Do Whatever He Tells You!

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).

Here is the only command that was spoken by the mother of Jesus—Do whatever Jesus tells you. This is exactly what sister Chang of Henan Province, China, did. The Lord spoke to her to do something that made no earthly sense at all. He told her to go and preach the gospel on the steps outside of the local police station. Such an action may lead to arrest even in Western nations, and in communist China it is a sure way to invite severe punishment. But the more sister Chang prayed about it, the more clearly the inner voice of God continued to tell her to do it. Finally, she saw no option but to obey God. Standing on the top step outside the police station, she boldly proclaimed the gospel to astonished onlookers.

Within a few minutes several officers dragged her inside and placed her under arrest. To the human eye her obedience looked foolish, but God can see things that we can’t. Sister Chang was sentenced without a trial and sent to the local women’s prison, where she was placed alongside thousands of spiritually lost souls. She boldly and lovingly proclaimed the gospel to her fellow prisoners. The light of the gospel spread like wildfire. Within just three months, 800 women believed in Jesus! The entire atmosphere of the prison changed, and new sounds of praise and worship were heard echoing down the prison hallways and in the courtyard. The prison director was greatly impressed at the change in the atmosphere and was able to trace it to the preaching of sister Chang.

He brought her into his office and said, “You have made my job easy! There is no more fighting between the prisoners and the women have become gentle and obedient. We need more people like you working here. From today, we have decided to let you go free. We want to give you a full-time job here in the prison, and we will pay you 3,000 yuan per month” (about US$ 375, a fortune in rural Henan province). He continued, “we will also give you a car and your own driver, and will find you comfortable housing.”  Sister Chang briefly considered the offer, and then replied, “Twenty years ago I became a disciple of Jesus Christ and he has been wonderful to me. I don’t believe your offer of a car, driver and salary is in line with what Jesus wants to do with my life, and I belong to Him. All I want to do is to preach the good news.” Despite her rejection of his offer, the director released her from prison that day, and she continued her ministry for the Lord. It always pays to do what the Lord tells you to do. Don’t argue, don’t fight about it, and don’t try to work out all the details with your mind. Just do it. That is the one mark of a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

From the book by Paul Hattaway, Back to Jerusalem, Published by Piquant, Carlisle, UK.

Put Out into Deep Water

He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:4-5).

Try and imagine what it was like for Peter. He had been fishing all night (v. 5), and now after cleaning their nets of all weed, he was exhausted and wanted to go home. I suspect, also, that he was discouraged and disappointed with catching nothing, and that they were cleaning their nets because they were finished with them for that time.

Jesus told Peter to go out into the deep water. The deep of the Sea of Galilee measures a depth of 200 feet. There’s no way, Peter probably thought, that his nets would go anywhere near down to those depths, and during the hot part of the day, that would be where the fish would be keeping cool. That would require a lot of net, which is very unlikely that he had, but because Jesus had said so, he stepped out in obedience. Jesus was a builder, what did He know about where the fish were and how to catch them? Peter was not expecting to catch one fish. After all, he was the expert when it came to fishing. What would this builder-come-rabbi, know about fishing?

It can be scary to leave the place of the shallows to follow out into the deep, but that’s where the big fish are. That’s where we shall experience great changes to our character and grow more to be like Jesus, and I think that is what all of us would like. I remember many years ago while I still worked on my father’s fishing boat with him (I used to be a commercial fishermen), the Lord spoke to me from the above verse, challenging me to leave my father’s fishing boat behind and follow Christ. I didn’t know anything other than being at sea. I just knew that I had to follow His leading. My intellect, or it could have been the enemy, said, “What on earth are you doing?” How are you going to earn a living now—you have never worked on the shore, never worked in an office, who’s going to employ you? You’ve never been to college to learn a trade.” I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I had to leave my father’s boat behind and push out into the deep to see what God was going to make of me. I began washing windows for a living—it was a very humiliating time in my life, but learning humility was good for the soul, so I leaned into it and later became a painter and decorator while I learned the Word of God, listening to teaching tapes while I painted. I started my own painting business to support my family while church planting. Looking back, more than thirty years later, I can testify that God is well able to make of us what He wants us to be. The lessons of God have taken me deeper and deeper into Christ—not that I am perfect—that would be foolishness, but I am ever striving to fulfill His calling on my life and I trust that you are too.

When Peter responded to Jesus and went out into the deep, he caught a huge amount of fish. When Peter saw what Jesus did, the Lord called him to leave his nets and follow Him. You will never regret leaving the place where you are comfortable, to respond to Christ’s invitation; “Come, follow me.” The things of God come to those who respond in simple obedience. One would say, “How can I learn to minister like Jesus?” Respond to His call, do whatever he tells you to do. Jesus would say, “Come follow me, and I will make you to become…fishers of men.” The main way that we can develop a life of intimacy with Christ today is by spending time listening to Him by reading the Word of God, by prayer and seeking to draw near to Him. Surround yourself with others who are encouragers, and lovers of God. He will make you into the person you are to be, and direct your life into one of fruitfulness. He who knows you best, will invite you to walk with Him and work with Him.

Keith Thomas: Taken from the study: 8. Jesus Goes Fishing: The series in the Book of Luke found in the middle column.

The God Who Answers Prayer Before Being Asked

Isaiah the prophet more than five hundred years before Christ, spoke about a time when God would answer prayer before His people ask.

…they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. 24Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear (Isaiah 65:23-24).

This is a story written by a doctor who worked in Africa:

“One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do, she died, leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator). We also had no special feeding facilities.

Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst (rubber perishes easily in tropical climates). 
’And it is our last hot water bottle!’ she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk, so in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles, they do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways. ‘All right,’ I said, ‘put the baby as near the fire as you safely can, and sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm.’

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle, and that the baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died. During prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. ‘Please, God’ she prayed, ‘Send us a hot water bottle today. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon.’ While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, ‘And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?’ As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say ‘Amen?’ I just did not believe that God could do this. 
Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything; the Bible says so. But there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from the homeland.

I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever, received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator! Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there on the verandah was a large 22-pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas – that would make a batch of buns for the weekend. Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the…could it really be? I grasped it and pulled it out. Yes, a brand new, rubber hot water bottle. I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could.

Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, ‘If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!’ Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked, ‘Can I go over with you and give this dolly to that little girl, so that she’ll know that Jesus really loves her?’ ‘Of course,’ I replied! That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child – five months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it ‘that afternoon.’ ‘Before they call, I will answer’ (Isaiah 65:24).

What a wonderful answer to a very specific prayer. The joy that a child of God feels when a specific answer to prayer is received goes far beyond just the answer itself. It is also a reminder to us that God keeps His promises, that He is mindful of us, and that we are able to call on our Father in this new day of prayer. Maybe today is a good day for you to begin praying in Jesus’ name for whatever your need is.

Keith Thomas

What Does Your Faith in Christ Cost You?

If you would walk a godly life in Christ Jesus there will be a cost. Many of us in the West have known little cost to taking the path of discipleship. But if we are to be disciples of the Lord Jesus there will be times of challenge to our faith. The Lord, the Vinedresser of His vineyard will make it so:

1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful (John 15:1-2).

Your faith will be challenged. Ask God for sensitivity so that you will know and realize the challenge when it comes. The challenge will be for you to compromise and take a side path rather than the highway of holiness to God. For instance, when Sadhu Sundar Singh of India was converted to Christ from his family religion of Sikhism, he was immediately challenged to compromise and leave the path of faith in Christ. When he told his father of his having seen Jesus Christ, his father said, “don’t bring disgrace on your family by joining those dirty outcastes,” referring to the fact that the gospel had taken hold among the lower caste system in India. The local Christians were mostly of the sweeper castes that did all the dirty work in the village. How could Sundar bring such shame to his family by becoming one of them? His friends in the gang that he was a part of, threw muck at him and rejected him from the group. He no longer could eat meals with his family and was told to eat outside.

After all kinds of pressure on him to abandon his faith, his uncle took him down into a deep cellar, and opened an iron box filled with money and precious jewels. His uncle promised that it would all be Sundar’s, if only he would abandon his faith in Christ and return to the religion of his family. Sundar refused to abandon Christ. He knew he had to do something that would release him from these daily trials and attacks to turn him from the faith. One day, he went out and cut off all his hair. To a Sikh in the Punjab region of India, long hair was the chief of the Five Signs, his glory, the Kev which he wore tied in a knob at the top of his head.

The shock and horror of his family at this act knew no bounds. His father ordered him out of the family. He had to sleep the night under a tree. He knew he had to leave, but before he left, his sister-in-law, unsmiling, put some food out under the verandah, the place where outcastes were allowed to eat, and indicated that it was for him. After eating the food, he left to see a local Presbyterian pastor. When he got there he began to have violent spasms of pain. He had been poisoned by his family! Later he found out that his only Christian friend, one that had also been converted from Sikhism, had also been poisoned and had died. The doctor came quickly but said that the amount of poison he had could not be stopped. He left him to die. The doctor could do nothing. Sundar turned to the scriptures and read aloud the passage:

17And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well” (Mark 16:17-18).

 The next morning, to the doctor’s amazement, Sundar was completely well. The Lord had healed him. The doctor, for the first time, read the New Testament and a complete turnaround came to him from that point. For Sundar, this time was full of joy at the working of the Lord in his life. The peace of Christ was with him and he was free of religion full of ritual to a true relationship with Christ. How about you, dear reader, is your relationship with God something real? Get the real thing—faith in Christ.

Keith Thomas

The Deliverance of the Syro-Phoenician’s Daughter

21Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” 23Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” 25The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. 26He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” 27“Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour (Matthew 15:21-28).

Jesus responded to the woman by not answering her. When prayers that you pray are seemingly not heard, it is wise to persist. This woman persisted for her child. Even the disciples came and complained about her incessant cries, heartlessly telling Jesus, in front of the woman, to send her away. Let’s get the picture clear in our minds of what was happening here. This woman went to the disciples seeking help. The disciples moaned to Jesus about her in order to “send her away, for she keeps crying out after us” (verse 23). When they showed no apparent desire to help her, she came to Jesus. I know it seems strange for our Lord, but Jesus didn’t say a word. Jesus finally spoke into the situation by telling her that His primary mission was to go first to the Jewish people.

Instead of going away, she came closer: 25 “The woman came and knelt before him” (v.25). She would not be put off! She must have been even more deflated when Jesus told her that it was not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs (Verse 26). I have to believe that there was a twinkle in His eye and a loving smile on His face when He said it because her response was one of great faith, which was surely what He was looking for. Faith honors and pleases God more than anything else (Hebrews 11:6). How delighted He was at her response! Her daughter’s deliverance and healing was given at that very instant. How often we don’t get what we want from Him simply because we don’t persist in going beyond seeming barriers to what we need from the hand of God.

To what was Jesus referring when He talked about the “children’s bread?” (Verse 26). Bread is a word that is used in Scripture to describe the staple food of the day. “Give us this day our daily bread” is what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer. Perhaps, if Jesus had been teaching the Lord’s Prayer to Asian people, He might have said, “Give us this day our daily rice.” How do we interpret what Jesus is saying to the woman? Surely, He is intimating that the supernatural works of power, deliverance, and healing is the staple bread of children of God. She wasn’t a child of God because she wasn’t born an Israelite, although since the cross, any Gentile can become a child of God through faith in the finished work of Christ. At that time, the woman didn’t qualify for the children’s bread, i.e. the staple food of being in covenant relationship to the King of Heaven.

If you are a child of God by faith in Christ, you do qualify for the children’s bread! You are under the covenant of God. The manifestation of the Spirit’s work is available to each blood-bought child of God. We have not because we ask not (James 4:2). If this woman, who was outside the family of faith, can appeal to the King of Kings for her need for the miraculous power of God to be manifest, how much more should the child of God ask and receive? The problem is not on God’s end. Demons shudder every time a child of God begins to pray asking God to move in a supernatural way. When you begin to pray, all hell breaks loose to hinder your prayer life, but we must persist in prayer as the woman in the story did. Once a child of God really begins to see what power and authority is available to him, the demons and their deceptive game of keeping him believing that he has no power and authority is over. Power and authority over demons is one’s right as a child of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Keith Thomas