My husband and I make a common practice of praying before we make any big decisions. My understanding has always been that if I knock he will answer and direct my path. My take on this has always been that the path he directs me on will be one that will bring me good things. A prayerful decision regarding my children will bring about their safety and increase in their testimonies of God. A prayerful financial decision will bring about financial prosperity or at least will not result in a loss. A prayerful decision about change will not bring on any undue hardship to the family. A prayerful decision about whom I marry would never lead to a divorce or tragedy. In my limited and lower way of thinking, how could I receive answers to my prayers and then have those things go all wrong!
Six years ago, we made a very important financial decision. Having done our homework both spiritually and temporally, we relied on these positive feelings and moved forward in a business venture. We were completely convinced that no ill could come to us with God on our side. As time went on we realized that the business was having serious problems. Dishonesty was rampant in the industry and collecting money was very difficult. Although things looked dismal, peace guided each decision and gave us feelings of certainty that all would be well. Our peace was replaced with confusion and despair when the company did not survive, our resources tapped dry. We had just planted ourselves into the worst financial situation of our lives!
Even though things looked grim, I kept holding onto that rope of hope. Even when I could see it burning, I was just sure if I had faith and didn’t let go the Lord would put out the flame before it reached me! After a year and a half of gripping tightly, the heat became too hot and with the disintegration of the rope came the breaking of my heart. I could not believe that I could trust in the Lord with all my heart and that he would direct me down THIS path. With a scorched heart and a burning soul, I was left with the most severe trial my faith has ever experienced.
The feelings of betrayal were blisters to my soul and questions to my mind. Is this the God in whom I believe, a God whom will guide you and then leave you? If I felt the spirit about this and it wasn’t right, then what about the other things I have prayed about? If these feelings weren’t real then were those other feelings real? If this is the kind of help I get when I pray, then I might just be better on my own! Although I had been singed, the blisters did not fester. Many defining moments in my testimony of God served at this time as a balm to my unanswered questions, but my attention turned from self-justification to self-mutilation. There must be something wrong with me. I really must not know how to receive answers to my prayers. I am possibly delusional or if not delusional then definitely a complete fool. In my mind if it could not be God then it must be me. With no where else to turn, and I went to the scriptures for answers.
After Jesus died and was then resurrected, the apostles had a hard time believing that he lived. This surprised me! Were their testimonies of Him strong enough? Were they taught by Jesus that he would be resurrected? Did they properly understand what was taught them? Did they have incorrect expectations of Christ’s mission? What was it that caused some of the most righteous men that ever walked the earth to doubt, question, and not believe witnesses of the empty tomb and of his resurrection? Little did I know at the time, but the answers to these questions would become the solution to my own dilemma.
Was it Testimony? I believe that the apostles testimonies of Him were very strong. They knew who he was. They believed he was the Son of God. Peter, James, and John had seen Christ transfigured before them. I don’t think they doubted Jesus’ divinity, but like us their testimonies needed to grow. The most important testimony growing ingredient was missing during this time. When Christ was alive he was their light, and there was no need for the presence of the Holy Ghost. Once Christ died, the apostles not only lost the direct light of Christ but they also had not yet received the Gift of the Holy Ghost. This must have been a time of darkness for them, yet they stayed true to their testimony of the Savior.
Were They Taught? Jesus’ followers were taught about his death and resurrection. When the women went to Christ’s tomb and found it empty, an angel spoke to them.
Luke 24:6-8 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words,
Jesus also took his disciples aside on their final journey to Jerusalem to warn them of his fate.
Matthew 20:18-19 Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.
Not only this, but Jesus prophesied in public: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Although ignorance was feigned by the Jews, their understanding was apparent in this statement made by the Chief Priests and the Pharisees to Pilate.
Matthew 27:63-64 Sir we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so that the last error shall be worse than the first.
Did They Understand? The understanding of the Priests and Pharisees was likely because they knew the scriptures, including every detail of the prophesied Messiah’s life. They were an elite class that had access to the prophesies, and the study of them was a part of their profession. The apostles on the other hand did not have this type of background or knowledge. They definitely had been taught by Jesus, but even after Christ’s death they lacked understanding.
John 20:9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must arise again from the dead.
It was not until after Christ’s Resurrection that they really understood this concept. Comprehension did not come until Christ “opened their understanding.”
Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures (Luke 24:45)
Notice that it is not the apostles opening up their own understanding; Jesus did the opening. In reading this verse it seems that this understanding was not opened to them previously, as if it were “shut” to them. Although they had been taught, they did not grasp the meaning of these teachings.
Did They Have Incorrect Expectations? On the way to Emmaus Cleopus and possibly Luke are relating to each other the events of Christ’s death and the empty tomb. As they are talking Jesus joins them on their journey, but they do not recognize him. Jesus asks them why they are sad. They explain to Jesus the events of the last three days where Cleopas says something that gives us some enlightenment on what they were expecting.
Luke 24:21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel.
Israel was not a free country; they were in bondage to Rome. Many felt oppressed, and the Jews as a whole looked to this Messiah to free them from bondage. This is the type of Messiah they knew and believed in. God had delivered them from the Egyptians and helped them literally conquer their enemies. God had helped them wipe out the nations which possessed the land promised to Abraham and his seed because those people were ripe in iniquity. Would not this promised Savior when he came once again free them from their physical bonds? The Jews misunderstood the prophecies of Christ’s second coming and physical reign to be prophecies of his first. The Jews emphasis was on physical redemption rather than spiritual. Look at these words of Isaiah.
Isaiah 9:6-7 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.
Through this and other scriptures, we can see how easily the Jews could be expecting a Messiah to bring peace to the land, to establish once again the throne of David, and to break the yokes of bondage. It is apparent that this is one of the expectations of the apostles because they asked him about it while Jesus was ministering to the apostles during the 40 days after his resurrection.
Acts 1:6-7 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
So how do all of these answers provide a solution? It is all in the principle!
The Principle: I believe that the main purpose of our life on this earth is to develop the spiritual strength to overcome our physical bodies. The natural man runs on bodily appetites and wants: eating, sleeping, physical comfort, sexual desires, accumulating wants… The natural man also has an effect upon our ways of thinking and understanding. Our upbringing, environment, education, experiences, and many other factors affect what we think and how we believe which will in turn also affect how we act. Our spiritual side helps us balance our important appetites and overcome the negative ones. The Holy Ghost also guides our spirits to help us overcome improper or incorrect ways of thinking. Paul explains it like this.
Romans 8:5-9 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.
This scripture is better understood with a definition of the word, carnal.[i]
1. pertaining to or characterized by the flesh or the body, its passions and appetites; sensual;
2. not spiritual; merely human; temporal; worldly
Those who allow the carnal man to rule their thoughts and actions are of the flesh while those who seek to overcome them are of the Spirit. Man in his natural and carnal state cannot be saved; he must change. When we are baptized we are buried in the water to signify that we are putting to death the natural man. We then are raised up out of the water in the “newness of life”: a new way of thinking and a new way of doing! (Romans 6:4) The apostles had to put to death incorrect expectations and had to arise with new understanding.
Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Just as the apostles did not understand certain teachings and had wrong expectations, I came to understand that I did also. My thoughts are not as high as his thoughts, nor my ways his ways. While I was expecting Christ to come and establish me physically, his intent was to establish me spiritually. I did not have to beat myself up for making a wrong decision nor did I have to stop trusting in God. The real problem was a result of my flawed logic and lack of understanding. With time, I have come to see very specifically the spiritual (and even delayed physical) blessings that have directly resulted from this decision.
Christ’s death and resurrected are symbolic of the continuous resurrection of our own thoughts and actions. We must overcome our own biases and allow the spirit to raise us up to a higher sphere. This lifelong challenge I believe is the purpose of our existence on earth. I call this the Death & Resurrection Principle!