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It seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.[1]

The consolidation of knowledge begins with knowing with certainty the things that we have been taught, the things we have practised and the things we have seen and heard.  So that our faith is based not on hopes and wishes, but on the testimony of our lives and the lives of those who likewise, having believed as we have believed and practised what we practised, have come to the same conclusion:  Jesus Christ is the Son of God who is coming back in the flesh.

Knowledge is acquired and received through teaching and searching.  Listening to a teacher can increase your theoretical knowledge, but theoretical knowledge without practice has no solid basis.  There is no consolidation.  That is why Jesus said, “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”[2]  The difference between a rock and sand is that a rock is sand made solid by extreme pressure and heat, whereas sand is grains of a rock ground down, loosened and not stuck together.  It is the practice of anything under demanding conditions and pressure that produces the expertise required to do that very thing well.  This example is best borne out of a soldier’s training.  Elite soldiers practise their craft again and again under realistic environments, whereas soldiers who have been taught the theory but have never practised it under realistic conditions will fall apart when the pressure and heat of battle begins.

There are many in the kingdom who have much knowledge.  They are very well read and very well educated in the word and commentaries of many authors, but very few of them have actually practised the words of Jesus with the intensity of realism that they can impart knowledge which is based on certainty.  They believe God and His ways, but they do not know God and His ways.  They may believe in miracles, but they are not practised in miracles, much less have succeeded in miracles.  And practising miraculous powers in the safety of your own home or church is nothing like practising miraculous power in a hostile environment with a thousand shrieking demons and blood thirsty men descending on you.

The well ordered environment of a church service prayer line, where appropriately dressed clergy sprinkling appropriately blessed water or oil on compliant willing supplicants, is very different from having to stop a man who is about to take your life unless you can stop him with a word or thought of the Lord.  Praying for someone who is ill knowing that if you fail it does not affect you, is very different from praying for yourself when you are ill, knowing that if you fail you will be the one who remains ill.  It is one thing to blame the seeker for the lack of manifestation; it is another to know that the lack of manifestation would mean that you, the minister, are at fault.

So the consolidation of knowledge begins after knowledge has been acquired by listening to your teacher, and then going forth to put that which you have learnt first in a practice environment and then in a real environment.  Those who practise casually that which they have learnt will never become proficient in their practice.  It is those who make the practice of what they have learnt their livelihood, who will become proficient in their practice.  And if you make the practice of the words of Jesus your livelihood, then truly you have a profession that is based on His word and its practice.  Then truly, you are an expert, not only in theory, but in the practical application of that theory.  You are then not just a hearer or speaker of the word, but a doer.

Since rocks are formed in nature by greater pressure and heat, then it should not surprise you that even if you do not exert a certain pressure on yourself, the circumstances of your life will always turn out to have episodes of great pressure and heat, where you need not only an answer to prayer, but you must have an answer to prayer.  Often it is said when prayers go unanswered and miracles fail to materialise that it was not God’s time or will.  However, that, you will soon learn, is merely an excuse, sometimes a reason for the untrained, that is, those who have not trained themselves to listen with an educated ear to the voice of the Holy Spirit who will tell you what is yet to come, be it success or failure.  And having heard what the Holy Spirit has told you, your continued attempt is not to prove Him wrong or so that you’d reap the blessing, but rather, you consider it all practice that gives yield to the result foretold by the Holy Spirit.  Although when you are not in training but in real ministry in the presence of unbelievers and opposition, obedience is better than the sacrifice of practice.

Having made certain that which you have been taught to be true, that is when out of that foundation of solid knowledge, solid basic knowledge, you can build upon the rock, and you can build and extend out, exploring new, different and more effective ways of ministry.  Just like a branch that knows with certainty it is connected to the vine can send out tendrils into new places, some places where it finds the support it needs to bear fruit, other places where it has to retreat back because there is no support for it to bear fruit.

Therefore, it is essential that by now those of you who have spent time reading and listening to the word and have spent time practising the words of Jesus, have developed a sense of certainty in some, if not all, of His word.  There must be certain promises of Jesus that you have practised so fervently that they have manifested in success for you over and over again, and they are like rocks upon which you can stand and reach out to newer heights.  Then these are foundations for you from which you can approach the harder scriptures with greater confidence of faith, so that your perseverance of practice is encouraged and not discouraged.  They should also be scriptures that are like strongholds into which you can retreat, refresh and renew yourself, as the situations of your life come under pressure and heat again, as if you are being hammered in an oven.

If you really think about it, what is so unusual that you would encounter pressure and heat in your practice of His word?  Are you not the clay and He is the Potter?  Does not a potter put all clay under pressure to mould it into various vessels, then dry them and place them in a furnace to make them fit for use?  Hence, you should not be surprised at all that having read the word, having listened to Jesus, and having practised some of His words, that your life seems to come under intense pressure and heat as if Satan himself was trying to discourage you from going further.  Even if it was Satan opposing you himself – although I doubt anyone of us is important enough to warrant his personal attention, seeing how he is not omnipotent and he has so little time left – that opposition is merely practice for you to perfect the art of being an overcomer. 

Because God wants you to be the fullness of the stature of His Son, then would not He who was made perfect in suffering also allocate a time of great pressure, heat and even suffering for you to attain the similarity of nature that makes you just like Jesus?  So then, am I saying that God will make you suffer that you may be perfected?  No, not at all.  But rather, God will challenge you with situations and circumstances that pressure you to be the best that you can be, to be the best that He has made you to be.  It is through these challenges that the consolidation of your knowledge takes place so that you will know with certainty that what you have believed, you also know now and forever to be true.

The challenges that are necessary for the consolidation of your knowledge only become suffering if you have not practised while the times are good.  It is the army that trains hard in peace time that wins the war.  Likewise, it is the believer who uses the time of peace, abundance and blessing, who having all that is dear to a man’s life, family, houses, and fields, yet leaves them to be a disciple, who will receive them back a hundredfold in this age.  For the sacrifice they make in following the Lord to practise His word when they could be enjoying their families, houses and fields, will allow them to keep their families, houses and fields from the evils of this world, and not only keep them, but to increase them without risk of loss or fear.  Is it a mere coincidence that the United States has the greatest economy and the most intensively trained and equipped armed forces of the world?

James wrote to the Jews:  You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.[3]  But Jesus said to His disciples, “Ask, and it will be given to you… for everyone who asks receives…”[4] without qualifications of motives.  Why?  Because if you are a disciple, you are asking to receive so that you may spend what you receive for His pleasure already—for you have already paid the price of discipleship.  But those who have not paid the price of discipleship will not have the discipline to ask to spend what they receive on the pleasure of God.

Thus, the consolidation of your knowledge comes when you know that the practice of His word must be done with an urgency and intensity created by yourself, so as to simulate and indeed exceed the pressure and heat of opposition of enemies, so that you are using what you have received in order to please Him.  Indeed, the truth be known, we all now need to repent of the lack of urgency and intensity that we place on our practice of His word for His pleasure.   Even when we do practise His word with some urgency and fervour, we tend to do so when we are in times of need.

And yes, those times of need are given to us that we may consolidate our knowledge of God and His word as He fulfils His word for us.  And the quickness of response from God that seems to match our fervour and urgency is not that God wants to enslave us as people who can only get His urgent attention because of our fervour and urgency, but rather, it is His way of showing us His concern, urgency and fervour, that indeed, before we have spoken, He has already answered.  However, because we chose to forsake Him and the practice of His word when things go well for us—our comfort causes us to slumber so that when suddenly we are awakened, we find the enemy is upon us and we are in urgent need of His help.

Three times the Lord had to wake Peter and the two sons of Zebedee because they slumbered instead of joining with the Lord in urgent prayer.  They did not see the Lord’s urgency, but only felt their comfort, having just had supper and now coming to the garden in the cool of the evening in apparent safety.  Had they used that time of apparent peace and safety to join with the Lord, had they stayed awake, they might have spied that, having said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.  Stay here and keep watch with Me.” going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed.[5]  See the word… He fell, not, He knelt…  Had you seen the Lord fall to the ground with His face, would you not have gone to His side to see if He was alright?  Would you not have heard these dreadful words of His, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me.  Yet not as I will, but as You will.”  And had you stayed awake with Him, would you have been awakened with these words, “Rise, let us go!  Here comes My betrayer!”?[6]  It is because we fail to see the urgency and fervour of the Lord in all that He does for us, that we slumber and are awakened rudely to shouts, only to find that our lamps have gone out, and worse still, our oil is gone. 

However, when we apply ourselves to practice with urgency and fervour of our own making, and pressure and heat of our own zeal for Him, then we will find that no bridegroom that comes like a thief in the night will find us asleep and our lamps dead.  Indeed, anyone who generates their own pressure and heat out of their own zeal with fervour and urgency is truly “a strong man, fully armed, who guards his own house, his possessions are safe.”[7]  And since there is no one stronger than the Holy Spirit who is in us, how can anyone tie us up unless we are asleep?

The consolidation of your knowledge of the word of the Lord through fervent urgent practice is the consolidation of your knowledge of Him.  For the more you practise of His word, the more of His word you will come to know to be true and reliable, and the more of His word you come to know to be true and reliable, the more you know Him to be true and reliable, and the more you know the eternal life you have is true and reliable.  The consolidation of our knowledge of Him and His words affords the foundation of rock upon which we can build our house with the certainty that it can never be shaken. 

Thus, as the Lord has said, “the people who know their God will firmly resist him,”[8] that is, the beast, which also means those who do not know their God cannot resist him.  Those who have not practised what they have heard until they know with certainty what they have been taught to be true, cannot resist him, and so like a foolish man who built his house on sand, their house collapses suddenly.  Like a strong man asleep, so he will awaken to find himself bound and powerless, just like Samson who did not practise the word the Lord gave him with urgency and fervour, but sought to be luxuriated when he perceived the time to be peaceful.

It is this knowledge of Him and His word that will permit us to stand on the Mount of Olives and keep it so solid that only His feet will split it in the sight of all the survivors of the days of distress who will have witnessed that no power of the beast, the false prophet and their armies could even remove one speck of dirt from that mount.

As yet we have not sensed the urgency nor seen His fervour, and we assume, as the three assumed when He told them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray…”[9] that it would be a time of soft, gently words offered up to Heaven with thanksgiving, rather than the desperate cry of a Man who has put Himself in God’s hands, saying,  “Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

So likewise we make the same mistake, we assume that He who is now at the right hand of God offering intercession for us, is doing so with the genteel tones of One who is at ease —and we do not hear or see the urgency and fervour with which He is interceding for the saints, so that His words are fulfilled and these days of distress, the days of the Holy Spirit’s distress, are brought to an end, and quickly.  We are well fed, we have sung our psalms, and we have fellowshipped, so we slumber and our lamps go out.  So we are deceived, to be rudely awakened with the cry!  “‘Here’s the Bridegroom!  Come out to meet Him!’”[10]

“He who is ready for war when all say, “Peace!  Peace!” is truly at peace.”

 




[1] Luke 1:3-4

[2] Matthew 7:24,26

[3] James 4:3

[4] Matthew 7:7,8

[5] Matthew 26:38-39

[6] Matthew 26:46

[7] Luke 11:21

[8] Daniel 11:32

[9] Matthew 26:36

[10] Matthew 25:6

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