Today’s selected reading is found in the Old Testament book of Job, which describes the trials and troubles which he faced as a direct result of two distinct interactions between the LORD and Satan. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first four chapters of this Old Testament book. When you come to the Old Testament book of Job you will find the story and narrative of a man who was described in Scripture and by the Holy Spirit as perfect and upright, as one that feared God, and one that shunned evil. It’s quite interesting to begin reading the book of Job, for in the opening verses you are first struck with four words which not only help set the context for the entire book of Job, but also which indicate and clearly define that which the LORD is looking for in this generation, and that which the LORD has been looking for in every generation since. As you begin reading the book of Job you will find the first four words of the book are simply “There was a man.” Please don’t quickly rush past those words, for those words help to shine a tremendous amount of light on to that which the living God is truly and indeed looking for—not only in past generations, but also in the generation in which we are looking for. It is truly remarkable and astonishing to think about and consider the fact that this particular Old Testament book began with the emphatic declaration that there was a man. It would be very easy to quickly move past and move beyond these words, and completely and utterly miss that which the Spirit of the living God desires to speak unto us within this generation. It would be easy to quickly speed past the opening words of this narrative concerning Job, and yet if you read and study Scripture you will find that exactly what is found in the opening verse of this book is what the LORD sought for within and throughout Scripture. If and as you read and study Scripture you will discover the absolutely wonderful reality that the living and eternal God has never sought out, nor has He ever looked for anything other than a man—a man whom he could use for His divine purposes and His divine glory. As you read the entire narrative and story found in Scripture you will find that the eyes of the LORD have always sought out and searched for a man whom He could use and raise up for His divine purposes and glory. The Old Testament book of Job begins and opens with an emphatic and powerful declaration that there was a man, and that there was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. It’s worth noting and understanding that the first and opening verse of this verse begin with the declaration that there was a man, and it concludes with a powerful and emphatic declaration concerning the nature and character of this man.
As I sit here this morning and consider how the Old Testament book of Job begins and opens, I cannot help but be gripped and captivated with the fact that it began by speaking of a man—and not simply a man, but this man had a location, and this man had a name. This man’s name was Job, and this man Job was from the land of Uz. Within the first and opening verse of the first chapter of the book of Job we find and discover that there was a man, and that there was a man in the land of Uz, and that this man’s name was Job. Moreover, and more specifically we find a wonderful and truly powerful declaration concerning this man—namely, that he was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and one who eschewed or shunned evil. In all reality, I have to admit that I absolutely love the first and opening verse of this Old Testament book, for the first verse begins with the words “There was a man,” while it would pick up and continue with the words “that man was.” Oh that we would take a moment to pause, to reflect, to meditate and to truly think about the tremendous impact that surrounds these two realities, for not only do we find the declaration that there was a man, but we also find a declaration concerning that man. The first phrase introduces us to the name and geography of the man, while the second phrase introduces us to the character and nature of the man. Please take a moment and “selah” as you read the first and opening verse of this Old Testament book, for within this first verse we find the wonderful and powerful declaration that there was a man who lived in a very specific place, and there was a man who had a very specific name. What’s more, is that the Spirit goes on to describe and declare that this man who had just been introduced was of a special character and special nature before and in the sight of the living God. In order to help illustrate this point even further, I find it absolutely necessary to present you with specific references found within Scripture concerning that which the living and eternal God has always been looking for, and what the living God is still looking for in this generation in which we are living. Consider the following references which are found within the narrative of Scripture concerning that which the LORD our God is indeed actively looking for:
“But now thy kingdom shall not continue: THE LORD HATH SOUGHT HIM A MAN AFTER HIS OWN HEART, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee” (1 Samuel 13:14).
“And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Elian, and said, Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him. But the LORD said unto Samuel, LOOK NOT ON HIS COUNTENANCE, OR ON THE HEIGHT OF HIS STATURE; BECAUSE I HAVE REFUSED HIM: FOR THE LORD SEETH NOT AS MAN SEETH; FOR MAN LOOKETH ON THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE, BUT THE LORD LOOKETH ON THE HEART” (1 Samuel 16:6-7).
“Yet because thou didst rely on the LORD, he delivered them into thine hand. FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD RUN TO AND FRO THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH, TO SHEW HIMSELF STRONG IN THE BEHALF OF THEM WHOSE HEART IS PERFECT TOWARD HIM” (2 Chronicles 16:8-9).
“And I SOUGHT FOR A MAN among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: BUT I FOUND NONE” (Ezekiel 22:30).
“Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, IF YE CAN FIND A MAN, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it” (Jeremiah 5:1).
“AND HE SAW THAT THERE WAS NO MAN, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it stationed him. For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke” (Isaiah 59:16-17).
“And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me” (Isaiah 62:5).
Pay close and careful attention to the words which are written and found within these passages, for the words that are contained therein are a truly wonderful and powerful testament and declaration to that which the LORD our God has always been looking for, and what He continues to look for within this generation. THE LORD HATH SOUGHT HIM A MAN! I SOUGHT FOR A MAN! IF YE CAN FIND A MAN! THERE WAS NO MAN! These aren’t ordinary words that can quickly be glanced and glossed over, for these words bring us face to face with the wonderful and awesome reality that throughout history the LORD our God has indeed always been looking for and searching for a man—and not just any man, but a very specific man. When speaking unto Saul through the prophet Samuel the LORD emphatically declared that He was looking for a man after his own heart. When speaking unto Asa king of the southern kingdom of Judah we find that the LORD our God looks for that man to whom He can show Himself strong in the behalf of that one who is perfect toward Him. When speaking through the prophet Ezekiel unto the southern kingdom of Judah during the days and times of the captivity and exile, we find that the LORD sought for a man among the people that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before Him for the land, while in the prophetic book of Isaiah we find that the LORD saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor among the people in the midst of the land. When speaking unto the prophet Jeremiah we find the LORD instructing him to run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem and see and know if he could find a man which executed judgment and which sought the truth. Moreover, you will also find in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah that the LORD and the prophet looked, and saw and beheld that there was none to help, and the LORD wondered that there was none to uphold. Oh, these words aren’t such that are to be treated lightly, and words which are meant to be quickly glanced over and treated casually or cavalier. We dare not, we cannot and must not have a casual and cavalier attitude toward the words found within these passages, for within them we find a powerful picture concerning that which the LORD our God was looking for, and continues to look for within and during this generation. Oh, I can’t help but be reminded of the words which James wrote in the final chapter of the epistle he wrote which is found in the New Testament:
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit” (James 5:16-18).
As you read these words which were written by James you will find that the the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much, but you will also find and discover that Elias (Elijah) was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly. What I find to be so absolutely incredible about the words found within this passage of Scripture is that James not only wrote that Elijah was a man, but he also wrote two distinct truths concerning Elijah—namely, that he prayed earnestly, and that he prayed again. Pause for a moment right there and ask yourself if those words can and do in fact describe you. Stop and think whether or not it can be said of you that you were and you are a man who prayed earnestly—and not only that you prayed earnestly, but also that you prayed again. Do these words aptly and accurately describe you within this life and within this generation. We know from Scripture that the LORD sought for a man, and we know through Scripture that the LORD looked for a man, and we understand through these words that Elijah was a man who not only prayed earnestly, but also a man who prayed again. Within this narrative concerning the prophet Elijah we not only find that he prayed, but we also find that he prayed “earnestly” and that he prayed “again.” Oh I can’t help but read and consider those words and ask whether or not I am not simply a man that prays, but whether or not I am a man who prays earnestly. What’s more, is that it’s one thing for us to say that we do in fact pray, but it’s something else altogether to say that we pray earnestly, and that we have prayed earnestly. It’s one thing to say that we do in fact pray, but it’s something else to say that we pray and have prayed again. When we think about the scope and impact of prayer we must recognize that it isn’t enough to simply engage ourselves in prayer, but true prayer that avails much is “the effectual fervent prayer.” What does “effectual fervent prayer”—and that of a righteous man—truly look like? The answer is actually found in what James goes on to write and describe, for James declares that Elijah prayed earnestly, and that Elijah would go on to pray again. Would it shock and surprise you if I told you that we might very well be good at praying, but we might be absolutely terrible at praying earnestly? Would it shock and surprise you to hear that we might be very good at praying, but we might be absolutely horrible at praying again? If you read the eighteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Kings you will find the narrative and account of Elijah atop mount Carmel, as not only did Elijah pray for the fire of God to fall from heaven upon the altar and consume the sacrifice and offering thereupon it, but you will also find that Elijah would pray that it might rain. What’s more, is that we don’t merely find that Elijah prayed that it might rain, but we find that Elijah prayed again and again—a total of seven times—before his servant finally saw a cloud the size of a man’s hand on the horizon. Consider if you will the words which are written and found within the eighteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Kings concerning this fiery and thunderous prophet of the LORD:
“And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth” (1 Kings 18:1).
“And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according ot the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the weather ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench” (1 Kings 18:30-38).
“And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel” (1 Kings 18:42-46).
When you read these words found within the eighteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Kings you will find the prophet Elijah praying unto and before the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that He might show Himself as the God of Israel, and as the God of heaven and earth. The LORD would indeed respond by sending fire down from heaven, which would not only consume the sacrifice, but would also consume the wood and the stone, and would lick up both the dust of the earth, as well as the water in the trench. What makes this chapter even more intriguing and captivating is when you think about and consider the fact that not only did Elijah call upon the name of the LORD and pray that the LORD might respond by sending fire down from heaven, but we also find that Elijah would pray—not once, but seven times—that it might rain upon the earth. Something that is truly remarkable and astounding about the narrative of Elijah is that within his first prayer atop Carmel you will not find him asking the LORD for the fire. Nowhere in the prayer which Elijah prayed before and unto the LORD will you find him specifically asking for fire to come down from heaven. You do not and you will not find the prophet Elijah asking the LORD that He would send fire down from heaven, and I can’t help but find tremendous power and insight contained within this, for it’s almost as if Elijah prayed, and trusted the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob to answer and send fire down from heaven. Elijah prayed that it might be known on that day that the LORD was God in Israel, and that he was His servant. Moreover, Elijah would pray and ask the LORD that He would hear Him, that the people before him might know that He was the LROD God, and that He has turned their heart back again. Nowhere within these verses do you find Elijah specifically praying to the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Israel for fire, and you almost get the sense that when Elijah prayed, he trusted and believed that the LORD God of Israel would indeed hear him and respond by sending fire down from heaven. What’s more, is that when you come to the end and final portion of this passage you will find the prophet Elijah casting himself down upon the earth and putting his face between his knees and crying out unto the LORD and praying that it might rain once more upon the earth. Furthermore, you will find that Elijah didn’t merely pray once that it might rain upon the earth, but he prayed earnestly seven times that it might rain once more upon the earth.
When you read the words which are found within the New Testament epistle written by James you will find that Elijah was a man, and that Elijah was a man who not only prayed, but Elijah was a man who prayed earnestly, and prayed again. It’s necessary that we recognize and understand this, for to fail and to miss on this truly remarkable reality is to miss out on the tremendous power, the tremendous purpose, and the tremendous position of prayer. It’s one thing to pray, but it’s something altogether and entirely different to pray earnestly. What’s more, is that it is something else to pray earnestly, and to pray again. Within the narrative of Elijah we find that he did indeed and did in fact pray again, but in that praying again we find that he prayed again, and again, and again—seven times in total—that it might rain upon the earth. It is no wonder why James would write and emphatically declare that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails and accomplishes much. Perhaps the question I feel compelled to ask you at this juncture is what do your prayers accomplish in the earth within and during this generation. Moreover, I can’t help but be compelled to ask you what your prayers have accomplished within and upon the earth during these days and during this generation. What’s more, is I can’t help but ask and wonder what your prayers are even like, and what you have prayed for in times past, and what you pray for during this current time. When was the last time your prayer(s) availed anything? When was the last time your prayers truly availed something within the physical and natural realm, as well as the spiritual and supernatural realm? I have to admit that I absolutely love what James writes within this passage of Scripture, for James didn’t merely write that the prayer of a righteous man avails something, but he would write that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Pay close attention to these words, for what we see and what we notice is that it isn’t merely the prayer of any man, but the prayer of a righteous man. Moreover, we find that it isn’t merely the prayer of a righteous man, but the effectual and fervent prayer of a righteous man. Additionally, we find that this effectual and fervent prayer of a righteous man doesn’t merely avail something, or avail little, but rather that it avails much. THE RIGHTEOUS MAN! EFFECTUAL AND FERVENT! PRAYER! AVAILS! MUCH! James emphatically writes that it isn’t merely the prayer of a man that avails much, but the nature of that man is righteousness, and the nature of that man’s prayer is that it is effectual and fervent.
THE NATURE OF THE MAN! THE NATURE OF THE PRAYER! The words which you will find within this passage of Scripture not only points to the nature of this particular man as being that of righteousness, but the nature of the prayer in that it is both effectual and fervent. In all reality, I would dare say it takes both the nature of the man, as well as the nature of the prayer in order for much to be availed and much to be accomplished. We dare not, we cannot and must not expect our prayers to avail much—perhaps avail anything at that—if our nature is not righteousness, and if the nature of our prayers are not effectual and fervent. When we enter into the secret closet of prayer where our Father sees in secret, we must recognize and understand that not only is our nature put on display before the eyes of the Father, but we also find that the nature of our prayer(s) and our prayer life is also put on display. Oh beloved, please don’t miss and lose sight of this, for it’s one thing to be a man, but it’s another thing to a righteous man. Beloved, please understand that it’s one thing to pray, and it’s another thing to effectually and a fervently pray. Moreover, it’s one thing for your prayer, my prayer, and our prayers to avail something, however it is something else for our prayers to avail much. Is it possible that your prayers don’t avail much because your nature is not righteousness, and because the nature of your prayers isn’t effectual and fervent? Oh, I would dare say that prayer alone isn’t enough, for if we want to avail much within this generation, we must effectually and fervently pray. Elijah wasn’t merely a man who prayed earnestly, but Elijah was a man who prayed again. I am absolutely and completely convinced that more often than not we end our prayers too soon, and more often than not we stop our prayers far too short from the place the living God actually desires within our hearts, within our spirits, and within our lives. I can’t help but liken prayer unto running, which is something I absolutely love to do—particularly and especially now during this current time of quarantine, social distancing, and the like. I can’t tell you how many times I have started running, and sometimes almost as soon as I start running I want to stop running and simply give up. I can’t tell you how many times I have been running, and at some point during the run I feel the need to stop and simply return to where I started. There are countless times when in order to continue running I have to exercise my mind, as my mind literally speaks to and dictates to my body. I am absolutely and completely convinced that running is as much mental as it is physical, and I would even dare say that it is more mental than physical at the very heart and core of it.
I can’t help but think and consider the fact that prayer is much like running, for how many times have you started praying, and almost as soon as your started praying you have wanted to stop? How many times have you started praying, and you have found yourself not having the strength, the stamina, the fortitude, and the determination to continue praying? If you are truly honest with yourself, as well as with the LORD your God you will undoubtedly encounter and come face to face with the fact that prayer is as much spiritual as it is physical, for more often than not “our flesh is weak, while our spirit is willing.” Perhaps one of the greatest examples of this is found in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus prayed earnestly, and prayed again before God His Father concerning the path that would lead to the cross of Calvary. Before Jesus went into the garden to pray He invited Peter, James and John into a deeper place in the midst of the garden with Him. Moreover, and more specifically, He would invite them to watch and pray. As you read the narrative surrounding Jesus’ time in the garden of Gethsemane as He prayed before God His Father, you will find that He would return to find Peter, James and John sleeping. Upon returning and coming unto them, He would ask them if they could not watch and pray for one hour. What’s more, is you will find Jesus emphatically declare unto them that the spirit indeed is willing, while the flesh is truly and indeed weak. Not only did Jesus speak of watching and praying, but Jesus would speak of praying for one hour. Moreover, Jesus would ask these three disciples if they could not watch and pray one hour. What about you? Are you able to pray for one hour? Are you able to give up an hour of your day to watch and to pray that you might not enter into temptation? Knowing that your flesh is weak but the spirit is truly and indeed willing, are you able to exercise your spirit, and move in the spiritual realm rather than the physical realm that you might watch and pray for one hour? It isn’t merely about our willingness and our ability to pray, but it is about our willingness to pray fervently, and pray effectually that truly avails and accomplishes much. I am convinced that one of the greatest needs we have is not necessarily being taught how to pray (we have already been taught how to pray i.e. “Our Father who art in heaven), but rather endurance and patience in the midst of prayer. I firmly believe that the greatest struggle and the greatest trouble we have is not so much not knowing how to pray, but not having the stamina, not having the strength, and not having the endurance to pray, to pray earnestly, and to pray again. Oh, I invite you to consider the narrative of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane with these three disciples—Peter, James, and John—and the tremendous and powerful call to praying effectually and fervently within our hearts and lives:
“Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch saith me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me” (Matthew 26:36-46).
“And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; and saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? Couldest not thou watch one hour? Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is read, but the flesh is weak. And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words. And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him. And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betayeth me is at hand” (Mark 14:32-42).
“And he came out, and went, as he wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from hem about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, and said unto them, Why sleep ye? Rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation” (Luke 22:39-46).
HE WENT AWAY AGAIN THE SECOND TIME! AND PRAYED! WENT AWAY AGAIN! AND PRAYED THE THIRD TIME! AND AGAIN HE WENT AWAY! AND PRAYED! SPAKE THE SAME WORDS! SLEEPING AGAIN! PRAYING AGAIN! PRAYED MORE EARNESTLY! What a stark and strong contrast is found in these three passages, for within these three passages we find the disciples sleeping and sleeping again, while we find Jesus praying and praying again. While this is not intended to condemn anyone who would read these words, I can’t help but ask which you are doing more of within your life—sleeping, or praying? Are you good at sleeping, or are you good at praying? Are you good at sleeping again, or are you good at praying again? Matthew, Mark and Luke all wrote how Jesus prayed and prayed again, but they also go on to write how the disciples slept, and slept again. Jesus would pray, and pray again, and would do so three times, and when it came to the disciples, they slept, they slept again, and would be found sleeping three times. I can’t help but wonder how much sleeping do in this life, and how much sleeping we do within this generation, and whether or not we ourselves cannot watch and pray for one hour. Perhaps the question is whether or not we are willing to give up one hour of sleep in order that we might spend one hour in prayer. Tell me dear reader—when was the last time you sacrificed, and forfeited an hour of sleep in order that you might pray before your Father in heaven as Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane? What’s more, is I can’t help but ask when was the last time you prayed earnestly, and prayed again, and again—even three times before and unto your Father who is in heaven, and yet who sees in secret. Jesus went away and prayed, and yet we don’t merely find Him going away and praying, but we find Him going away and praying a second time, and we find Him going away and praying a third time. Within the garden—not only do we find Jesus praying, but we find Jesus praying a second time, and we find Jesus praying a third time. What’s more, is we find Jesus praying all the more earnestly—even while being in intense agony. Oh, it might very well be said that the greater the agony, the greater the anguish, the greater the sorrow, and the greater the need within our hearts and soul, the greater the travail will be, and the more earnest our prayer and our praying will be. Elijah prayed earnestly, and Elijah prayed again, and in these three passages within the New Testament gospel narratives of Jesus’ life and ministry we find the same declaration—the declaration that He not only prayed earnestly, but prayed again. Oh, I would dare say that the effectual fervent prayer of the holy and righteous Son of God availed much that night in the garden, as He would receive the strength that He would need to endure betrayal, to endure the suffering and persecution, to endure the physical demand placed on His body through being beaten and whipped, through the crown of thorns placed upon His brow, and ultimately the cross upon which He would die and sacrifice His life.
Within the epistle which was written by James we find and discover the truly awesome reality that Elijah was a man—and not only was he a man, but he was a man who prayed earnestly, and he was a man who prayed again. Oh, there is something about praying earnestly, and there is something about praying again that transcends and far supersedes simply prayer and praying. Within this epistle we learn that Elijah was a man with similar passions as we are, and yet he was a man who prayed earnestly, and he was a man who prayed again. What’s more, is the words which James wrote concerning Elijah are directly linked and connected to the words which he wrote concerning the effectual and fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. I cannot escape the truly remarkable reality of what is written here, for not only do we encounter a man, but we encounter a righteous man. Moreover, we not only encounter prayer, but we encounter effectual and fervent prayer. It is this dynamo and raging inferno of righteousness meeting effectual and fervent prayer that avails and accomplishes much. I have to admit that I absolutely love that it doesn’t place a name in this particular passage of Scripture, but it simply declares that a righteous man. This is something we must recognize and understand within our hearts and minds, for you can be a righteous man that prays—and not only prays, but who prays effectually and fervently in the secret closet of prayer. I can be a righteous man that not only prays, but prays effectually and fervently. We can be righteous men who not only pray, but who pray effectually and fervently. This declaration and these words which were spoken about “a righteous man” are not exclusive to any particular or specific individual, but can directly apply to any one who sets their heart to not only be righteous in the sight of the living God, but who also sets their prayers on fire by being effectual and fervent when seeking the face of the living God and crying out to Him. Oh, please note that it is not up to anyone else to set your prayers on fire with being effectual and fervent, and no one else can, will or is going to make that a reality for you. What’s more, is that I would strongly argue that the responsibility for effectual and fervent prayer falls solely and squarely on you, and it requires a conscious and deliberate resolve within your own heart, within your own soul, and within your own spirit. James emphatically declared that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much, and Elijah was a righteous man who prayed effectually and fervently, and not only did fire come down from heaven, and not only were hearts turned back to the true and living God, but the heavens were also opened as the LORD would once more send rain upon the earth.
When you consider the narrative of Job you will find that Job was indeed a righteous man—and not only a righteous man, but a righteous man who was perfect and upright, who feared God, and who shunned evil. There was a man, and there was a man in the land of Uz, and there was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and it was that man. What about you? Can it be said of you that there was a man, or there was a man, and that man or that woman was perfect and upright in the sight of God? Can it be said of you that there was a man, or there was a woman, and that man or that woman feared God and shunned evil? The LORD has always, and the LORD will always seek after and search for a man after His own heart, and a man who will make up the hedge, and who will stand in the gap. In fact, you will notice that in addition to Job being perfect and upright, and in addition to his fearing God and shunning evil, he was also a man of intercession, a man of prayer, and a man of sacrifice, as Scripture reveals concerning Job that he would make sacrifices for each of his ten children in the off chance that they sinned and transgressed against the commandment of the LORD. Job was a man who shunned and departed from evil within his own heart and life, and he was a man who would intercede on behalf of his sons and daughters that they might be forgiven in the sight of the LORD whom He worshipped, served and followed. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this powerful reality, for Job was a man, and that man was perfect and upright. Job was a man, and that man feared God and shunned evil. What’s more, is that when the sons of God came to appear before the LORD God of heaven, Satan also came with and among them. When asked where he had come from, Satan responded by declaring that he had come from going to and fro in the midst of the earth. Coincidentally we don’t find the other part of that statement and declaration which would be voiced by the apostle Peter when he would write concerning Satan that he is as a roaring lion roaming to and fro seeking whom he may devour. Satan came and appeared before the throne of the living God with the sons of God, and in the presence of the LORD, Satan would be asked if he had considered the servant of God whose name was Job. The LORD deliberately and intentionally asked Satan if he had considered His servant Job, for He knew that Satan had come from going to and fro in the midst of the earth seeking whom he might devour. The LORD knew that Satan was seeking someone to devour, and the LORD deliberately and intentionally offered and served up Job—not because of any evil that was found within Job, but because of his righteousness.
If there is one thing we must recognize and understand, it’s that even though we might be a righteous man or woman, and even thought our effectual and fervent prayers might indeed avail much—that does not mean that we will be off limits to the enemy and adversary. It is true that we might very well be righteous in the sight of the living God, and it might be true that we might be men and women who earnestly pray, and who pray again, and yet that doesn’t mean that we cannot and will not be targets of the wrath, the anger and fury of Satan. Scripture is unclear whether or not Satan had targeted Job, or whether or not he had even considered him, for Satan speaks of the hedge which the LORD had built up round about Job. What’s so unique is to think about the fact that it would be Job’s righteousness before and in the sight of the LORD that would temporarily lift and would temporarily remove the hedge that was before, upon and around him, and as a direct result of this, he would become a target of the enemy and adversary. What’s more, is that initially the LORD removed the hedge around all that Job had, as He would allow all his possessions, and even his own children to be touched by the enemy and adversary. If you continue reading, you will find that the LORD would lift and remove the hedge even further by giving Job’s physical body into the hands of the enemy and adversary, while explicitly declaring unto Satan that he could not take the life of Job, and needed to spare it. How absolutely and incredibly powerful it is to think about and consider the fact that even though the LORD would grant permission and access within the life of Job to Satan the adversary and enemy—he still had to operate within the parameters which were set by the living God. Satan would be given temporary access to all that Job had, and even to Job’s physical body, but he would never be given full and complete access to take the life of Job. He could attack all that Job had, and he could even attack Job’s physical body, however, he still had to operate within the parameters and boundaries the LORD set for him, and he could not operate outside of those boundaries or borders.
There is this growing tendency to think and to believe that our righteousness somehow exempts us from the wrath of the enemy and the adversary, and somehow exempts us from suffering, from trials, and from trouble. We tend to think that even though we might be a righteous man or woman, and even though our effectual and fervent prayers avail much—the enemy and adversary cannot rise up and come against us. Just because we are righteous, and just because our effectual and fervent prayers might avail much—that doesn’t mean that we are immune and somehow exempt from suffering, from trials, from troubles, from opposition, from affliction, and the like. The apostle Peter recognizes and understood this reality when writing his first epistle unto the Christians and followers of the way which were scattered, for not only did he write about the enemy and adversary, but he also wrote about the struggles, the trials and the troubles we all face. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded in the fifth chapter of the first epistle which the apostle Peter wrote unto the followers of the way which had been scattered abroad throughout the Roman Empire in the midst of the earth:
“Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roasting lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all graze, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Pester 5:5-11).
The apostle Peter emphatically wrote that we are to be sober and vigilant because our adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking him he may devour. It is this adversary the devil whom we are to resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are comprised in our brethren that are in the world. It’s important to recognize that our resistance of the adversary the devil, who walks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour is not only linked to our faith, but also in our connection and relation to brethren which are in the world. Moreover, our resistance of the adversary the devil is directly linked to the same afflictions which are being accomplished in our brethren which are in the world. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this, for not only is our resistance based on our faith, but it is also based on a knowledge and understand that the same afflictions which we are facing are being accomplished in our brethren which are in the world. Satan came and appeared before the throne of the LORD with the sons of God, and he came from going to and fro and from going up and down in the midst of the earth seeking whom he might devour, and it wasn’t even Satan who mentioned and called out Job by name. it was the LORD who mentioned and called Job by name, as Satan was undoubtedly looking for and seeking those whom he might devour. It’s quite interesting to think about the fact that Satan was indeed looking for those whom he could devour, and consider it in light of Jesus’ declaration unto Simon also called Peter, for Jesus declared unto him that Satan desired to have him that he might sift him as wheat. When Peter wrote about the adversary the devil walking about like a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour, he wasn’t merely speaking from inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but also from personal experience. Oh there is something about speaking—not only from inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but also from personal experience within our lives, as we have found ourselves facing and experiencing the tremendous opposition of the adversary the devil. It’s worth noting that the LORD not only called and mentioned Job by name, but he allowed Job to be sifted as wheat—much like Jesus allowed Simon also called Peter to be sifted as wheat. Satan could attack everything that Job had, and Satan would even be able to touch Job’s physical body, and yet he still had to operate within the parameters, the borders and the boundaries which the living and eternal God had set and established for him. He could not and would not be able to operate outside of those boundaries and those parameters—a reality which still demonstrates the fact that the living and eternal God is sovereign and is still in control. Even in the midst of suffering, affliction, opposition, trials, troubles, persecution and the like the living and eternal God is still in control. We cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely and incredible reality, for to do so would be to miss out on that which is found within the narrative and life of Job.
Job was a man, and Job was a man who was perfect and upright, and yet he was also a man whom the LORD would allow the adversary Satan to come against without warning, without advanced notice, and without explanation. Job was a man, and he was a man who feared God and who shunned evil, and yet he was a man whom the LORD would allow Satan to come against without any warning or explanation. Oh dear brother, dear sister—please note and please understand that when it comes to suffering, when it comes to affliction, and when it comes to trials and trouble—more often than not, they come and enter our lives without notice, without warning, and without any explanation. Despite the fact that we would absolutely love to receive advanced notice and warning when suffering and affliction might very well rise up within our hearts and lives, the living and eternal God is under no obligation to prepare us for such suffering and affliction by giving us a heads up. With that being said, it’s worth noting that when Jesus prepared His disciples for this life after His departure, He prepared them to have enemies, He prepared them to be hated of all nations for His name’s sake, He prepared them for persecution, , He prepared them for opposition and affliction, He prepared them to be scourged and beaten. In all reality, I would dare say that not only did Jesus prepare the disciples for suffering and affliction, but He also instructed them to expect and anticipate it. That soul that attempts to walk through this life without expecting suffering, and without expecting affliction is one that may very well find themselves in an incredibly dangerous and vulnerable place of offense and bitterness when suffering and affliction rise up among them within this life. OH, I can’t help but be reminded of the words which our Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples when speaking unto them concerning the last days. Not only did He speak to them of endurance, but He also warned them against deception, against their love growing cold, and against offense and bitterness. In all reality, if there are three distinct dangers and traps we need to guard ourselves against within this life they are cold love, a bitter heart, and a deceived mind. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus which was written by the apostle Matthew:
“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should not flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together” (Matthew 24:4-28).
As I bring this writing to a close I find the great and powerful need to emphasize that the same dangers which Jesus spoke of in the Last Days could very well have been experienced by Job in the midst of his generation and in the midst of what he himself had experienced and endured. It would have been very easy for Job to allow himself to grow bitter, offended, and angry in the midst of his suffering and affliction. It would have been very easy for Job to allow his love for the LORD to grow cold as he allowed himself to get caught up and consumed with his affliction and suffering. I am absolutely and completely convinced that during these days in which we are living—there is a great and powerful need to guard our hearts against being deceived, but there is also a great and powerful need to guard our love from growing cold, and from allowing ourselves to grow bitter, offended and angry in the midst of the suffering and affliction we have faced. Through the book of Job we encounter and come face to face with the fact that suffering is indeed real, and that affliction can indeed take place within our lives, and we have a tremendous responsibility to guard our hearts in the midst of it—even in the company of others who would attempt to explain our suffering, or would attempt to condemn and accuse us in the midst of it. What a tremendous and powerful statement and reality is found in the midst of the Old Testament book of Job concerning our need to guard ourselves from a love growing cold, as well as from an offended and bitter heart. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize that our greatest treasure in the midst of suffering and affliction is our righteousness and our ability to walk in obedience and holiness before and in the sight of the living God. The question we must ask ourselves is when we read the words which are written and recorded within the book of Job—do we truly understand what the living God asks and requires of us in this life? It is my prayer that as we read the words found within the book of Job that we allow ourselves to be confronted with the nature and condition of our heart, and all ourselves to come face to face with our nature as men and women. What’s more, is that there is a great need within this life to recognize and understand that it is our nature as men and women, as well as the nature of our prayers that truly do accomplish and avail much within this life and within this generation. Oh that we would be men, and oh that we would be women who are not only righteous, but who are effectual and fervent in our prayers, and who guard ourselves in this life and in these days against a cold love, against a deceived heart, and against bitterness and offense of soul.