“And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and toward all, even as we do toward you. May He establish [strengthen] your hearts to be blameless in holiness before our God” (1 Th 3:12,13).
How did the Lord cause the Thessalonians to be established their hearts? In the same chapter, Paul stated that He sent Timothy “to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith” (1 Th 3:2). In this case, it was through the teaching of the prophet Timothy that the Thessalonians were established and encouraged (See Gl 6:1,2). This would be the same medium of strengthening that Paul wanted to accomplish among the Roman Christians through the teaching of the gospel that all of them had already obeyed (Rm 1:13-16). 1 Thessalonians 2:13 is a commentary verse concerning this power of the word of the gospel to build up the Christian:
“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”
The point is that because of the belief on the part of the Christian, the word of the gospel of God can permeate one’s life and direct his ways. Through the power of this message, the Holy Spirit establishes and encourages Christians. Through the preaching of the Spirit-inspired word of the message of the gospel, the Spirit works in order to strengthen every disciple.
Through the revelation of the word of God, Christians study, and thus, are strengthened by what they learn from the faithfulness of others. They read of other faithful people of God who were delivered because of their faith in the promises of God (Hb 11). They were thus strengthened and encouraged as they reflected on the hope that was set before them. Christians are also strengthened by their companionship with one another. They encourage one another to be faithful (Gl 6:1,2; Hb 10:24,25). They remain faithful because of their hope that is produced by focusing on the message of the gospel of God’s grace through His Son.
Though Christians are strengthened indirectly by influences from outside, they are also strengthened by God’s work in their inner person. We are not informed as to how God accomplishes this strengthening. We are simply told through the Scriptures that God the Spirit works to strengthen our resolve in times of trial. The disciples of Jesus find great encouragement in this promise. In times of trial, therefore, they rely on the inner strengthening of the Holy Spirit to take them through tough times. God will not allow His children to be tempted beyond what they can endure. And thus, He strengthens His children in times when they need endurance.
Paul prayed that the Colossians“be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Cl 1:9). His prayer was that they …
“… walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power” (Cl 1:10,11).
These are statements of exhortation. They were written in order to encourage the Colossian disciples to continue in the faith. Paul wrote in Colossians 2:6,7,
“As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”
The Colossians had been taught the truth of the gospel. They were increasing in the knowledge of the word of the gospel because of the work of the inspired prophets who labored among them in teaching. The prophets continued to teach the gospel as the foundation upon which they would spiritually grow. Therefore, upon the foundation of the gospel, they were being established.
We may not understand all that transpires when God makes it possible that we not be tempted above that which we are able to endure. However, because of the Scriptures, we at least can prove that the Spirit works on us through the medium of the Holy Scriptures. Consider the following cases where the Spirit worked through the word of the gospel in order to build up and strengthen the disciples:
THE EPHESIANS WERE STRENGTHENED:
When Paul left the Ephesian church, he reminded the elders of their responsibility to focus on the word of God in order to grow spiritually: “And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up” (At 20:32). When he wrote to all the disciples in Ephesus a few years later, he commanded them to be strong: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ep 6:10). Titus 2:11,12 would be a commentary passage on the work of the word of God in the lives of the Ephesians:
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”
It is through the teaching of the word of God that we are spiritually built up. Through this same word, we are taught to deny ungodliness. We must give credit to the Holy Spirit for this spiritual growth simply because He is the source by which the word existed. It existed in the lives of the early disciples, either through the inspired message of the prophets, or later through the inspired written word of God.
Ephesians 3:16 is a very important passage concerning the strengthening through the Spirit. Paul prayed, “that He [God the Father] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might[power] through His Spirit in the inner man” (See 1 Pt 5:10). We must understand this statement in the historical context in which it was originally written. The preposition “with,” in reference to power, emphasizes the instrumental use of power. This power is exercised “in the inner man,” thus, this phrase would be locative. The passage would therefore be saying that one is strengthened in the inner man [location] by the power of the Holy Spirit. If reference is here to the use of the miraculous gifts in the lives of the Ephesian disciples at the time the statement was made, then the Ephesians would have received strength from the confirming nature of the miraculous gifts, as well as the inspired message of the Ephesian prophets. However, the strengthening seems to go beyond their witness of the ministry of the gifts. They were ministered the word of God through the gifted prophets among them.
Another important grammatical point concerning Ephesians 3:16 would be the preposition “through.” Some translations unfortunately translate the Greek dia that is used here with the English preposition “by.” The New King James Version is correct with the translation “through.” It is the same preposition that was used by Peter in 1 Peter 1:22: “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through [dia] the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren.”
The Spirit does not work directly in conversion to purify the souls of man. He works through the message of the truth of the gospel. Through the Spirit-inspired truth of the gospel, the Spirit works in conversion. 1 Peter 1:22 would be parallel to the thoughts of Ephesians 3:16. Through the miraculous power of the inspired preaching of the truth of the gospel to the Ephesians, they were strengthened in the inner man.
Paul does not explain in Ephesians 3:16 how the Spirit strengthens. However, we would assume that He at least strengthens through the medium of the message of the gospel. The Ephesians were to allow the Spirit’s power through the preaching of the gospel to strengthen them. Paul’s emphasis on accepting this power is explained in Ephesians 6:10-20 where the Ephesians were to take up the armor of salvation.
Ephesians 3:17 would agree with the preceding point. Paul continued to say “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Rm 10:17). Thus, Christ dwells in one insofar as the word of Christ produces faith in the inner man of the obedient believer. A commentary passage on this thought would be Romans 16:25:
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began.”
We are established (strengthened) according (by) the gospel. Paul added, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Ph 4:13). Jesus does strengthen us. Through the power of the gospel He has laid the foundation upon which the Christian stands (1 Co 15:1,2). Through growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, He continues to strengthen those who have put their faith in Jesus (2 Pt 3:18). This thought is brought out in Paul’s introduction to the letter of Romans when he expressed the reason for his desire to go to Rome:
“I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you. But I was hindered until the present, so that I might have some fruit among you also, even as I have among the other Gentiles” (Rm 1:13).
Paul then explained how he would produce this fruit among the Roman Christians: “So as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you [Christians] also who are at Rome” (Rm 1:15). The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for the unbelievers, but it is also the power of God to produce spiritual fruit (growth) in the hearts of the believers. This power does not terminate at the waters of baptism.
One must always consider verse 16 of Ephesians 3 with verse 20: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” God’s power of the gospel continues to work in the hearts of the Christian. This power was released through the preaching of the gospel in the first century. This same power continues today. The power of the gospel continues to work for the benefit of the Christian. The gospel of God’s grace that was revealed by His Son on the cross is the guarantee of God’s promise that His Son will come for us. This promise is based on God’s word:
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hb 4:12).
We were all young and innocent and not quite in our teens in the 1950s. We were vulnerable country people who knew little of the world outside the county in which we lived. Going to another town (village) fifty miles away in another county was an adventure into another world. You may not believe it, but we had no television and hardly ever listened to the radio, of which there was only one on the farm. We were too busy with the exciting life of farming fourteen to sixteen hours a day, to be interested in televisions or radios.
During the school months, a school bus would come by our farm house and picked up us children for a forty-five minute drive to town (village) where we all went to a small school. Preston, Kansas was a town of 265 in population. You can imagine how vulnerable our minds were to things that we did not understand outside our small village.
And then we had an experience at school one day that opened our minds. When we arrived at school, something happened that educated our young innocent minds for the rest of our lives.
The school principals throughout central America in those years realized that the young minds in their small rural schools needed every opportunity to be educated concerning things outside their small communities. Therefore, they would invite special guest educators to visit their schools in order to teach for a day on subjects that were not a part of our regular curriculum. These special educators offered a tremendous opportunity for all of us to learn of those things that were outside our isolated cocoon of rural America.
Because our minds were so innocent and vulnerable, if not naive, one particular educator in the field of psychology offered his services to schools throughout middle America. Our school principal took the opportunity to invite this psychologist to come to our school in order to educate us rural farm children in the phenomenon of mind control. This special guest lecturer informed all of us in the science of hypnotism, or as it is called in the field of psychology, mind or thought suggestion.
Before his demonstration of hypnotism began, he clearly explained to all of us the practice of suggestive thinking. He explained how the mind could be convinced to have no pain in specific parts of the body, or to have pain. In his field of psychology, this was called psychosomatic healing. In other words, it was the power of the mind over the physical body. One could actually think himself to be without pain, and thus we psychosomatically healed.
The visiting psychologist also carefully explained that individuals could be convinced to submit to the suggestions of the one who would hypnotize them. He was cautious to explain that hypnotism was simply mind control by one individual over another. There were no abnormal lasting effects. He also explained that the one who would be hypnotized must willingly make a decision to submit to the suggestions of the hypnotist. In those days in the middle of the Cold War, no one could be “brain washed” against his or her will. To be so brain controlled, one’s will would first have to be change.
It was then time for him to demonstrate all that about which he educated us in reference to hypnotism. He informed us that not only could individuals be hypnotized, but also entire groups at the same time. In order to demonstrate how groups could be brought under the suggestions of a skilled psychologist, he called about six or eight of our fellow students to the stage. He sat them down in chairs, facing all of us who were gathered in the auditorium of the school.
And then his demonstration (performance) proceeded. After he had relaxed the willing volunteers, it took him only a few minutes to take them into a “hypnotic sleep.” However, one of the students did not go to sleep. The lecturer then made a statement that stuck in the minds of all of us. He said, “One can be hypnotized only if he or she is willing to be hypnotized. No one can be hypnotized against his or her will.” In other words, one had “to believe” in the hypnosis before he or she would submit his or her will to the will of another person. (Is this sounding familiar?)
Now the show began. He asked these willing friends of ours to do all sorts of things that the rest of us thought were hilarious. He took the volunteers on a fishing trip. They all cast their lines into the water and reeled in supposed fish. He ask them to jump up and down, kneel on the floor, lay on the floor, stand at attention, light a pretend cigarette and smoke it. He would push on the foreheads of some and they would fall back into the arms of others. The enthralling show went on with a number of other requests. We were not only fascinated, but in some sense stunned to realize our own vulnerability.
As the rest of us uncontrollably laughed at times until our sides hurt, those who were “under his spell” did not laugh, neither did they crack a smile. They were in another world under the spell of the psychologist’s suggestions. To those willing volunteers, it was as if the entire auditorium of students was not there with all their laughter.
And then the “show” was over and all the volunteers were awaken and asked to return to their seats. The psychologist then explained to all our innocent minds that we must always be careful to guard ourselves against those who would seek to take control of our minds by changing our wills. If we were willing to be controlled, then we would submit to a great deal of foolishness throughout our lives. So the visiting psychologist warned that we should not allow others to control us with any thoughts that conflicted with the reality of truth.
And so we heeded his admonition. By informing young minds in small rural schools in middle America, minds were prepared for a world of deceptive religious practitioners who paraded themselves about from one church to another with “hypnotic trances” in order to make people believe that the Holy Spirit was at work. But in the thinking of the rural Kansas farmers of those days, we were all educated in the fact that the healing of the religious practitioners was simply psychosomatic “healing,” and the claims of the “snake handlers” of the time were all “hogwash.” Those farmers have not changed their minds on the matter even to this day.
Since the days of our innocent youth, we have experienced the same hypnotic demonstrations that were taught across rural America over a half century ago. The scene of the performances, however, has changed. The performances have moved from school auditoriums into packed church houses. The practitioners have also changed from trained psychologists to religious prognosticators who prey on the minds of the innocent.
The environment of such performances is no longer in the field of the science of psychology, but now in the field of deceptive religion. Religious prognosticators have hijacked the phenomenon of hypnotism in order to captivate thousands of innocent minds who willingly bow down to them in assemblies of hyperventalated emotionalists who have long forgotten the reality of the word of God. On the contrary, people come to “healing assemblies” (performances) in order to find relief from some pain or evil spirit they are struggling to overcome.
Thousands of deceived subjects have subsequently submitted willingly to these fake healers around the world. People come to assemblies for healing, not to hear the gospel of the incarnate Son of God. Adherents are no longer called into assembly to exalt the Son, but to find some psychosomatic healing.
Unknowingly, that psychologist who came to our small school on that day years ago prepared all of us for a world of religious frauds who seek a following from misguided and deceived prey. These are those who devour the innocent and vulnerable, who are primarily in underdeveloped countries. Thousands show up at their “miracle meetings.” Millions turn on their televisions and willingly believe all the nonsense these fake healers propagate around the world. When these fake healers call on faith from those who seek to be “healed,” they are calling on the willingness of deceived minds to submit to their skills in group hypnosis. Masses of people subsequently fall before them.
The incarnate Lord Jesus Christ has now been moved to a seat in the auditorium. With Him are all the spectators who must now observe the performance of charismatic miracle workers who pose to unleash the power of the Holy Spirit on the stage of the world.
As young children over a half century ago, we had the advantage of being taught by wise educators of yesteryear. Unfortunately, millions of people throughout the world today have been cheated by not being educated in the psychology of hypnotism, or suggestive thinking. If thousands around the world had been so educated as we were, then there would certainly be less nonsense performed in the religious world by those who go about as devouring lions preying on the innocent for the sake of money.
But Satan would have his way. There are countless millions of deceived people who would eagerly give their will and money over to the masters of deception who masquerade themselves as apostles of Christ. It is all as the Holy Spirit warned us two thousand years ago:
“And with all deception of wickedness among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion so that they should believe a lie, that they all might be condemned who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Th 2:10-12).
L. God works to bring forth fruit in order to glorify Jesus.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:11,12 Paul wrote,
“Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul prayed that God bring results from all the goodness and the work of faith of the brethren in Thessalonica (See 1 Co 3:5,6; 1 Th 1:2-8). We would assume, therefore, that God works in the lives of Christians in order to bring forth fruit from their labors. Paul also prayed that the name of Jesus be glorified in the work of the Thessalonians. Therefore, God works in order to glorify the name of Jesus through the fruits of the labors of Christians (See 1 Co 1:31; 1 Th 2:20).
We must emphasize again the fact that God works in answering prayer in the areas where the inspired writers prayed, and instructed that we should pray. God may not answer a prayer in the manner we think He should. He may not answer a prayer when we think He should. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit inspired the New Testament writers to record the preceding requests and examples of prayer in this chapter in order to reassure the saints that God works in the lives of the saints. It is reasonable to conclude, therefore, that God works in these areas in order to work for the Christian. To say that God does not so work is to accuse the Spirit of misguiding the inspired writers into making futile prayers and asking for futile prayers to be made on the part of the saints.
We would also add as a practical application of God’s work in answering the prayers of the saints that we cannot keep a ledger of the Holy Spirit’s activities in answer to our prayers. His work cannot be computerized. Christians cannot produce a balance sheet on the work of the Spirit in their lives. The mystery of how God brings about all things to work together for our good is His department. He simply reassures us that He does work and that He works on our behalf. Paul reasurred us with these words: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rm 8:28).
Sometimes we seek to do the work of God by carrying out our own plans and programs. We try to work through well-organized plans and programs in order to produce results over which we can take glory. Efforts are often held in check by detailed shepherding and lording over the flock. In all our planning, there is often no space left for God to work in our plans and programs simply because we have calculated every detail that is to be accomplished. Everything is neatly directed by supervisors who are designated to carry out a certain agenda that we have planned. In our structured organizations, God sometimes has a hard time getting on our agendas in order to work all things together for good. We plan, and then we ask God to bless our plans. Maybe this is in reverse order.
It is good that we plan and organize what we feel we want and can do in evangelism and benevolence. This is certainly what the early disciples did in Acts 6 in reference to administering to the needs of widows. However, we must not organize God out of our efforts to do His will. If we work simply to carry out a plan on paper, then something is wrong. Organization is meant to channel God’s work on our specific needs. Organization is not for the purpose of stimulating or mustering recruits into file in order to march according to the orders of those who are seeking to lord over the flock. We must never order God out of His work by ordering the saints into conformity of the wishes of man. If we do, then we become institutional in our thinking and behavior. The body ceases to be a Spirit-lead organic body. We can plan our work, but we must be cautious about planning the Spirit out of our work.
There is a mystery about God’s work that we do not pretend to understand. We worship a God whose ways are past finding out. We are not so logical and analytical as to submit God to “systematic theology,” or reduce His work in our lives to a corporate spread sheet. All His work cannot be reduced to human intellect and planning. The reality of His work in our lives must be allowed to be perceived by faith. The work the of Holy Spirit in the Christian life cannot always be determined through simple empirical evaluations. This is why it is so difficult for institutionalized or legalized disciples to allow room for the work of the Holy Spirit among the members.
God the Spirit who is here is a God whose workings cannot be reduced to all that we can understand on the agenda of a business meeting. Therefore, we dare not create a god in our own image of human logic and deduction. A god whose workings can be calculated through human reasoning is a god who is not worth following. Such a god is of human invention and certainly made impotent by the extent to which the human mind can conceive how he works. We serve no such god.
We can understand God’s work by understanding His own explanation of how He works. And the parimeters of how He works are revealed in the Bible.
We dare not affirm that God works beyond the limits that He places on Himself in the Bible. We dare not affirm that God would do for man those things that He has not promised or declared He will do. Neither would we assume that God will do less for us than what He has promised to do.
Therefore, we would not create a god after our own desires who would relieve us of our spiritual responsibility to trust n Him. A god that would condone the theology, “we-should-sin-that-grace-may-abound,” is as dangerous to our eternal salvation, as the god we believe cannot work beyond our power of human reason and perceptions. Both are false gods. Both will lead one astray from the one true God who is revealed through the Scriptures. Though our understanding of His marvelous revelation always leaves something to be desired, we must put our trust in this God and the mystery of His wondrous workings. While He works on our behalf, we would not presume to understand all His working.
[End of series. Download Book 17, chapter 13 & 14, Biblical Research Library, www.africainternational.org]
God works for those who work for Him. Paul requested of the Christians in Rome,
“… that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints“ (Rm 15:30-32).
As stated before, the Holy Spirit can work for the saints in order to deliver them from those who would work evil against them. In this request for the Roman Christians’ prayers, Paul assumes that the Holy Spirit was able to make his service acceptable to the saints. In some way, therefore, God the Spirit works in order to make acceptable the labors of the saints.
I. God works in order to direct the travels of evangelists.
Paul asked the Roman brethren to pray for him on his journey that it might be possible for him to come to Rome.
“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you“ (Rm 1:9,10).
After the same manner, Paul prayed that it might be possible for him to be with the Thessalonian brethren. He wrote that he and other evangelists were “praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith” (1 Th 3:10). Since Paul prayed that in some way God the Spirit would make it possible for him to go to Rome and Thessalonica, then we would assume that He would fulfill this request.
According to Paul’s journeys in Acts, God answered the prayer to go to Rome by taking him to Rome at the expense of the Roman government. He was in the custody of a Roman commander to be taken to Rome for trial. In this way, therefore, God answered the prayer to get him to Rome.
J. God protects the saints in times of trial.
Solomon wrote, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Pv 18:10). “Whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe” (Pv 29:25). Since God can make things safe for the saints, then we would not be wrong to pray for such. However, we must also realize that God does allow the saints to undergo great trials, sufferings and death. Paul strengthened the early disciples by teaching them that “we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (At 14:22).
It is through tribulation that characters are prepared for eternal dwelling. James wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (Js 1:2,3). Therefore, it is necessary that Christians undergo trials in this life in order to be prepared for eternal dwelling in the presence of God (See 1 Pt 1:6,7). However, because God can make it safe for the saints, then the saints should pray for this work of God in their lives.
K. God changes adversity.
Paul was confident that God could turn adversity into good things. He wrote to the Philippian disciples concerning the trials he was having in Rome in reference to those who jealously spoke out against him while he was in prison (Ph 1:12-18). Concerning what had happened, he wrote, ”For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Ph 1:19). He knew that God could in some way turn the work of Satan against Satan, and thus work things together for good (Rm 8:28).
Jesus commanded that we pray for more evangelists to go into the harvest. “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Mt 9:38). In reference to his own life, Paul said, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (1 Tm 1:12).
If Jesus commanded us to pray for laborers to enter the harvest, then we must believe that in some way He can raise up the laborers. Paul was put into the ministry through the direct work of Jesus who appeared to him on the Damascus road. However, God also works in ways to raise up laborers. We subsequently witness the rise of laborers, but we do not understand exactly how God has raised them up. For this reason, therefore, Christians must have faith and pray for more laborers for the harvest.
G. God works in order that the faith of Christians not fail.
Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith not fail: “But I have prayed for you [Peter], that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:32; see 1 Co 10:13; Ps 125:3).
We do not understand how God could keep Peter’s faith from failing. However, Jesus prayed for Peter, and since Jesus made the prayer, we would assume through faith that God was able to work according to the request of Jesus that Peter’s faith not fail. In answer to this prayer, Peter, though in a moment fear denied the Lord, he later returned to be faithful unto death.
In the same manner, Epaphras prayed for the faithfulness of his Colossian brethren.
“Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God“ (Cl 4:12).
Since Epaphras prayed that the Colossian disciples would stand perfect and complete, then we would assume that in some way God could answer this prayer. God thus works in our lives in order that we stand perfect and complete. He works in order that our faith not fail. And thus it is our faith that moves us to trust in the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape …” (1 Co 10:13).
We do not profess to know how God makes the way of escape from some mountain of trial we must overcome. Our lack of knowledge concerning how God provides the escape, however, does not mean that He will not so work in our lives to help us make our way over, around or through mountains.
It may be that God provides the wisdom that is necessary in order to perceive the way of escape (See Js 1:5,6). Whatever He does, we must believe that a way of escape is provided if we will ask for it, and then take the way of escape. If we are to believe what the Holy Spirit is here saying through Paul, then we must assume that God works in our lives in order to provide escapes.
E. God delivers from evil workers.
While in prison, Paul was confident that God would deliver him from evil works. He wrote to Timothy, “And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom” (2 Tm 4:18; see Pv 2:6,8,12,16; 2 Th 3:2; 2 Tm 3:11; 4:17).
Paul believed in the power of prayer. He believed that God the Spirit could and would deliver him from prison. He wrote to Philemon, “But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you” (Pl 22). Paul asked for the prayers of brethren for he had faith that God would work in the environment of his affairs in order to answer those prayers.
“Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us“ (2 Co 1:9-11).
Peter also believed that “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Pt 2:9).
These deliverances for which Paul and Peter prayed, and for which they asked the brethren to pray, were not deliverances as Peter was immediately delivered from prison by an angel in Jerusalem (At 12:1-11). These were the works of God behind the scene, and thus, they were not perceived through the senses, but through faith. The fact that the early saints prayed for deliverance, therefore, is evidence that God works in some ways that are beyond our sense perception. Nevertheless, it is a work of God the Spirit to bring about that which is good.
In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus explained those things that God does for those who have put their trust in Him. The emphasis in the context of Matthew 6 was on the fact that God will take care of those who care for Him.
“Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Mt 6:30).
Jesus taught that we should pray for our daily bread (Mt 6:11). If we are to pray for such, then certainly God is able to provide that for which we make request in prayer. God is able to work in the lives of those who trust in Him to provide the necessities of life.
C. God opens doors for evangelism.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Co 16:9). When Paul came to the city of Troas he said that “a door was opened to me by the Lord” (2 Co 2:12; see At 19:8-10). Paul wrote to the Thessalonians,
“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith (2 Th 3:1,2).
We do not know how God opens these doors in order that the gospel be preached to the lost. However, the Holy Spirit here affirmed that God is the One who is to be given credit for opening the doors. Therefore, we must conclude that God can work in ways whereby opportunities can be made available for the preaching of the gospel to the lost. Because He does this, it is imperative that Christians continually pray that doors be opened for the preaching of the gospel. Jesus thus exhorted His disciples, “Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest so that He will send laborers into His harvest” (Mt 9:38).