In the beginning, God commanded man to “Be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:28).
From the garden of Eden to the global marketplace, God has been actively teaching people what might be called “supernatural math.” The basic curriculum introduces the natural laws of procreation, growth and prosperity, such as sowing and reaping, which are easily understood. Yet for the New Testament believer, there’s what you might call an “AP” course. Just for fun, let's expand this analogy a bit further and imagine the Christian as a "student" of the Word.
A new believer quickly realizes that God’s standard curriculum will only get him so far. He can apply all the basic biblical rules of sowing and reaping, giving and doing good works, and find a measure of success. Then Christ comes and raises the bar, saying he can do “greater things” than the Lord Himself did on earth! How is that possible? There is no way that one man, in his own strength, can be as “fruitful” as Christ without wearing himself out!
So God leads His student to an “advanced” principle, found in John 15:1-10: “without Me you can do nothing.” Abiding in Christ - in other words, living a life led by the Holy Spirit - causes him to bear much more fruit than trying to live life on his own. Relying on the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and listening to an omniscient teacher’s insights causes him to increase beyond what is humanly possible. A supernatural law takes effect, with God’s power exponentially multiplying all that the man does.
Suddenly, the Christian’s efforts at home and in the marketplace are immensely successful. He now knows that he is fulfilling the original mandate to “be fruitful and multiply,” but realizes that this goes far beyond siring children or planting vegetables! He has a new understanding of God’s methods and purposes, to bring in a spiritual harvest. Supernatural mathematics have taken effect.
However, the believer’s work will next be tested. As he meditates on Christ’s example in the Gospels, and follows the apostles through the book of Acts, he will see a second law at work, one upon which the law of multiplication sometimes depends. It is the law of division.
The first example God gives him is of Christ on the cross. Here is God’s most faithful "student," both disciple and son, being persecuted and broken. To the natural mind, it makes no sense. Even Christ’s disciples did not see, after three years, why their Master and King must die; it would seem to end his fruitful reign. (Division). Prior to the resurrection, they did not have a grasp of supernatural division. But the Lord knew it would be better for Him to be broken, so that all, not just a few, would experience the power of the indwelling Spirit. (Multiplication).
Their only previous point of reference was the feeding of the 5,000, found in all four Gospels. Christ had “tested” Phillip, his disciple and student at the time, to see how 5,000 men could be fed with only 5 loaves and 2 fish. (John 6:5-6) The disciples’ sole solution was to try and buy more food, something they could not afford. The Lord’s answer was to multiply by dividing first. (Taking the bread, he blessed it... broke it... distributed it…) As He divided and distributed, the food multiplied. There was such an increase that everyone ate as much as they wanted, and afterwards, there were still 12 baskets full!
As our Christian continues to study, he realizes that there is a biblical pattern of division leading to multiplication. A young boy’s loaves were divided and then multiplied. Christ, the bread of life, was broken, resulting in Pentecost and the multiplication of the Spirit. And in Acts, more supernatural math occured: persecution arose against the church through Herod, scattering the believers, and they were divided from Jerusalem and each other. But the Word of God multiplied and was distributed “everywhere” (Acts 8:4), ultimately reaching the Gentiles and the ends of the earth. Phillip himself became a faithful distributor of the Word, preaching the Gospel and doing miracles himself! Amazing!
A final lesson for our student is found in 2 Timothy 2:15. Paul writes to his student, Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” What an interesting choice of words! Here's Timothy, a young disciple of Christ, learning division. He is being trained to “rightly divide” (or interpret and distribute) the Word for his audience, providing accurate teaching. Right understanding and distribution of the Word would directly counter the “unprofitable strivings” and deceptions that could hinder the gospel’s multiplication. (2 Tim. 2:14).
“Supernatural math” students realize that division is sometimes necessary in order for multiplication to occur. A fruitful branch undergoes pruning in order to increase still more. (John 15:2). There are times when God allows us to be divided, even persecuted, and yet His Kingdom continues to grow. The underground church in China is a good illustration of this.
Is God applying supernatural math principles to your life right now? After experiencing a time of fruitfulness, are you now wondering why there is division? Has abiding in Christ brought unanticipated separation or persecution? Sometimes what we perceive as negative attacks on our faith are necessary divisions or pruning designed to make us more productive. In those times, our teacher, the Holy Spirit, can show us how to pray until we reach the place of fruitfulness again.
c.Deborah Perkins, 2014; All references NKJV
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There are so many wonderful gifts that God gives us as we follow Him! I wrote earlier about the gift of the Word, which Jesus both brought to us (speaking the Words of the Father) and became for us (obeying and embodying the Word completely). This Word is precious: so much so, that the apostles in Acts later gave themselves "continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word," saying it would be "undesirable to leave the Word of God." (Acts 6:4).
We are challenged in 1 Peter 2:2 to "desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby." 2 Peter says to "be mindful" of the Word, since by the Word the heavens and earth were created and are preserved. (2 Peter 3:2, 5, & 7). We know that when the Word is preached, the Gospel multiplies exponentially. (see Acts 8:4) Today, I'd like to look at the Word as it relates to prayer, and share with you a fun, real-life story to illustrate its power.
Some of you know that our family is believing God for a home with more land, specifically to raise livestock. We have been "frustrated farmers" for a while, having a vision for a farm and slowly working toward the fulfillment of that dream. Two months ago, by a small miracle, we obtained both a coop and fencing, along with feeding and watering supplies, for a mere $10. We began to pray that God would also give us chickens for our coop. Within 24 hours, we had a small flock of four chicks called "Easter Eggers," known for the colorful eggs they lay in shades of blue and green. We were amazed at God's quick provision!
The boys have needed no reminders to care for their new "pets" daily, feeding and watering them, and our oldest son has taken on quite a fatherly role towards these birds, repairing the fencing as needed and becoming sweetly protective of the flock. Interestingly, our family devotional reading around this time was on the biblical book of Jonah, which ends by mentioning God's concern for both people and livestock (see Jonah 4:11).
Memorial Day has come and gone, and I am looking forward to the “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” which will soon arrive. With summer comes the wonderful anticipation of REST: that warm and delicious, lounging-on-the-beach kind of rest that I love! This year, though, "summer" started earlier for me.
My husband and I spent Memorial Day in a little cottage on the Rhode Island coast. Only two blocks from the ocean, our tiny haven afforded us an opportunity to rest, relax, and refocus as we celebrated our 15th anniversary. Despite the still-chilly air in New England, and only a brief, obligatory appearance by the sun, we walked on the beach, dipped our toes in the water, and watched as hardier souls than we dared to submerge themselves in the icy ocean waters.
It has been said that the best defense is a good offense. As I have continued to meditate on the Psalms this week, I believe that is true, but with a qualification. I have noticed that our strategies for life are often far too wearying for us because we end up on the offensive lines when we shouldn’t be. We become tired and overwhelmed, trudging after the Lord reluctantly. We excuse or eliminate ourselves from His battles because we have already been expended fighting when we were not called to fight. In short, we miss the rest and refreshment He has provided for us along the way.
I've been reading 1 Samuel again, this time studying David's nemesis, Saul. One of the frustrating things for a "type A" person like me is the tendency to run ahead of God and try to do things in my own strength. This week, the Lord gently revealed to me that I had done something very "Saul-ish," and hadn't waited for His leading. (ouch!) I appreciated the correction (only God can tell you that you've completely missed it and still have you love Him in the end!) The Scripture He gave me actually opened up the idea for today's post. So here it is, in raw form, for you.
The context is 1 Samuel 13 where Saul, who had been anointed King of Israel only one year before, faced the threat of battle against a massive Philistine army at Michmash, near Gilgal. Israel was for the most part defenseless - partly because they had neither sword not spear (verse 22), and partly because many of Saul's men had fled in fear to hide themselves in caves, thickets, cellars, and cliffs (v. 6). Saul had been instructed by Samuel earlier (1 Samuel 10:8) to wait seven days for him at Gilgal, and Saul himself was growing fearful and impatient.
Samuel (God's prophetic representative) was nowhere to be seen, even as the seventh day arrived. We can be fairly sure this was a test for Saul which he failed (and would fail again in chapter 15). Saul knew his people were fleeing; he feared the thousands of Philistines assembled against him, and he didn't see any help from God showing up. So he took matters into his own hands, commanding the priests to bring him burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings: things that Samuel had said he would show Saul how to do when he came. (1 Samuel 10:8).
On the outside, this looked like the right thing to do. After all, Saul was offering sacrifices and seeking God in the hope of currying His divine favor and help in battle. In Saul's own words, "The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord. Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering." (1 Samuel 13:12). But Samuel was not impressed. Although Saul had kept the outward ceremonies, he had not honored God in his heart, and had acted foolishly. His sin was a childish one, not the action of a man who intimately knew and trusted God, but the work of one who doubted whether God would show up. We know from Romans 14:23 that what does not proceed from faith is sin.
Saul's excuse to Samuel in verse 11 reveals three things that hindered him from waiting on God:
1. "I saw that the people were scattered from me" (fear of rejection and a need for approval)
2. "You did not come within the days appointed" (fear of not hearing from God)
3. "The Philistines gathered together at Michmash" (anxiety and fear of his circumstances).
The result was that because Saul rejected God's commandments, God ultimately rejected him from being king, and established David as a more godly ruler instead.
Here's the clincher. Saul didn't know it, but his situation was exactly the kind of setup he could have used to tap into the greatest power known to man. Defenseless, he could have made God His defense. Had he been willing to wait for God, he could have seen an explosive victory, overcome his own fears, and deepened his spiritual life by working in partnership with God. Instead, someone else became instrumental in winning the battle.
Our fears do little to further the Kingdom of God. Today, the Holy Spirit actually dwells within us in order to convey God's specific instructions and timing. The test, however, is the same for us as it was for Saul: Saul had to wait for Samuel; we must wait for God. I believe that in our busy world, this is an even bigger challenge. We often fail. And the enemy loves to "compel" us to move out ahead of God's timing. Unfortunately, this causes us to miss out on the power of the gospel, as we end up reducing it to mere words or ceremonies.
Thankfully, when we fail to wait for the Spirit's leading, God provides an advocate for us through His Son: My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
~1 John 2:1, NASB.
When we bring our failures to the cross of Christ, we do not have to fear condemnation. We can become more like David instead of Saul, keeping our hearts tender towards God and making sure our consciences stay clean. Through prayer, we can ask God to help us resist the urgency of the enemy and learn to trust Him. He will show us if one of Saul's three fears might be hindering us from waiting for Him. And by His grace, our failures will become the grounds for our training, not our disqualification. When this happens, the Philistines of the world had better look out, because we will be coming forth with God's anointing and power, and in Him, we will be unstoppable.
Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage
and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for
and hope for and expect the Lord
~ Psalm 27:14, AMP.
If you’re like most Christians, one of your biggest questions is probably, “How do I know the will of God?” It can feel pretty frustrating, at times, to try to communicate with a God who is largely unseen and (most of the time) not speaking audibly! Why doesn’t God just give us a sign when we need it, or be a little more obvious about His intentions? After all, we are trying to obey Him! And life is complicated enough without attempting to figure out how to follow an invisible God into His will.
Believe it or not, there is a way to know the will of God. And – big surprise – He has outlined how to do it in the Bible. In order to follow Him successfully, we need one thing: wisdom.
The Hebrew word for wisdom (Strong’s #8454: “tuwshiyah”) is defined as “sound and efficient wisdom, or abiding success.” I like that. Abiding success sounds good to me, when most of the time life seems very unstable! Another definition of wisdom (this one by Merriam-Webster online) is “good sense or judgment,” or the “knowledge gained by having many experiences in life.” The good news is that you don’t need to be old to get wisdom. There is Someone who has already experienced everything you and I will ever experience in this life, and His name is wisdom!
Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding, I have strength.
With Him are wisdom and strength, He has counsel and understanding.
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him (Jesus), the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
Jesus is the beginning and end of all wisdom. He created us, He knows how we’re wired, He knows where we’re going, and He can tell us how to get there. A related verse is Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
The first step to knowing God’s will is to begin a relationship with Him. Relationship is necessary to hear and understand His voice. We cannot truly hear or follow someone whose voice we do not know.
For example, at Passover the disciples had just been told that Jesus would be betrayed and would leave them. The plan of resurrection was not yet clear to them, and they were asking questions of Jesus during the meal. Thomas asked the question that many of us still ask today: “Lord, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus’ reply was this: “I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:5) So He tells us that knowing Him is the first key to finding the path we should walk on. (He also hints, in case you missed it, that our ultimate goal is to come into relationship with the Father!)
The disciples who were with Jesus had the benefit of speaking directly with Him, but how do we know God will speak to us, now that Jesus no longer walks the earth? We have promises from His Word. John 10:4 says that Jesus’ sheep (that’s us!) follow Him because they hear His voice. And Psalm 32:8 says: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you (counsel you) with My eye upon you.” In other words, all of us have the spiritual ability to hear God.
Later in the New Testament, however, Paul and Timothy were praying, asking that the believers at Colosse “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and understanding…” (Colossians 1:9). Why would they pray for wisdom if believers already had it? I believe this is the million-dollar question for believers, one that will lead us into the deepest, most powerful life we can live. They prayed because they knew that there is a supernatural understanding that must be activated in order for believers to fulfill their ultimate callings in the Kingdom of God: the second step to knowing His will.
Look at the disciples again, post-resurrection. In Luke 24, Cleopas and another disciple were walking along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, “conversing” and “reasoning.” They were discussing between themselves all the things that had recently happened. Their eyes were said to be “restrained,” so that even when Jesus drew near to walk with them, “they did not know Him.” (Luke 24:16, NKJV). Remember these are people who did know Jesus, and had traveled with Him and heard His voice for years! Their reasoning was leading them nowhere, though, until Christ “expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” When God’s thoughts became their thoughts, suddenly everything made sense again.
Notice the similarity between the three things that happened in this last chapter of Luke to show us how God guides us:
1. Jesus “opened the Scriptures” to them. Cleopas and the other disciple immediately recognized truth when Jesus explained Scripture and their hearts began to burn within them. (Luke 24:32).
2. Jesus broke bread with them, and “then their eyes were opened and they knew Him.” (Luke 24:31).
3. Jesus later returned to the full gathering of disciples in Jerusalem, talked and ate with them, and “He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:45).
The common denominator in each of these encounters is that Jesus was supernaturally opening the understanding (or the minds) of His disciples, so that they could truly perceive what God’s plan was all about. It was a deeper level of hearing: not just a hearing of the ears but a hearing and understanding by the mind and spirit as well. This kind of hearing is activated by the Holy Spirit alone.
It was not until after the Holy Spirit was released upon all the believers in Acts that the disciples began teaching and explaining the Scriptures to others as Jesus had to them.
Peter’s first recorded teaching in Acts 2 is lengthy enough to show us that He now had a full grasp of the meaning of the life of Jesus and the message of the Kingdom of God, as well as his own place in it. When the Spirit of God came upon Peter, he immediately knew what to preach! And his anointed words now contained the same power that Christ’s words had carried earlier with the two disciples on the road. Peter’s speech cut to the hearts of his listeners (Acts 2:37), and they asked what they needed to do to change and be transformed, as he had been. As many as “received his word” were baptized – about 3,000 people in one day! Now that’s success!
So how do we get Spirit-infused wisdom and abiding success? We ask!
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13)
God does not withhold any good gifts from His children, and He is delighted when we ask for more of Him! He wants us to know His will, and He has made a way for us to tap into His own eternal wisdom through the Spirit which He released to us at Pentecost. As we pray and ask the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of our understanding, Scripture will come alive to us and He will guide us clearly through His Word.
But what about the trickier, nitty-gritty decisions of life? Is there a way to know which job to take, or how to handle a difficult relationship? Fortunately, the Bible gives us wisdom for those things, too. We can use "checklists" like the ones in James 3:17 or Galatians 5:22-23 to see what walking in wisdom and in the Spirit looks like. It is commonly taught that wisdom brings peace, but godly decisions are also full of the spiritual fruits of love, patience, and mercy. If our course of action is consistent with these qualities, we can be more certain that we are following the Father's heart in our daily situations. We can ask Him to continue to open up our understanding, and He will gladly confirm His Word to us more than once! We will find that this process of knowing Jesus, then coming into relationship with the Holy Spirit, brings us ultimately to the knowledge of the Father, just as Jesus said. And in the end Merriam-Webster is right: the more experiences we have with Him in life, the more we will know His will.
" God promises to speak to those who know Him. "
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others connect with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at His Inscriptions. To follow her blog, Subscribe here
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.