If you remember nothing else about this book, please remember this chapter. Although all that you have read until now is very exciting, what makes it all happen is contained in this chapter.
Our relationship with God is the key that unlocks everything that is His best for us into our lives. It is the key to every successful ministry. We read in Psalms 84:1-12:
How lovely is your dwelling-place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young – a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They grow from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. Hear my prayer, O LORD God Almighty; listen to me O God of Jacob. Look upon our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one. Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the lord God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good things does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.
In the Old Testament the presence of God used to be always in the temple. Today as a New Testament Christian, you and I can pray anywhere. In the Old Testament, they had to turn towards the temple – the dwelling place of God – to pray. The sons of Korah who wrote this beautiful psalm declared that God’s dwelling place was lovely.
One burning question I am often asked is: “How do you measure the spiritual maturity of a person?” There are so many ways to gauge someone’s spiritual maturity, but what I usually look for is the amount of time he or she can spend in the presence of God alone. The greatest challenge for a Christian is not praying in a group – it is praying alone! I know so many who make up their minds to pray for an hour every morning. They start off at 5 a.m. praying fervently and zealously, but when they think they have prayed for a very long time they discover that only five minutes have passed! They begin to wonder if their clock is demon-possessed!
Someone who can pray alone with God is a person who can pray in a group. Your group prayer should be the result of your personal prayer. Praying as a group is absolutely vital, but it can’t take the place of your personal time with God.
Jesus spoke to every individual when He said that unless they took up their cross and followed Him, they could not be Jesus’ disciples. There is no doubt that Jesus was talking about each individual’s personal responsibility. Each of us is responsible for keeping up his own walk with the Lord.
In that passage in Psalms, the sons of Korah are looking at the presence of God in the temple and saying: “How lovely is your dwelling place, Oh LORD Almighty.” But it’s the next line that catches my attention: “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord, my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” If you are a Christian and have tasted the love of God then your soul and heart cannot help but cry out for God’s presence. Whether you pray or not is one thing, but every child of God most definitely yearns for and desires the presence of God.
Yet when I read this verse, I was staggered! I could understand the sons of Korah writing that their souls yearned for the presence of God. I understood that their hearts cried out for the presence of God. But what I found totally mind-boggling was that they said their flesh cried out for God. The Christians that I know don’t have too many problems with their hearts or souls, but the flesh is a different story!
Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 26:41: “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
It is the flesh that stops you from praying. Every one of us would like to rise early in the morning to seek God’s face. But when the alarm actually goes of, everyone else in the house will be woken up and get out of bed except the one who set the alarm! Yet the sons of Korah stated that even their flesh yearned for God. That means that if we had been around in their days, we would have seen the sons of Korah dancing and singing and running around, and if we had stopped them to ask where they were rushing off to, they would doubtless have proclaimed exuberantly: “We’re going to a prayer meeting!”
Whenever a church leader calls a day of prayer and fasting, he’s fortunate if a handful of people turn up, but if he announces that there’s going to be a church picnic or camp, then the members are out in force.
Why is it that we struggle so much to be alone with God, yet the sons of Korah could truthfully say that their flesh longed for God?
If I can only discover the secret of why they said that, maybe I shall then be able to say with them that my flesh longs for God. They had obviously experienced something that drew them into God’s presence and made prayer such a delight to them. These men were denied access to the holy of holies that could only be entered by the high priest – and he only once a year – yet their flesh was absolutely desperate to be in God’s presence. If I can only transplant some of what they had into my life, then prayer will become a delight to me too.
The sons of Korah observed that the sparrows were able to get right into the holy of holies and build their nest on the altar, lay their eggs there and see their young hatch. So they were actually envious of the sparrows. Verse 3 says:
Even the sparrow has found a home and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young – a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
They considered the sparrows blessed because they were dwelling in the presence of the Lord Almighty along with their whole families. The sons of Korah knew the value of being with God alone and also the value of being with the family in the presence of God. If we have tasted the joy of being with God alone, then we will enjoy being with God along with our families too.
We, as New Testament believers, can meet and talk to God anywhere, anytime. Unlike the sons of Korah, sometimes we have treated this awesome privilege very casually.
The question still remains as to what they found in the presence of God. I want you to pay close attention to what I am going to share now. I can assure you that the devil doesn’t like it one bit! So, how do we know whether a person has spent time with the Lord or not? Let’s see what happens when we spend time with God. Look at verse 4:
Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.
The first and foremost quality that develops in the life of a person who spends time with God is that he will be a man who is always praising God. It is not just about entering His gates with thanksgiving or His courts with praise, but about living a life of praise. Having a “praise lifestyle” is possible only when we dwell in His presence daily.
Many a time you may have gone to a meeting and found the worship very dry. Many people even blame the worship leader, accusing him of not coming properly prepared to lead worship. The problem is not with the worship leader, but with the worshippers, because they do not have a habit of spending time with God alone daily. If we are among those who spend time with God alone, we can arrive at a prayer meeting and just soar into God’s presence.
Praise is a cure for the greatest curse that besets a Christian – grumbling! We learn in 1 Corinthians 10:10-12:
And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by
the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you
Grumbling and murmuring opens the door for the devil to come into our lives. The church or family where you hear a lot of grumbling is very prone to satanic attack.
The Israelites were professional grumblers. They bleated about the food and living conditions in the wilderness. And they moaned about Moses, questioning his authority as their leader. Never grumble against the leadership that God has placed over you. If they are in the wrong, go and speak to them and with humility. Make your point clearly, but do not complain.
Submission is an attitude. Obedience is an act. Leadership here may mean your husband, your parents or your leaders in the church. We are even disgruntled with God sometimes. But we can overcome grumbling by praising.
Once my wife and I discovered this secret, we began to encourage each other to get into the presence of God more and more. So whenever I think she has put too much or too little salt in the curry, I don’t moan but I try to say “Hallelujah!” instead! I have seen how our family life is blessed as a result of being with God alone on a regular basis.
It’s time for people to walk closely with the Lord and become mature so that they can minister to someone else in the church. It’s time people spent time daily in God’s presence, which will help them to grow up spiritually, so that they don’t still need to feed on milk and look to the leadership for advice on every little problem. Stop grumbling and start praising!
The lifestyle of praise is possible when we dwell in the house of the Lord. Paul said in Philippians 4:4:
“Rejoice in the Lord always…”
Now you can imagine the reactions he got from some of his readers in Philippi: “No way! How on earth can anyone rejoice all the time? Paul must have been half asleep at night in his prison cell when he wrote this. He probably meant ‘rejoice in the Lord most of the time’.”
The Holy Spirit knew that there would be some bright sparks who would contribute comments like this, so He inspired Paul to write: “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice. ”
Spending time in God’s presence also gives us strength. Verse 5 says:
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
In the presence of God is the strength of God. Speaking for myself, I know that I am very weak on my own. But Jesus said in John 15:5:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Jesus is telling us straight: “Don’t attempt anything without me.” Knowing my weakness, I can say with Paul: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I know I need the strength of God in my life on a daily basis and I can receive it by spending time with God alone. Isaiah 40:31 promises:
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (KJV)
That phrase “wait upon” in the Hebrew has so many meanings, one of the most beautiful being, “to be bound together as one”.
Now if I try to smash up some equipment, say a microphone, but have nothing stronger than refill from inside a pen to do the job, I wouldn’t have much success. But suppose I tie the pen refill firmly to an iron rod as thick as a baseball bat and then smash it into the microphone? It would make short work of breaking it, wouldn’t it? How did the refill get the strength to break the microphone? Was it the strength of the refill or the strength of the rod?
They that wait upon the Lord shall be bound together as one with the Lord. I know 1 am weak, but when I enter His presence and spend time with Him, a divine exchange takes place. When we wait upon the Lord we renew our strength which means we exchange our strength. My weakness goes and His strength comes in, so when I come out from being in God’s presence, I am bound together with the Lord. Then I can boldly say: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
So when I am asked, “Rambabu, what is the secret of your ministry?” I have to explain that it is what happens when I get into God’s presence. The Rambabu that goes into God’s presence is different from the one that comes out. The secret lies in being with God.
Look again at that wonderful promise in Isaiah 40:31. You too can have the strength of God enabling you to soar like an eagle.
But don’t be ignorant of the fact that the devil is very concerned with whose strength you are moving in.
The Bible tells the story of Samson. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Samson was a muscular man. The strength of Samson lay in the anointing of God upon him. The Bible clearly states that before he tore the young lion apart, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. He was no Rambo or Mr. Universe with heavy triceps and biceps.
Samson was anointed and used by God to judge the people of Israel. But he had one big weakness. His heart was so accommodating that he fell in love with any woman he saw and found a place for her in his heart! He kept on falling in love until it destroyed him. He could not stop himself. Maybe you have a weakness which you have not taken seriously. You are feeding it again and again, thinking it won’t harm you – but one day it will destroy you too.
One day Samson was with Delilah (his weakness). His
enemies persuaded her to lure Samson into their clutches
by telling her the secret of his great strength. My friend, the
enemy is interested to know the secret of your strength.
Some people’s strength lies in their money, some people’s
in their job, their business, their church, their own abilities
or their ministry. Everyone’s strength is in something
different. Samson did not tell Delilah the secret of his
strength, but kept lying to her as day in and day out she
pestered him to tell her his secret. (Judges 16:16):
“And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death.” (KJV)
Finally Samson snapped and blurted out that his strength was in his hair. But I want you to take a closer look at where Samson’s strength lay — was it in his hair or was it in his God? Sunday school teachings have attributed far too much to the hair of Samson. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God told him his strength was in his hair. Samson was a Nazarite. Now a Nazarite was not permitted to drink strong wine or take a razor to his head. He was lulled into a false sense of security, believing that as long as he had this long hair everything would be fine. So he told Delilah that his strength was in his hair, and Delilah got Samson to sleep and called the enemies to shave his hair off so that his strength went from him. We read what happened in Judges 16:20:
Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and thought ‘I will go out as before and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the LORD had left him.”
In the past God might have used you and me, even though we lived in sin, never prayed or read the Bible. That was because of His grace. But just because He did it in the past we cannot take His grace and goodness for granted and think He will go on doing it no matter how we live. The saddest scripture in the whole Bible is that second part of verse 20:
“…But he did not know that the LORD had left him.”
The angel of the Lord had appeared to Samson’s father Manoah and promised that the son born to him would be a deliverer to Israel. Thus Samson was born, anointed and used by God. But now God had left Samson and he did not know it! You and I can be in danger of finding ourselves in the same boat. We often have a very cavalier attitude towards God. Maybe you haven’t touched the Bible or prayed for months. When you first became a Christian, you loved God so much and couldn’t wait to pray every day, not because you had to, but because you wanted to. But slowly the passion decreased. On the first day you did not read the Bible or pray, you were aware of a pricking sensation in your heart. But eventually the pricking sensation stopped, even though you might have gone for months without reading your Bible or praying. Your heart had become hardened. The anointing can leave you and you won’t even know it. When you have used up a bottle of perfume, the bottle still smells of the perfume, and you might think there is still some inside, but you air mistaken. That aroma is there for a short time, but tin-bottle finally ends up in the dustbin.
Don’t be like the useless branch in John 15:5 and 6:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”
Many ministries have failed because a Christian took God for granted. He may then be butchered by the press, torn to shreds by the world, and looked down on by those who once looked up to him.
Look what happened to Samson. The Philistines arrested him and gouged his eyes out; he lost his vision. A child of God without a vision is wasting his life. Our God is a God of purposes, and He had anointed Samson for the purpose of delivering Israel. But when Israel needed help, Samson was with a prostitute, leaving the vision that God had called him to fulfil on the back burner. When it was time for a king to be leading his troops into battle, King David was at home in his palace, and the result was his adultery with Bathsheba.
Where there is no vision the people perish. Samson lost his vision and became a slave.
You may ask: “If Samson’s strength was not in his hair, then why did God leave him after it was cut?” That’s simple – it was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. God had been patient with Samson, even though he had broken all the commands concerning a Nazarite one by one. But now Samson had gone one step too far.
In Luke 13, Jesus tells a parable about the owner of a garden who finds that one particular tree is not producing any fruit. He orders the gardener to cut down that tree and throw it out because it is just a waste of space:
Then he told this parable: ” ‘A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruits on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?” “Sir,” the man replied, “Leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig round it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.” ‘
Jesus illustrates here the patience and love of God towards us. Thank God for somebody who is interceding for us at His right hand! It’s because of His mercy that we are still alive.
God loves us. He is our Father. But God is God – don’t ever forget that! Don’t ever take Him for granted.
Where is your strength? David knew where his strength was. He said in Psalm 18:1:
“I love you, O LORD, my strength.”
There was a wonderful man of God called Habakkuk. He had many problems to contend with, yet everyone who met him found him happily rejoicing! So people asked him how he could rejoice when he had lost everything. His reply is found in Habakkuk 3:17-19:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.
Habakkuk explains that his strength is not in the grapes on the vine or the olive crop or the harvest of the field or the sheep in the pen, but in his God. That is why he could rejoice even though everything failed.
Ask yourself where your strength is today! Is it in your job? The devil can snatch it and your strength is gone. Consequently you lose your hope in your God. Is your strength in the church you attend? If some brother or sister commits a minor offence that you are hurt by and you don’t want to go to church, your strength is gone. Is your strength in your prosperity? The devil can destroy it, your prosperity goes and your strength goes too. Are you trusting in your relatives? They may not stand by you in your hour of need, and away goes your strength. But if your strength is in God, the devil is powerless to rob you of that and you are victorious, Learn to find your strength in your God.
Every morning, get up and spend time with God because it is from this that you will derive your strength. Hear O Israel the LORD thy God is one God. You shall love the Lord your God with AH your heart, with All your mind, with All your strength. (Mark 12:29 and 30)
“… in everything He might have the supremacy.” (Colossians 1:18)
“… in Him all things are held together.” (Colossians 1:17)
John Knox a great man of God, from Scotland, was a man of prayer. One day when he was praying, there was a knock on the door, and there stood a soldier who told him that the king of England had come to see him and could not be kept waiting. John Knox looked at the soldier and replied, “Tell the King of England that John Knox is talking to the King of the Universe. The King of England can wait but the King of the Universe cannot.” He had his priorities right!
I was once in a city for a crusade, set aside time for prayer and told the organizers that I did not wish to be disturbed before 9:30 each morning. On one particular day, however, the pastor called me on the telephone in my room and said that a local millionaire wanted me to come to his house at 8:30 a.m. the next day. When the pastor apologized to him and explained that I was available only after 9:30 a.m. the millionaire signed a blank cheque and gave it to the pastor as an offering for my ministry. He wanted me at his home at 8:30 a.m. sharp, because after that he would be busy. I told the pastor on the telephone to tear up the blank cheque and flush it down the toilet. Nobody can buy my prayer time with a blank cheque; I can never begin a day without meeting with my God.
Make up your mind never to see anybody before you meet with God in the mornings. If you get your priorities right, that will be your key to success, especially if you are called to be a preacher, a leader or a pastor.
In many churches, leaders are expected to be available at any time of the day or night that their “flock” needs them. Only then are they considered humble servants of God!
But we have a false concept of humility. It is not cleaning toilets, although someone has to do that job – but leaders, that doesn’t show your humility. Humility is being teachable by doing what God wants you to do, by being in the place where God wants you to be.
In Acts chapter 6, we read about a problem in the early church involving the distribution of food:
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the Word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the spirit and wisdom. We will turn the responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word.”
Do you think the apostles were full of pride and thought that they were too important to serve at tables? Well, you’re wrong. The apostles knew that if they stood behind the tables handing out the food themselves, then the Word of God and prayer would be neglected. So, knowing their calling, they put first things first. And what was the result of their obedience? Look at Acts 6:7 :
So the Word of God spread.
The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly,
And a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
The apostles humbly accepted what they were called to do and did not neglect their office.
If you want your leaders to give you the best that they can, you must give them the time to be with God first.
And if you are a leader, I want to tell you with all humility that you have no business to speak to anybody without first meeting with God. If I come and teach people and minister to them without first spending time with God and gaining strength from Him, then I am cheating those people.
There is a beautiful principle in Matthew 14:15-21. Here Jesus feeds the five thousand with the five loaves of bread and two small fish and gives seven loaves and a few fish to four thousand:
And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people, (verse 19)
Jesus never gave thanks and distributed the bread directly to the people. He gave thanks and handed it to the disciples, so that it was the disciples who passed it on to the people. That is the principle – you have to take the bread from the master to give to the people. What happened when the disciples did just that? (verse 20):
“They all ate and were satisfied.”
If we want to satisfy hungry people, we need to know how to get the bread from the Master. I need to spend time with Jesus. He is the one who gives the Word to me and when I pass it on to others, they are satisfied; if I don’t, they go away hungry.
When I preached at a certain place in India, all the local pastors came to support the crusade, except one. He did not want to have anything to do with the event because he was angry with me. One day he came and angrily accused me: “Rambabu, people from my church are coming to listen to your preaching. You are stealing my sheep!” I told him, “I am not stealing your sheep, your sheep are stealing my grass! Having been starved for so long they have grown so lean that they were easily able to slip under your fence and come here to eat my grass. After being well-fed, they have put on weight and can’t squeeze under the fence to come back to you.”
Leaders who don’t take bread from the Master and feed their people with it leave the flock hungry. And there are many shepherds who know only how to “fleece” the sheep!
To take the fresh bread from the Master you need to spend quality lime daily with Him and never compromise on that. You have to be ready to pay a price to bear fruit.
It is very easy to see fruit and appreciate it. But do understand that every tree that bears fruit has a root.
The best thing that happened to me in the year 2000 was my friendship with Terry Virgo, who leads the New Frontiers International. He oversees the NFI churches all over the world as an apostle. I had the privilege of staying at his home for one week. I witnessed this man of God waking up at 5:30 a.m. every day and singing and praying in tongues. On the fifth day I asked him: “Terry, how long have you been doing this.” He replied: “All my life.”
No wonder he bears such fruit! Fruit that lasts. The fruit is the only visible part of the plant, but there is a root which is not seen. Come with me to Luke 5:15:
Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.
This is the fruit. Then what is the root? Look at the next verse (16):
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
The key word here is “withdrew”. You need discipline to withdraw yourself.
There was once a village boy who had never heard of
electricity. He had never even seen a light bulb. One day
he went to the city and was amazed to see all the bright
lights that illuminated the whole place. In his curiosity, he
went to a shop that sold light bulbs and bought one. Hardly
able to contain his excitement, he returned to his village,
and as night approached, he called all the villagers together. Just like him, no one in the village had ever seen a light bulb. Everyone gathered round him, and he announced to the assembled company that he was going to demonstrate a great miracle which the village had never
seen before. Slowly, he pulled the bulb from the box and
held it up in his hand, expecting it to glow. As the whole
village watched with anticipation, nothing happened.
Hours went by in this way, but the bulb in his hand never
so much as glowed. Greatly frustrated, the village boy
eventually declared that the city shopkeeper had cheated him because the bulb had glowed in the city but would not work for him here in the village.
Why didn’t the bulb glow in the village boy’s hand? The answer to this very simple question is, of course: “The bulb was not connected to the source of power”!
When the boy had seen the bulbs brilliantly lighting up the city, he had not realized that the bulb had to be connected to a power supply. He had not bothered to notice that. All that he had seen was the bright light the bulbs were emitting and he wanted only the glow.
Next time you see someone with a successful ministry, a man or woman of God being used and miracles resulting, you need to recognize that they are connected to the source of power – the Almighty God! If we want only the glow and are not bothered about being connected to the One who causes us to glow, then we will be disappointed.
Remember that we can act with authority, but that authority is the result of a relationship with God that we have carefully maintained.
Pressures of life are there all the time. Needy people are there all the time. But the priority must be our relationship with God and from that relationship springs every other thing that we do for God. He that has ears. Jet him hear the Spirit of the Lord saying “Withdraw”.
Dare to withdraw to be with the Lord.”
Dare to win!
From “Dare to Win” by Evangelist P.S. Rambabu. All rights reserved. Reproduced here by permission of the author.