we don’t understand and refuse to receive the prophetic word in God’s timing, it will only be a matter of time before destruction comes.
Father, the hour has come
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:1-5)
Jesus was aware of what he had to do and prepared for the darkest moment and the greatest suffering of His life. For this reason He was able to offer the correct prayer. He knew how to interpret that moment, prioritizing its greatest truth, as the test from God that it was. He reacted by praying.
From that moment on, each one of his reactions would be measured by the pattern of divine approval. His focus was neither on the devil, nor on the failures of His disciples, the inconsistency of the multitude, the evilness of the ungodly, the cruelty of the Pharisees, the cowardice of Pilate, nor the cold-bloodedness of the Roman soldiers, but on the fact that God was testing Him. He had to be the perfect sacrifice, the spotless Lamb. When the time came to pay the price, when the time for the test had arrived, what is our reaction, or better yet, what is our prayer? Our prayer expresses the spiritual position that we have taken or that we have neglected to take.
One of our greatest problems is that we are so spiritually ignorant that we can’t even discern the spiritual timing that we are in. If we do not understand the timing of God, we will offer unjust, bitter and ignorant prayers that will be like firing shots blindfolded, merely increasing our frustration.
Those who do not understand the correct “time”, flee, disburse, betray, deny, sleep and become disillusioned. The disciples were scattered because they didn’t understand the moment. Those who understand God’s timing can say: “the flesh is weak, but the spirit is ready!”
Jesus would be abandoned, betrayed, denied, persecuted, arrested, whipped, humiliated, beaten, judged, crucified and killed. The Lord’s discernment of the prophetic moment led Him to offer this strategic prayer that became a shield so as to assure that all of God’s plans could flow into His life and into the life of His disciples.