The Question

Posted on 25 Mar 2019, Speaker: Howard Katz

(Russian translation not available)

2 Chronicles 1:7

7 On that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask! What shall I give you?”

  • Early in King Solomon’s reign, God appeared to him in a dream and offered to give him anything he asked for.
  • This story poses an interesting question.
  • If as a Christian you could receive just one answered prayer from God, what would it be?
  • Our answer to that question will reveal our true priorities, what motivates us, and the direction we wish our lives to take.
  • There is not necessarily a right or wrong answer to the question. Even believers who have a heart sold out for God may answer this question in varying ways depending upon what stage of life they are in or what calling God has placed on their lives.
  • However, some answers will warn us that our lives are headed in the wrong direction. Other answers will indicate we are moving in a direction that will result in a fruitful life.
  • Later, I will share with you the answer that stirs my heart.

 

2 Chronicles 1:8-10 NKJV

8 And Solomon said to God: “You have shown great mercy to David my father, and have made me king in his place.

9 Now, O LORD God, let Your promise to David my father be established, for You have made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude.

10 Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?”

  • Solomon offered a wonderful response to this question.
  • First, he acknowledged that his position as king was not due to any merit on his part, but was due solely to God’s love and mercy to his father David. — “You have shown great mercy to David my father, and have made me king in his place.”
  • Second, Solomon was familiar with the promises God had spoken over his father David and he came into agreement with those promises and asked God to fulfill them. — “Now, O LORD God, let Your promise to David my father be established, for You have made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude.”
  • Third, Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge so he could do his part in fulfilling God’s purposes and plans for Israel. — “Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?”
  • The fulfillment of many biblical promises that God has for His people are contingent on us doing our part. Our part is to respond to the Holy Spirit and submit to His leading so He can do His part in our lives.
  • Solomon did not have an air of self-importance. He acknowledged that he had been chosen by God to succeed his father as king because David had pleased God and God was merciful to David.
  • Solomon was concerned not for his own comfort or success, but that God’s will and purposes would be fulfilled in God’s people—Israel.
  • His request for wisdom and knowledge was motivated purely by a desire to direct Israel in God’s ways so they could prosper and God would be glorified.

 

2 Chronicles 1:11-12 NKJV

11 Then God said to Solomon: “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life—but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king—

12 wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like.”

  • Solomon’s selfless response moved the heart of God.
  • God was so pleased by Solomon’s response that God not only gave him wisdom beyond any man, He gave him what he had not asked for, namely riches, wealth, and honour more than any king before or after him.

 

Ephesians 3:20-21 NKJV

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,

21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

  • God is able to do in our lives infinitely beyond anything we can ask for or even imagine.
  • Our human frailties or limited abilities do not hinder God from moving wonderfully in our lives. As we open our hearts to God and allow Him to teach us to receive His love and learn how to love Him in return, the Holy Spirit will do things in and through us that we could not have even imagined. — “who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”
  • God is hindered from moving in our lives when we fail to yield to the Holy Spirit and resist His leading.

 

Psalm 78:40-43 NKJV

40 How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, And grieved Him in the desert!

41 Yes, again and again they tempted God, And limited the Holy One of Israel.

42 They did not remember His power: The day when He redeemed them from the enemy,

43 When He worked His signs in Egypt, And His wonders in the field of Zoan;

  • Psalm 78 gives us some insights into how we limit God in our lives.
  • Israel provoked God by their rebellion; they grieved Him with their unbelief, and tested Him over and over by continually questioning His faithfulness. Rebellion, unbelief, and doubting God’s faithfulness limit God from moving in our lives.
  • What caused Israel to repeatedly fail to trust God in their journey through the wilderness?
  • They failed to remember and meditate on all God’s faithful acts that He had already done for them. — “They did not remember His power: The day when He redeemed them from the enemy.”
  • We can have confidence for the future by looking at the past and seeing God’s faithfulness.
  • Israel forgot God’s faithfulness. So, instead of coming to God with thanksgiving and joy to make their needs known in prayer, they complained against God and accused Him of being unfaithful and uncaring.
  • Israel, through unbelief and rebellion, limited God from moving in their lives and in their midst.
  • When the children of Israel encountered a need, instead of turning to God to provide, so He could manifest His glory and faithfulness, they responded with rebellion and unbelief.

 

Deuteronomy 14:2 NKJV

2 For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

  • The root problem that continually stumbled Israel starting from their journey through the wilderness and throughout much of their history was that they misunderstood why God had chosen them. God chose them for Himself as a special treasure in whom He could manifest His glory.
  • Israel mistakenly thought and expected that God was there to serve them, to cater to their wants and whims. So every time they went through a time of hardship or testing they immediately began to murmur and complain against God and Moses, His servant.
  • Israel’s problem was that they had the wrong criteria for evaluating their lives.
  • God took them through the wilderness to test them, refine them, and prepare them to enter the Promised Land that awaited However, instead of Israel seeing each hardship and trial as an opportunity to grow in their relationship with God and to witness His miraculous provision, they saw it as an obstacle to having their selfish desires satisfied.
  • The flesh hates anything that hinders instant gratification.

 

James 1:2-4 NKJV

2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,

3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

  • God allows His children to go through trials in this life so He can shape us into the glorious image of His Son, Jesus Christ. And for that reason we can shout for joy in the midst of trials—Alleluia!

 

Acts 5:40-41 NKJV

40 And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.

  • When the apostles were threatened by the Jewish religious leaders and beaten, instead of complaining about how God allowed them to suffer, they rejoiced that they had been given the privilege and were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus.
  • We can choose how we respond to trials and suffering.
  • The apostles had the correct criteria for evaluating their lives. They rejoiced because through their suffering they were able to be a witness to everyone around them, including their persecutors.
  • To the bewilderment of the religious leaders, instead of the apostles being fearful, discouraged, or upset, the leaders witnessed men who rejoiced in Jesus Christ even in the face of persecution.
  • The apostles’ response to the beatings and threats was so extraordinary that it testified to the reality of their faith in Jesus and the power of God that had transformed them. Their response testified that the Gospel Message is unstoppable! In fact, it flourishes under persecution.
  • God allows trials and uncertainties to cross our paths so we can turn to God and develop a deeper intimacy with Him as He proves Himself faithful.
  • How we respond to God in the midst of our circumstances will determine if we will grow in our faith or flounder in the flesh.
  • If we have the right criteria realizing that He has created us for His glory and not for our comfort, our faith will flourish. This doesn’t mean God doesn’t want to bless us and enjoy the blessings of this life. It means our top priority is to glorify Jesus Christ.
  • Sometimes we allow the cares and worries of life to fill our hearts. Instead of bringing our needs before God with faith and thanksgiving knowing He is faithful to answer, we complain and moan about how difficult life is and how impossible it is to trust God.
  • Once we recognize that discontentment, worry, or fear are creeping into our hearts we need to immediately reconnect with God through prayer, meditate on His Word, and fellowship with other believers.
  • Turn to Christ and begin to thank Him for the salvation He has given us through His sacrifice, rejoice in His love, and declare His faithfulness over our lives.
  • Amazingly, once we turn to Christ in the midst of our trials, a supernatural joy and peace will begin to develop in our hearts.
  • If fear and worry dominate our thoughts we will find it difficult to pray and bring our needs and desires before God.
  • If we fail to focus on God’s faithfulness we will find that in prayer, instead of sharing our burdens with God and finding peace, our prayer will focus on our problems. When thanksgiving and prayer walk hand in hand, our prayers will be more God-focused and less self-focused. We’re to be prayer warriors, not prayer worry-ers.
  • If we fail to embrace God’s mercy, patience, and love, we will find that when we are struggling with wrong attitudes and habits we will avoid prayer because we will wrongly believe God is there to condemn us, when He is there to strengthen us and bring us to a place of liberty and victory.
  • Although Solomon’s reign began with great promise, his life and his reign ended in shame and disappointment.
  • King Solomon’s focus began to slip from looking to God and His kingdom and what delights God and brings him glory, to focusing on himself and his kingdom and what would magnify his own glory.
  • Once, Solomon was unconcerned about his own comfort and he desired to live a life that would see God’s purposes fulfilled. However, he began to pursue a lifestyle dedicated to satisfying and quenching his ever increasing lusts and cravings. He forgot that God had placed him as king so God’s glory could be manifest throughout the kingdom of Israel.
  • Solomon once was concerned about God’s purpose, God’s people, and God’s glory. Later, he became more and more self-centred.
  • At the conclusion of Solomon’s life he repeatedly ignored God’s warnings, neglected to study and meditate on God’s Word, and no longer sought God in prayer.
  • Solomon began to believe that his position as king was given to him exclusively for his benefit. He had fallen into the sin of entitlement—thinking that all he had received was solely for his personal enjoyment and pleasure.

 

1 Kings 11:4-5 NKJV

4 For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David.

5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.

  • Disobeying God’s commandment, Solomon married many foreign wives who turned his heart away from God. At one time, this wise king had a vibrant relationship with God. However, in his old age, he shamefully bowed down and worshiped lifeless idols made of stone, wood, and metal.

 

 “Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:17 NKJV)

  • Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. All his possessions were made of the finest gold, the most exotic stones, and exquisite fabrics. All his wealth and hedonism, instead of bringing him contentment, drove him to greater and greater excesses and despair. His vain attempt to find relief from the unquenchable lusts held him in a yoke of bondage.
  • At the end of Solomon’s life he stopped asking for the right things and failed to ask the right One—the God of Israel.

 

Matthew 6:28-30 NKJV

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;

29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 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?

  • Jesus made an interesting statement and comparison regarding Solomon and his life’s accomplishments and the flowers of the field.
  • Jesus compared all of Solomon’s glory to the lilies of the field. He said that all of Solomon’s glory couldn’t compare to the flowers that spring up for only for a few days and are gone.
  • What a sad commentary on Solomon’s life that had held such potential!
  • All the glories of Solomon’s Kingdom, his magnificent edifices, beautiful gardens, and accumulated wealth have now been reduced to piles of ashes and heaps of rubble.
  • Solomon’s legacy, instead of demonstrating God’s glory, serves as a warning of how not to live one’s life.
  • In the context of Solomon’s life, Jesus warned, “Do not worry about the clothing you wear, but learn to trust in the faithfulness of your Father in Heaven to provide all your needs.”
  • God has a plan and purpose for your life, so seek to know Him and trust His will.

 

2 Timothy 4:9-10 NKJV

9 Be diligent to come to me quickly;

10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica-Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia.

  • Demas serves as a warning to us as believers. Demas had been a faithful traveling companion of Paul for a number of years.
  • As he traveled with Paul, he would have participated in many aspects of ministry and would have witnessed wonderful moves of the Holy Spirit.
  • Demas had at one point in his life had the correct criteria since he had chosen to spend his life serving Christ. However, somewhere along the way he began to lose the correct perspective until his priorities changed and he became carnally and temporally minded. — “for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica.”

  

Luke 12:13-15 NKJV

13 Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?”

15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

  • While Jesus was ministering and teaching the multitude, a man came to Him with what he deemed to be his most pressing and urgent request—“Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
  • Of all the questions he could have asked Jesus or all the requests he could have made to Jesus, the only request that burned in his heart was regarding money and his father’s inheritance.
  • Incredible as it may seem to us when we read the text, here is a man who stood before Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, performing miracles, healing the sick, teaching great truths about God—and his only concern was about money.
  • “If you could receive just one answer to prayer from God what would it be?” We know this man’s answer to the question—money!
  • He had no concern for his immortal soul, the weight of his sins that hung over his head, the eternal destination of his soul, or the eternal destination of those around him—he simply wanted money!
  • Jesus’ response to the man was in the form of a rebuke: “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” In other words Jesus was saying, “I didn’t come here to settle disputes about money but to declare the way of salvation and to turn people from the path of eternal damnation and turn them to God so they could be saved and live righteous lives for the glory of God.”
  • Then Jesus turned to the crowd and used this man’s request as a teachable moment and a warning, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
  • The Greek word “covetousness” used here means “extreme greed for wealth and material gain.” Covetousness occurs when someone values material things above spiritual things, and temporal things above eternal things.
  • The Greek word for covetousness used here can not only speak of greed but imply fraudulence, in other words he may have been misrepresenting the situation. This is where we need to be aware of the pancake rule—there are always two sides to every story.
  • As we study the story of Joseph we see an example where he received a calling from God, but his motivation still needed to be purified and his character still needed to be developed.

 

Genesis 37:5-7 NKJV

5 Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more.

6 So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed:

7 There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.”

  • Even though the two dreams that Joseph received were from God, we can see his response was self-centred and his focus was on himself and what God wanted to do in his life. “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed…my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.”

 

Genesis 41:15-16 NKJV

15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream, to interpret it.”

16 So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”

  • After Joseph endured many years of testing and refining, we see that God had changed Joseph’s heart in a wonderful way. Joseph went from seeking his own glory and self-exaltation to recognizing that the calling and gifts that God had given him were not for his own benefit but for the glory of God and the benefit of others. — “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”
  • If God-centred, the dream will produce eternal fruit, but if the dream is self-centred, it will produce corruption and failure. A God-centered attitude glorifies God, and a self-centred attitude glorifies self.
  • The story of Joseph began with a dream and ended with a dream. God gave Joseph two dreams to reveal the purpose God had for his life. God gave Pharaoh two dreams to reveal Joseph’s godly character and gifts so that Joseph would be exalted to the position of authority that God intended for him, fulfilling Joseph’s dreams.
  • As believers we need to recognize that just having gifts from God and a desire to serve him is not sufficient. We need to be patient and submit to God and His personal dealings in our lives until we mature and become Christ-centred.
  • It we lack spiritual maturity we will defile the ministry God has given us. That is why Apostle Paul warned not to be in a rush to place a person into a place of ministry. —  “not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:6, NKJV).
  • As we learn to serve others with a humble heart God is preparing us to enter into all that He has for us. Our reason for wanting to minister and serve others must be to glorify God and meet the needs of those around us and not because we have a desire to be seen or be needed by others.

 

2 Corinthians 2:17 NKJV

17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.

  • Paul pointed out that he was preaching the Gospel from a sincere heart and not in order to receive any personal benefit or financial gain. The Greek word translated as “peddle” means “to retail, to make money selling something, to corrupt.”
  • Our motivation for preaching the Gospel and serving the Lord is just as important, if not more important, than our actual service. Many have brought shame and confusion to the Gospel message because their selfish motivation and greedy actions were incongruent with the Gospel message they were preaching.
  • Are we serving the Lord in order to be successful or fruitful?
  • Success speaks about meeting our desire to be important.
  • Fruitfulness speaks about seeing God’s will done on earth as it is already done in Heaven.
  • If our motivation is success we will pray that God will bless our ministry but if our motivation is to be fruitful we will pray that God will bless His work.
  • If one prays in tongues because they are seeking the thrill of a supernatural experience they will soon find the experience has grown stale and they will rarely pray in the Spirit.
  • However, if one’s primary motivation is to develop a life that is surrendered to God they will find praying in tongues very enriching.
  • I pray in tongues daily not because of “the experience” of praying in tongues, but because it greatly enhances my prayer life and my relationship with God.

 

Luke 12:49-50 NKJV

49 “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!

50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!

  • The passion that stirred Jesus’ heart was to see the Gospel message go forth like a great fire burning up the bondages and defilement and seeing many come to Him for salvation. However, before that could happen He needed to pass through the fires of Calvary, so that the fires of revival could be kindled.

 

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NKJV

14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;

15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

 

  • It was Paul’s love for Christ and Christ’s love for Paul that propelled Paul’s life forward.
  • Paul was so filled and captivated by God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice that everything he did, everything he endured, and everything he sacrificed was done in the light of the love of Christ.
  • Paul made it his ultimate goal in life that he should no longer live for himself but for Christ, who died and rose from the dead for him.
  • Paul’s second goal was to stir others to do the same.

 

1 Corinthians 4:9-13 NKJV

9 For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.

10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!

11 To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless.

12 And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure;

13 being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.

  • In 1 Corinthians, Chapter 4, Paul hints at the job description of the apostolic ministry. — “We have become like the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.” (1 Corinthians 4:13, Amplified Bible).
  • Despite being brutally beaten, wearing rags, and suffering hunger and thirst, they responded with love and forgiveness, living authentic Christian lives.
  • How many would want to sign up for an apostolic ministry? It is a life of self-sacrifice.
  • However, Paul and all the other apostles counted it their greatest honour, joy, and privilege to be called by Jesus Christ to be apostles and to suffer for the sake of the Christ.
  • Consider the impact of Paul’s life and the lives of Jesus’ disciples. To the world they appeared to be insignificant men living in an obscure part of the Roman Empire. Often they were misunderstood and hated by those who opposed the gospel message. They suffered persecution and times of poverty and imprisonment. Many disciples died, apparently helpless at the hands of their persecutors. Most of the time they preached to small numbers of believers to encourage them in their faith.
  • Paul wrote letters to groups of believers, often while confined to a prison cell. In the eyes of his jailers, he must have looked like a pathetic old man busying himself with his studies and writings. Who would have imagined that God was using him to illuminate, like no one else, the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ? Paul contributed over a dozen epistles to the most widely read and most important book every written—the Bible!
  • This band of disciples that Jesus sent out have literally turned the world upside down and stormed the very gates of Hell. Their impact continues unabated two thousand years later! The memories of those who opposed and persecuted them have been long forgotten, relegated to a footnote in history. Their accomplishments continue to live on in ever increasing fruitfulness and power. Every follower of Jesus Christ is a direct result of their faithful labour.
  • How would each of you answer this question, “If you could receive just one answer to prayer from God what would it be?”
  • My answer is simply to see The Church experience world-wide revival where we would shake off our lukewarmness and enter into our first love so that billions would come to salvation and the Bride of Christ would emerge in her first love without spot or wrinkle.
  • Wherever God has placed you, in full time ministry, in a secular job, or raising children, be faithful to reflect Christ and allow His light and life to shine through you to touch those around you—believers and unbelievers. The extent to which your life impacted eternity will not be known until you stand before Jesus and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Mathew 25:21).
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