Gold Tried In Fire
Laodicea Revisited Page 2
Strangers and Pilgrims Part I
From the Main Message of
Bread Upon The Waters Ministry
Gold Tried In Fire: The First Switch
The first thing that Jesus advised the Laodicean Christians to buy from Him is, of course, "gold tried in fire". To apply this, we must understand not only what Jesus meant by "gold tried in fire", but how we buy it. Gold tried in fire, in the Bible, is a symbol of faith tested by suffering. See Job 23:10 and I Peter 1:7. In the context of both verses, the suffering referred to is involuntarily, that is, it is something that happens to the person, beyond his control. But in the context of Revelation 3:18, the suffering is voluntary. That is, the suffering is something that the Christian freely decides to do. The Bible forbids us to inflict injury on ourselves, so what does He mean?
We find the beginning of the answer in II Chronicles 7:14, in the words, "humble themselves and pray". This, if fully understood, means the same as "buy...gold tried in fire". Many Christians think of the expression "humble themselves" as just meaning something like, "get on their knees". That is, they see it as a reinforcement of the idea of having to pray. Alright, we all know that as Christians we are supposed to pray. But there is more in this phrase than that. We must look for another place in the Bible where the idea of humbling oneself is linked to the idea of prayer.
We find such a passage in Daniel 10. This is the story of Daniel's three week fast (verse 3). We find the key to what God meant by "humble themselves" in verse 12. The angel speaks to Daniel and says, "....from the first day that you set your heart to understand , and to humble yourself before God..." Materially, what did Daniel set himself to do? He fasted! This is the key. In telling us to "buy...gold tried in fire", Jesus was telling us to fast and pray. And the fasting is not optional!
Fasting: A Major Requirement
(not just "A Neglected Discipline", as it has been called.)
Contrary to what is popularly taught in the Christian world today, fasting is not optional for a Christian who wants to be an "overcomer". The idea that fasting is an option for Christians is a lie of the devil, period!. This writer used to teach that falsehood himself, until he concluded from his own study of the Word that it isn't true. The Lord expects Christians to fast and pray. No Christian will ever have a full prayer life if he or she does not include in it regular periods of fasting, or something equivalent. There is power in prayer and fasting that can't be obtained any other way. See Matthew 17:21 in the KJV. Furthermore, when Christians unite in prayer and fasting, the effect is spiritual dynamite!
Fasting in the Sermon on the Mount
When Jesus taught about prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, He included two other spiritual activities with it. By the context, he was giving all three equal importance. One was fasting. The other was giving alms. Christian's don't seem to have a big problem with giving alms (except maybe giving in the wrong places - see "The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats"). So why do they have a problem with fasting? Because they're lukewarm, and that includes shallowness of commitment. Regular, Scriptural fasting requires deep commitment. "Giving alms" can be an ego trip (Matthew 6:2), and Laodicean Christians are proud. For affluent Christians, giving from their abundance is often a substitute for real commitment and obedience. See Luke 21:1-4. Fasting could also have been an ego trip in Biblical times, but it usually isn't that way now, unless a Christian overtly advertises the fact that he is doing it. Fasting in a Biblical way requires real humility, especially humility before God, as in the case of Daniel.
His Disciples Will Fast
In Luke 5:35, when asked why His disciples didn't fast, Jesus told the people who questioned Him that the disciples would fast "...when the Bridegroom is taken away from them...". Clearly, He expects Christians to fast, just as much as He expects them to pray. The Book of Acts shows that in the Early Church they did, and when they did, big things happened. For example, St. Paul received his ordination to begin his ministry while the Church of Antioch was engaged in prayer and fasting (See Acts 13:1-3). Understand, they weren't doing that because they were ordaining Paul. The word came from the Lord to do it while they were fasting and praying as ministry to the Lord.
Frankly, if all Christians would unite in prayer and fasting the way they should, while being obedient to God otherwise, they could bring about a Millennium without there having to be a Great Tribulation. Please understand that this is only theoretical. For reasons discussed in the "BABEL RISING!", "Why There Will Be A Great Tribulation", and "What Happens To Christians?" pages, this is, unfortunately, unlikely to happen. The Bible says there will be a Great Tribulation. There will be a Great Tribulation! But once the Tribulation has begun, especially during the Third Woe, they will start to do it.
It is a regrettable fact that some Christians, especially diabetics, can't fast. But the Bible does offer an alternative, and it is something that anyone can do. It is the Christian spiritual discipline called "watching", that is, going without sleep in order to spend quality time in prayer. Paul said, in II Corinthians 6:5 and 11:27,, that he did both watching and fasting. The greatest Biblical example of watching, though, is in the life of Jesus. After His forty-day fast in the wilderness, there is nothing in the Gospels to suggest that He ever intentionally fasted again. But He did regularly engage in "watching". He was in the habit of frequently going without sleep in order to spend quality time in prayer. The day He chose the Apostles, the most important decision He ever had to make, He had spent the entire previous night in prayer (Luke 6:12-16). On another occasion, after a full day of ministry, He sent the disciples away in a boat, and went up a mountain by Himself to pray. Later that night He took a walk on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14:23-25).
If you want power in your life, you must fast and pray regularly. Or watch and pray. Or all three combined (nothing wrong with that). You absolutely won't be ready for the Tribulation if you do neither.
The Neglect of Prayer
Not only are Laodicean Christians failing to fast, they are actually failing to pray. At least in the United States, and probably much of the rest of the world, Christians do a lot of talking about prayer, but do very little of it. This is not to say that there are no prayer warriors. Thank God there are, and there are movements like Concerts of Prayer that are helping to combat the problem. But the majority of Christians spend very little time in prayer. A survey taken by Gallup Polls some years ago showed that the average Christian in the United States prayed only three minutes a day, and the average pastor only prayed for seven minutes. If anything, the situation has probably grown worse since then. Compare that to the prayer life of Jesus as mentioned above. It is this writer's experience that to maintain a right walk with the Lord, a Christian usually needs to spend a minimum, net, of one hour a day in prayer, regularly, with much longer periods spent in prayer from time to time as the Lord leads. Again, this must be accompanied by regular periods of fasting or something equivalent.
Unfortunately, even when Christians do pray, they often are not praying in a Scriptural way. This can include both what they are praying for and how they are praying. One of the most serious Biblical warnings for Christians about the End Times is that there will be a lot of false teaching around. Unfortunately, this is true today, and quite a bit of it is about prayer. Christians are being told to do things for which there is no Scriptural basis and call it prayer, and not to do what really is prayer. This brings up one very serious question:
What is Prayer?
Contrary to what is frequently taught today, prayer, if defined in strict, Scriptural terms, is making petitions to God, expecting to receive what is asked. Believe it or not, praise is not Biblically definable as prayer; the term usually refers to singing in its Biblical context. Thanksgiving is seen as something that should always accompany prayer, but is usually (though not always) regarded as distinct from it. Again, in Scriptural terms, prayer is asking God for things, again, expecting in faith to get what you ask.
There are three principle Greek words in the New Testament that are translated with the word "prayer", or the related words, "supplication", "intercession" and "petition". Each root word occurs as both a verb and a noun. If examined in their context, in every case where they are used, (this writer has done this) it becomes obvious that every word is generally definable with the word "petition", again, as a verb or noun. The difference is that they each refer to a different kind of petition, in terms of what is being asked. All three types of petition (and a fourth that only occurs twice in the New Testament) are in the Lord's Prayer. If you can't see that the Lord's Prayer is basically a list of petitions (some Christian leaders can't seem to see that) you have a serious reading comprehension problem.
There is a modern line of teaching that belittles the petitioning aspect of prayer, saying that asking God for things is somehow spiritually shallow and immature. Contrast this idea with what Jesus said in John 16:24, and consider to whom He said it, when, and where: "Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full". Now understand this: Jesus said that to His disciples the night before He was crucified. These words are part of His final teachings to the men who would start the Church. These men could already heal the sick and cast out demons! He was not telling them something shallow or immature. He was telling them something which would be at the very foundation of their Christian lives and ministries.
Yet some Christian teachers don't think you should focus on petitioning in your prayers. What did James say about that? "You do not have because you do not ask" (James 4:2). There have been many ideas put forward to explain unanswered prayer, but the biggest reason for unanswered prayer is not praying!
The best reason for prayer, or doing anything else that we are supposed to do as Christians, is that God told us to. Anything He tells us to do is for our good and His glory. That is all the reason we should need, but there is more.
Herein is a major problem with Christians, and a major truth about the Bible. Many people, even "Born Again", "Spirit-filled" Christians, have a problem with all the "do's" and "don'ts" in the Bible. But understand this, as an overall principle.
All the "don'ts" in the Bible are God's warnings to keep us out of trouble.
All the "do's" are God's tips on how to get ourselves blessed.
And relative to that, remember these statements as basic principles of Christian living:
God always blesses obedience.
God always punishes disobedience.
And being "Born Again" and "Spirit-filled" does not exempt you from that. On the contrary, God is stricter with us than He is with the unsaved. See Hebrews 12:5-11.
The first line of overt obedience that God calls us to is obedience in prayer. We will get blessed if we do. We will be punished if we don't.
The Kingdom of God
In Luke 12:32 is a verse that has a significant meaning relevant to prayer: "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom". The key to understanding this is in the meaning of the word "kingdom". It is the Greek word basileian, and it has two possible definitions:
The realm over which a king rules.
The authority with which a king rules.
In this verse, Jesus is using the second meaning. God has given us the Authority of Jesus in prayer. The result of this is that in many cases, beyond what He has to do to keep His plan of salvation on track. (See "How God Works In History") He often won't move in a particular situation unless we do - in prayer!
A beautiful Biblical example of this was the raising of Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:36-42). If, when Peter came to Joppa following her death, he had just said, "The Lord's will be done", and joined the mourners, she would have stayed dead. But instead, he went into the room where she was laid out, put the other people out, and got into some heavy intercession. And when he had prayed through, he raised her from the dead!
Similarly, there are many situations where God will only move in our lives or the lives of people closed to us, or even in major situations, like droughts and floods, when and if we, like Peter, get on our knees and pray! And Fast!
Reporting The Fire
Years ago, this writer had an experience that is a parable of how this can apply in our lives. In his early years in New York City, he would often hang out in the vast Staten Island Ferry Terminal on Staten Island. One afternoon, while doing so, he noticed a small fire burning in one of the "racks", huge fence-like structures that guide the ferry boats into the docks. He knew that years before, a fire had started in the racks that wasn't noticed immediately, and the whole ferry terminal had burned down. So he knew that something had to be done about this fire.
However, he had no power and authority of his own to use the fire fighting equipment in the terminal, nor to go out onto the racks. He could have gotten in trouble if he had tried. But there was one thing he could do. He could go into the terminal office and report the fire. And that he did.*
It so happened that only about twenty feet from where the fire was burning, there was docked the U.S.S. Firefighter; at the time, the most powerful fireboat in the world. It could pump twenty thousand gallons of water a minute from the water cannons on its decks, with enough force to knock down a brick wall. But the crew was ashore having lunch. They didn't know about the fire until this writer reported it. Having been alerted to the problem, they went aboard the fireboat, started the pumps, and put out the fire in less than a minute. A problem that was impossible for this writer to solve in his own power and authority was a very small thing to the U.S.S. Firefighter.
Similarly, a problem that is an impossible for us to solve may be a very small thing to God. And He is always near! But He often won't do anything about it until we "report the fire" in prayer.
It is this writer's conviction that during the Tribulation, Christians will unite in "reporting the fire" as they have never done in history. And it will be their prayers that bring about the actual Second Coming of Christ.
(*Special Note: By some "coincidence", this writer had a second experience of this kind, as he was creating the booklet that is the basis of this page. In this case he reported an unnoticed brush fire that was burning right across the street from a fire station, and threatening an apartment building, God was affirming this message.)
Prayer and the Golden Rule
In Matthew 7:12 we find the most famous statement that Jesus ever made, "The Golden Rule": "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets". If you read the context, you will see that it immediately follows His famous teaching about "ask, and you shall receive, seek and ye shall find....". Has it ever occurred to you to wonder why Jesus put the Golden Rule there? Well, you should realize that there is a resemblance between the Golden Rule and the famous teaching about sowing and reaping in Galatians 6:7-9. Jesus was telling us an important but often overlooked truth about prayer. The principle of sowing and reaping applies to prayer! When we pray, we are not just saying words; we are taking action using supernatural power. And we are sowing. If our prayers are for other people, the good that we are praying for them will come back to us. We will reap in our own lives what we sow in prayer. This is another good reason why we should pray, and more than that, why the majority of our prayer time should be for other people.
Not Enough Faith?
One of Satan's big lies to discourage Christians from praying is to get them to think that they don't have enough faith to get their prayers answered. Do you know what the biggest miracle a Christian can experience in this life is? Being Born Again. How does that happen? By faith! If you have the faith to repent of your sins, to ask Jesus Christ to forgive your sins, come into your life, and be your Savior and Lord, you have enough faith to get your prayers answered. As Jesus said, "...if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you". Do you know how big a mustard seed is? About as big as the period at the end of this sentence. If you are Born Again, you have enough faith! So don't let Satan tell you different.
Praying In Accordance With God's Will
For all of that, there are some further conditions for really getting your prayers answered. The biggest one is that our petitions must be in accord with God's will. This is not praying in accordance with some cosmic plan that you have to figure out. It is praying in accordance with the Scriptures. Some excellent texts for this can be found in the Epistles of Paul. In several passages, he tells the Christians to whom he is writing that he is praying for them, and then proceeds to tell them what he is praying. Three good examples are Ephesians 1:15-20 and 3:14-19; and Colossians 1:9-12. Read these passages, and note what is being asked. Learn to rephrase these petitions as your own prayers for your fellow Christians. (Be careful, in doing so, not to put anything into them that isn't really there.) You will be praying according to God's will. Then search the Scriptures for other passages that you can use the same way.
As a spiritual exercise in learning to pray Scripture, it is recommended that you pray Psalm 119. This Psalm is a prayer by a person who really wants to know the Word and be obedient to God. This is the longest Psalm, 176 verses. But it is conveniently divided into 22, 8-verse sections. What you should do is, every day for 22 days, read through one section a couple of times, meditate on it, and then pray it, rephrasing it to make it your own prayer. (Again, don't take too much liberty with it, that is, don't make it say something it doesn't really say.) Watch what happens to your walk with the Lord as you do this. Every Christian would do well to do this at least twice a year.
Remember that whatever you are praying for, you will have more power in prayer if you practice regular times of fasting.
To Whom Do You Pray?
You should, ideally, always address your prayers only to God the Father. Although some have taught against it, it is permissible to also address a prayer to the Holy Spirit or Jesus Himself. Frankly, teaching that forbids this is divisive, hair-splitting legalism. (See "What's Worth Arguing About?") We do believe in a God who exists in Three Persons! The point is to address our prayers to God. But it is not permissible to address your prayers to anybody else. To do so is wasting your breath at best. At worst, it is idolatry. See "The Cult of Mary". Unfortunately, even Protestants, who should know better, are being drawn into this error. Want to lose your salvation? Pray to "Mary"! Or any of the other Saints. But if you want to be ready for the Tribulation, pray to God and God alone.
In The Name of Jesus
Of course you should pray in the Name of Jesus. But that doesn't mean repeating the phrase, "In Jesus' Name we pray", as if it were magic words. It means praying with the authority of Jesus, by faith. Understand that this is possible because we are all God's children and Jesus' brothers and sisters. See John 16:26 & 27, and Hebrews 4:14-16.
Here is an example of how this principle works in the material world: This writer used to work as a mail clerk in the administration offices of a major corporation. But his job included duties that were far removed from ordinary mail clerk work. He also functioned as a high level "gopher" ("gopher" this, "gopher" that) for the top executives. If he went on an errand to get something from another department where he was not known, people sometimes gave him the run-around. But all he had to do was mention the name of, say for example, the Chairman of the Board, and people jumped! He got what he wanted, and he got it quick. And if he went to another department where people know what his function in the company was, they practically bowed! That even happened in the offices of other companies. He had authority and prestige because of whom he served.
This is a good parable of the authority we have in Christ. Because we are His brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters of His Father, we have authority and prestige with both the forces of evil, and privilege with the Father Himself. This writer couldn't ask that Chairman for something he wanted and be even remotely sure of getting it, but because of his faith in Jesus, he can get what he asks from the Lord of the Universe!
Hindrances To Prayer
There are a number of things that can be going on in a Christian's life that will keep his prayers from being answered. We will not go into depth about these things (some of these issues are addressed elsewhere in this site) but we will list a few major ones.
Selfishly motivated prayers (James 4:1-4).
Worldliness in ones life (same reference as above).
Unforgiveness (Matthew 6:12 & 14-15; Mark 11:25 & 26).
Habitual, willful sin in ones life [=lack of obedience] (John 9:31).
Marital conflicts (I Peter 3:7).
These things are well known (except maybe #3). As shown above, unbelief is only a problem if you don't believe you have enough faith. But the biggest reasons for unanswered prayer are not really praying, and failure to fast.
Remember that you absolutely will not be ready for the Great Tribulation if you do not have a good prayer life, and that must include regular fasting or something equivalent like watching. Remember that this is going to cost you something, of which the time, effort, and the stress of fasting, etc., will be just the start. Understand that Satan does not like it when Christians start to really pray in a truly obedient way. He will attack! This is will be part of the price you must pay. You will be in for a battle. Satan will do everything he can to stop you. Understand, though, that this is a battle you lose only if you quit. As long as you keep going, you win. So run the race!
This, of course, is just the First of the Three Switches. You also have to buy those white garments. What are they, and how do you buy them? We will address that issue in the next page of this section, which is of course entitled:
For additional teaching on Prayer and Fasting, see also,
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Contact Author, William D. Brehm