The God Who Is Able

  "God is able to make all grace abound toward you, so that you always having sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work”.(2 Corinthians 9:8)  Introduction             What in the world is going on in the Christian church today? Does it have any connection with what is going on in the world? It has been said that what is going on in the church today is “the world.” The church “collective” is adopting the world’s tactics, motivations, and goals. Churches across the United States and around the world are capitulating to demands to meet the “felt needs of the congregation.” Many of these churches are actually designing the so-called “worship service” for pagans. They have stopped preaching sound doctrine, and rather, are preaching worldly views. We are called in Scripture to “love not the world, neither the things of the world, for all that is in the world: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the devil.” (1 John 2:16) The great expository preacher of the Twentieth Century, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, said, “A sermon is not an essay and is not meant, primarily for publication, but to be heard and to have an immediate impact upon the listeners. This implies, of necessity, that it will have certain characteristics which are not found and are not desirable in written studies.”[1]Clearly, the greatest need of any person in the world today, indeed, at any time, is to know the Lord God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Martin Lloyd-Jones said that the most obvious feature of the life of the Christian church… is, “alas, it’s superficiality.” There are churches in America today where the Bible is not taught, or, alternatively, the authority of God’s Word is eroded in many and various different ways. Many so-called pastors have felt compelled to make statements concerning the first twelve chapters of Genesis as being “mere allegory” and not true. The great doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement, (i.e. the atoning death of Christ) is under attack by many. The refusal to call sin, sin is a characteristic that exists in many churches. The concession to the world that the homosexual agenda must be agreed with is rampant. The fact that God created the Heavens and the Earth and all that is therein in six days and rested on the seventh day is constantly under attack and frequently repudiated. The elevation of science and the consequential demotion of God’s Word as authoritative is everywhere. The church needs to recover the great doctrine that the Word of God is our only rule of faith and practice. These tactics that are being used in many of our churches are the same tactics used by the old adversary of our souls, Satan, when he spoke to Eve in the garden and said, “Hast God said…. ” It is as if many of these so-called pastors are also saying, “Hast God said“ that He “created the Heavens and the Earth and all that is in them in six days?” That is not so because science has demonstrated that it took billions of years for the earth and the Heavens to form and all that is therein. What these men are doing is eroding the authority of the Word of God. “Know ye not that God is not a man that He can lie?” Indeed, God’s Word is truth itself. Jesus said, “ I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes unto the Father but by me.” Jesus is our “Kinsman Redeemer” and has paid the price for our redemption by His precious blood shed for all who will put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and surrender their will to Him in repentance. WHAT CAN BE DONE?            Alas, is there anything that can be done? The answer, of course, is yes. Emphatically, yes! God is the same. There is none other. He changes not. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The arguments that we hear today are the same arguments that were heard a thousand years before the birth of Christ. In the eighty-first Psalm, God calls unto His people and says, “Hear, O my people, and I will admonish you! O Israel, if you will listen to me! There shall be no foreign god among you; nor shall you worship any foreign god. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Israel was not heeding God’s commands and God called them to pray and admonished them for their failure to pray and their lack of faith and obedience. America, and particularly the church in America, (although not all churches) has failed to heed God’s commands. We have failed to take a stance and insist on the abolition of abortion. The very idea of allowing a mother to kill her unborn child is abhorant! We have failed to call sin, sin in the tolerance of promiscuity and adulterous conduct. We have given vent to fornication; we have given vent to homosexual conduct; we are now talking about homosexual rights. Many of our so-called leaders, in both the political world and in our churches have capitulated and  are talking about homosexual marriages, for goodness sakes. In the eighty-first Psalm, God states, “O that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! I would soon subdue their enemies, and turn my hand against their adversaries. The haters of the Lord would pretend submission to Him, but their fate would endure forever. He would have fed them also with the finest of wheat; and with the honey from the rock I would have satisfied you.” Our conduct, indeed, the conduct of those who claim to be God’s people has an impact on the security of our nation. God calls us to repent and to pray. Does prayer really work?       There are many who have had their faith eroded to the place where they have come to believe that God does not answer prayer! They do not believe that God’s Word is true. They do not even listen to God’s Word, much less “meditate on God’s Word that they may observe to do all that is contained therein.” They fail to heed that God’s Word is “more to be desired than gold, than much fine gold.” Therefore, they are missing the great treasure that is available to the individual Christian and to the church and to our nation when God’s people walk in righteousness and true holiness. “Righteousness exalts a Nation, but sin is a reproach to any People.” God changes NOT!             In looking at this problem of mankind’s need to know God, and the superficiality of the Christian church, we need to realize that the Lord God calls us to pray. He gives us faith to believe and doubt not. His Word is true and righteous altogether. He tells us that He is able to do more than we can even ask or think. Why, therefore, would we not ask? “The foundation of God stands sure, the Lord knows those that are His, wherefore, let everyone who nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19)  

  1. The Call to Prayer

             Jesus told His disciples to pray. His disciples requested that Jesus teach them to pray. In the Sermon on the Mount, which can be found in Matthew Chapters Five, Six, and Seven Jesus gave the disciples the model prayer, sometimes referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer” and in Chapter Seven told them point blank to pray. Jesus said to them:                   “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto             you:  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:7-11) Martyn Lloyd-Jones refers to these verses in his great commentary on the Sermon on the Mount Volume II at page 195 and says, “It is one of those great comprehensive and gracious promises which are to be found only in the Bible. There is nothing that can be more encouraging as we face life with all its uncertainties and possibilities, our ‘future all unknown.’ In such a situation, this is the essence of the Biblical message from beginning to end, this is the promise that comes to us: ‘ask and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.’ In conclusion, Lloyd-Jones says, ‘there is no doubt about it, it is certain; it is an absolute promise. What is more, it is a promise made by the son of God himself, speaking with all the fullness and authority of His Father.” 

  • THE EXPRESS CONDITION

We must first realize that this is not unconditional. The first condition is that we must “ask.” The second is, we must “seek,” and the third, of course, is we must “knock.” This is what William Hendrickson in his commentary points out is an “implied” progression. Hendrickson says,” Asking means earnest petition; seeking is petition plus action; knocking is asking plus action plus perseverance.” Clearly, there are other implied conditions. 

  • THE IMPLIED CONDITIONS

First, we see in Matthew Chapter 6 verse five that we must not pray as the hypocrites, “to be seen of men.” Therefore, we should be praying in our hearts, in secret, and not to be seen of men. We must pray sincerely.  (2) We must be “in Christ.” God answers the prayers of Christians. These promises are to His children. While all people are created by God, not all people are His children. To be a child of God means that you have received the redemption of God as a sheer gift. He has given you repentance unto life and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, (3) we also must “ask” in faith. James says, “asking in faith, doubting not.” (James 1:6a); (4) we must ask with the right motive, not “asking amiss” (James 4:3). (5) We must seek to know God’s revealed will from His written Word and ask according His will ( 1 John 5:14). (6) We must ask in Christ’s name. “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.“ (John 14:13-14) This means, of course, more than just using the phrase in Jesus name. It means that I am in Christ, I have NO access to the Father except through the Lord Jesus Christ. Additionally, (7) we are not to regard iniquity in our heart for the Lord will not hear us. (Psalm 66:18) Finally, (8) a further implication is that we must have a basic trend of obedience. (I John 3:22) These “conditions” do not make the promises any less grand or precious. Notice that our Heavenly Father knows how to give good gifts to His children. Indeed, He knows what things we have need of before we even ask, nevertheless, He calls us to ask, and to seek, and to knock. What a great privilege! What a great promise! This is solely because the only true God has given us this great privilege to ask, and to seek, and to knock. 

  1. The Expected Result

             It is true that there has been grave deterioration in the Christian church. So much so, that many believe that we are actually seeing “the falling away” spoken of by the Apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:14. While this may in fact be the case, nevertheless, we are called to pray, and to pray diligently. The Apostle Peter in talking about these very things in Second Peter, comes to the Third Chapter where he says, “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found in him, in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation.” Peter also says, “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought [we] to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the Heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3) In other words, as Jude says, we are to “earnestly contend for the faith delivered once to the saints.” We are not to faint! We are not to quit! We are to take heed lest we be deceived! We must pray! We must ask, seek, and knock in the name of Jesus. In doing these things, we are given great promises of fulfilled expectations.             In the third chapter of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul, after having told these Ephesian Christians that he was praying for them “to be strengthened with might by God’s Spirit in their inner persons” and, after having told them that it was his prayer for them that “they might know the surpassing knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and be filled with all the fullness of God” all of which are staggering prayers, tells them to expect God to fulfill those requests. In Paul’s grand doxology to the third chapter containing these prayers and others, he concludes as follows:                        “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or   think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by    Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 Our nation is in a mess. It is in a mess because the Christian church in general is also in a mess. The Church has capitulated, almost across the board to the culture of the world. We have been urged to “open our mouths wide” and told that “God would fill them.” We have failed. We have disobeyed. In many cases, we have been like Israel of old, in essence, as Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou who hast killed the prophets and stoned those who have been sent to you, how often I would have gathered you under my wings as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not!” So, we must repent and not despair. Be encouraged. Know and understand that God has chosen us for exactly this time just as surely as he chose Esther. Esther was brought “to the kingdom “for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14) We have been brought to this place in all of our different locales for such a time as this. We must ask and seek and knock and pray without ceasing; and as the Lord God said to Israel as it is recorded in the 81st Psalm, “O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me” there is no end to what I will do for you if you will but listen. "Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it.” So let us hearken to this exhortation which is contained in this grand doxology. The Lord God desires to help us. He says so and He stoops to our weakness.” God commended His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” “He that spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all how shall he not also with him freely give us all things?” The promise that we see contained herein is that “God is able.” Able is a great word. It has no limit. If one is able, he can do all things. God is able and we are made able, by the Lord God. We are told that He has made “all grace abound toward us so that we having all sufficiency in all things may abound unto every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8) As we have seen, we are told in Ephesians that God is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think.” What can you ask? What can you think? Can you ask that God would bring about a Great Awakening in this nation and around the world? He has promised in His Word in Romans 11 that there is a time when He will bring the fullness of the Gentiles in. Can you think great thoughts that God is able to bring the fullness of the Gentiles in? Do you have a loved one who does not know the Lord Jesus Christ? God saved Saul of Tarsus who was breathing out threatenins and attempting to stamp out Christians everywhere. There is no person who is engaged in the blackest sin that God is not able to bring out of darkness into the light of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ and save them. Pray for your friends, relatives, neighbors, all those in authority over us, that God would reveal Himself through the Lord Jesus Christ to each of them. 

  1. A Real Life Example of Answered Prayer

             On, December 4, 1977, Dr. Frank Barker delivered a sermon on Matthew 7:7-11. Dr. Barker, now Pastor Emeritus at Birmingham’s Briarwood Presbyterian Church, related the following story from a book by Harold Lindsell:                In his book, When You Pray, Harold Lindsell records an incident which took place in the Sudan Interior Mission Field. To quote:                “From the biography of Bingham there is another story of answered prayer Surrounding the life of Tommie Titcombe, a close associate of Bingham’s who although small of body was a great missionary and prayer warrior. Tommie Titcombe relates a contact he had with the pagans and the Muslims that is strongly reminiscent of Elijah’s contention with the Prophets of Baal. There had been no rain in the land for a long time. The crops withered, the fodder failed and starvation threatened. The pagans beat their drums, blew their horns, screamed and shouted to their idol. Pandemonium reigned for a week and the missionaries got little sleep At the end of the week the pagans sacrificed a calf. They put blood upon the idol and drank the rest warm. They then ate the animal raw. They didn’t cook it. They were going to bring rain. But there was no rain. Let the missionary tell the rest of the story:                ‘I said, ‘Diaki, where is the rain?’               He said, ‘White man, if you had not been here we would have sacrificed a girl. Our god always demands a human sacrifice. Then there would have been rain!’ But there was no rain.              The Muslims said, ‘We will bring the rain.’ If noise could have done it they would have brought the heavens down too. They screamed night and day. They cried to Mohammed, prayed three times a day and three times each night.  They would not partake of a drop of water or morsel of food in the daytime. They were going to fast. They were going bring the rain. They sacrificed a lamb, but there was no rain. So the week ended. The following day we were in church.I had just given my message when the African pastor came to meandsaid, ‘White man, isn’t it time for us to pray for rain?’               I said, ‘Listen, son, the pagans have been praying for rain for a week.’               ‘White man, we know that, but they are praying to idols that have eyes but they see not, ears that hear not and mouths that speak not. They cannot hear us. They can’t help us.’     ‘Well,’ I said, ‘what about the Muslims? They haven’t any idols.’               ‘White man, we know that Mohammed lived, but he died.’               ‘What is the difference?’ I said.               ‘Oh,’ he replied, ‘Jesus was born of a virgin, he lived and died.’               ‘Is that all?’                ‘No, He came out of the grave and said, ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth.’               ‘Have you any Scripture to give you assurance God will answer your prayer?’               He said, ‘Elias was a man of like passions as we are……and he prayed and the heaven gave rain.’               I turned to the congregation and said, ‘Tomorrow night we are going to pray for rain. Let none come if they do not believe that God hears and answers prayer.’               After the service I went to my little home. When the African pastor and I were sitting on the verandah, suddenly we heard the message of the drums. It was the bush telegraph telling all and sundry, ‘Now, we shall see who has the God that lives. The believers are going to pray for rain.’               So the message of the drums went forth into the gathering dusk of the golden African night, a challenge to the powers of darkness that held multitudes in the bondage of fear. That night we went to bed. Out of a cloudless sky, the silent stars looked down upon the parched earth, indifferent to the prayer of the pagan and Muslim alike beseeching their gods for the rain that would revive and refresh their dying world.               The next day was hot, so hot I warned my fellow-workers against going out into the sun. In the afternoon the heat was unbearable.  At 7 P.M. the bell rang for church. There was not even a cloud the size of a man’s hand to hang one’s faith on. When I got to the church the Muslims were gathered on one side and the pagans on the other. There was an air of expectancy everywhere as though the prince of the power of the air knew that his authority was out to be challenged and his kingdom in that part of the earth assaulted.               When I entered the church I must confess I was surprised to see the Christians with big umbrella hats upon their heads               ‘What are you doing with these things on your head in church?’ I asked.               They looked at me with astonishment and reproach in their faces. ‘White man, haven’t we come to pray for rain, and didn’t you tell us that only those who believe God answers prayer were to come?’               Let me remind you that these were one-time cannibals, not far removed in years from those horrible rites. Many of them had eaten human flesh a few short years before — now they had come to pray for rain and, believing that the God who had saved them from their sins was the hearer and answerer of prayer, they had brought their umbrellas with them in full expectancy that their prayer for rain would be answered. My words were brief and confined to two verses from James 5, verses 17 and 18. Then they prayed. They did not pray for the white man, the pagans or the Muslims. Their prayer was simple, direct and went straight to the throne: ‘Lord we need rain.’ Ten minutes, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes went by as these black men with all the sublimity of their simple faith sought the help of God in their extremity. Then five minutes later there was a tapping on the corrugated iron roof of the church that thrilled us all, and in a moment the sound of abundance of rain. My, didn’t it rain! The Lord just opened the windows of heaven so that the pagans and the Muslims fled in terror to their homes. The former cried: ‘We shouted for a week, and sacrificed a cow and got no rain’; the latter said, ‘We fasted for a week, and sacrificed a lamb, and we got no rain. But the Christians were only praying for a few minutes and God sent a deluge on the earth and has given us all the rain we needed. There is only one God and that is the God of the believers.’ I had the joy of leading many of those pagans and Muslims to Jesus.”  Remember to whom we are praying. John Newton says in his great hymn, “Call to Remember”:“Thou art coming to a king, large petitions with thee bring; forhis grace and power are such that none can ever ask too much.”                                  Please pray and do not doubt. God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think! ConclusionNow may the God of all peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, that Great Shepherd of the Sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ our Lord to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.            Your friend in Christ, William Gray


[1]Preface to Volume One of a Collection of Expository Sermons on Matthew 5-7

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