[From KCM site, 10/20/04]
GET READY: THERE'S TROUBLE COMING!
THE POWER OF PAYING ATTENTION
Get ready. Trouble is coming. Jesus said it and it's true. "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33, New International Version).
If you've been saved for more than five minutes, you already know that from experience. It may even seem to you that Jesus understated the problem. Brother Copeland, you might think, I don't just have trouble—I have double trouble! I have devils ganging up on me on every side.
Maybe so. But thank God, Jesus has already won the victory. He went on to say in that same verse of scripture, "But take heart! I have overcome the world." We just have to learn how to stand in that victory when the devil comes against us. We have to find out how to firmly position ourselves in the overcoming power of God.
Good News in a Bad Situation
Isaiah 7 tells about an Old Testament king named Ahaz who learned those lessons firsthand. When he was reigning over Judah, two nations who had previously been unable to defeat him joined forces and were about to attack him. Talk about double trouble! Ahaz knew that militarily he didn't stand a chance against these two united foes.
"And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind" (verse 2).
That's what the King James Version of the Bible says about how Ahaz and his people responded to news of the impending attack. But here's the Texas translation of that verse: It scared the daylights out of them! Their hearts were shaking in fear.
"Then said the Lord to Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Judah's King Ahaz and say to him, Take heed and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted because of these two stumps of smoking firebrands…[who] have purposed evil against you [Judah], saying, Let us go up against Judah and harass and terrify it;…thus says the Lord God: It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass" (verses 3-7, The Amplified Bible).That word from the Lord was good news to Ahaz! It let him know that God had the situation well in hand. Everything was going to turn out all right.
You Get What You Pay For
There were, however, some things Ahaz had to do in the meantime. Isaiah stated them very plainly. He said:
Take heed. (Or, pay attention.)
Be quiet: Keep your mouth shut.
Neither be fainthearted. (Quit being a chicken.)
Those were the instructions God gave to Ahaz and his people in the time of trouble…and those same instructions hold true for us today.
First and foremost He's telling us to take heed to Him and what He's saying to us. To take is something you do on purpose. To take something you must intentionally reach out and receive it. Someone could have a gift for you and even try to give it to you. But if you don't take it, you'll go away empty-handed.
Spiritually, people have proven that again and again. The Bible says, for example, that the free gift of righteousness came upon all men through Jesus. But only those who take that gift are walking in the benefit of it.
So if we're going to take heed to God, we have to do it intentionally. We have to purposely pay attention to Him and we should do so expecting to receive.
After all, you expect to get something when you pay for it, don't you? When you give the clerk money at the grocery store, you expect to walk out with groceries. When you go to the department store and pay for shoes, you expect to take them home with you.
In the material world, we understand the process of paying for something and expecting to receive it. We do it all the time. But when it comes to spiritual things, we've let the devil (who is the consummate con artist) talk us into paying without expecting to get anything in return.
We need to stop that business. God isn't a thief. He isn't going to let us pay for something and then refuse to give it to us. When we pay attention to Him, we need to expect to receive divine revelation in return.
If we'll do that, we'll find that this process of paying attention—or taking heed to God and to His Word—is an extremely powerful tool.
I first learned about the power of paying attention when I was a little boy and my uncle started teaching me to kick a football. He had played for the New York Giants before World War II and was my hero. He bought me a football uniform when I wasn't even big enough to wear it. I was so small the helmet almost fell down around my shoulders.
When he came to visit, my uncle would take me out in our front yard where there was a tree that had some limbs that grew upward like goal posts. Then he'd stand a football on the ground in front of me and tell me to kick it.
"Now Kenneth," he'd say, "you fix your eyes on a spot on that ball and don't ever take your eyes off it. Even if somebody jumps in front of you, even if somebody shoots off rockets in the yard, you keep your attention on that ball. No matter what happens, concentrate…concentrate…concentrate."
If he said that once, he said it I don't know how many times.
I wasn't old enough to appreciate the value of what he was teaching me. I just thought, That's no big deal. Anybody can do that. (Actually, that's right—anybody can. But most people don't.) So I just kept on practicing and practicing. By the time I was 16 years old, I could really concentrate on a football!
In high school I was the kicking specialist. I was so focused that once a cat ran between me and the ball and I never even saw it! The only reason I ever knew about that cat was because people told me about it later. My mind was so completely fixed on the football that nothing could distract me.
Weed Seeds of Distraction
If you want to walk through trouble in triumph, you'll have to focus your attention on God with that same kind of intensity. You'll have to be like the righteous man in Psalm 112 who is not afraid of evil tidings because "his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord" (verse 7).
To fix something means to stabilize it, to keep it permanently and firmly set in one place. For instance, if you were building a fence and wanted to fix a post securely in place, you would set it in concrete. Well, that's what we have to do with our minds and our hearts. We have to set them permanently— in spiritual concrete—on the things of God.
When I first learned about the power of God's Word, that's what I did. I set my heart on it and determined to keep my attention fixed on the Word until I learned how to live by it.
I turned off the television and stopped reading the newspaper. I didn't have time for that junk. My attention was focused continually on the Word of God and I expected to receive something in return.
"I wish I could do that," you might say. "I wish I could pay that kind of attention to the Word."
You can. But you can't do it just by wishing. It takes making a quality decision and being determined that every time you pick up your Bible or go to a church service you're going to get everything God has for you. You have to say, "Praise God, I don't care what happens around me, I'm going to hear every Word God is saying to me today. I will focus on and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and I will receive revelation!"
If you catch yourself getting distracted and your thoughts wander, you have to grab your mind and say, "Get back there on the things of God!" At times, you'll have to be a little rough on yourself and crucify your flesh to bring it back under the dominion of your spirit where it belongs.
Of course, your flesh won't like that. The devil won't either. He'll work hard to talk you out of doing it. When you're praying or reading the Word, he'll try to convince you it won't matter if you let your mind wander a little. When you're listening to the Word being preached, he'll draw your attention to other things. Suddenly, instead of hearing the Word, you'll find yourself looking at somebody's shirt thinking, That's the ugliest shirt I have ever seen. Why on earth would anybody ever wear a shirt like that?
If you let him, the devil will continually plant seeds of distraction in your life. Like some old cur dog walking across your well-manicured lawn with weed seeds on his feet, he'll send thoughts wandering across your mind to drop spiritual weed seeds. Those seeds won't seem very significant at first. Seeds never do.
But if you don't get rid of them, they'll grow up into attitudes and habits that will keep you from focusing on the Lord. Eventually you'll find critical ideas and negative thoughts have taken root in your mind. And they'll keep you from paying attention and stop you from receiving what God wanted to give you.
What Channel Are You On?
As a believer who is living in the last days, you can't afford to let that happen to you. Neither can I because the Bible tells us we're living in perilous times. We're living in the days when the devil is bringing double trouble everywhere he can.
That's why it is so vital for the Body of Christ to start paying attention! The time has come for us to take heed, shut up and fear not! God is speaking to us always. He is giving us the instructions we need. He is giving us the wisdom we need to live as conquerors in these troubled times.
"But Brother Copeland, if that's true, why can't I seem to hear those instructions?"
Because you're not tuned in to His frequency!
God is a spirit and He communicates with you Spirit to spirit. If you're not receiving on His channel, if you're just tuned in to the channel of the physical world or the intellectual channel of your own natural thoughts, you'll miss what He is saying.
But you don't have to let that happen. You have the spiritual capacity to tune into that spiritual frequency and hear the voice of God. Jesus said so. He assured us that His sheep would know His voice (John 10:4).
It doesn't matter how old you are or how young you are, if you're born again, you can hear the voice of the Lord! You can visit with Him and talk with Him all the time.
Just Hush for a Moment!
But to do that, you have to follow the same instructions God gave Ahaz:
You must pay attention.
You have to be quiet. That means stop whining about your problems and shut your mouth long enough for God to get a word in.
You must not fear. Refuse any thoughts except what God has said about the situation.
You must quit being a chicken. Don't be fainthearted. Stand up and act like a believer. Be strong-hearted and trust God to give you the revelation you need to get you through.
I'll never forget one of the first times I ever did those things successfully. I was a student at Oral Roberts University with a wife and two small children. I needed money badly and had no idea how I was going to get it.
I was lying on the floor crying, "Oh, God! Oh, God! Help me! Help me!" Then, suddenly, I had this thought. If I just hushed here for a minute, God might say something to me. So I quieted down and, sure enough, on the inside I heard the Lord say, Well, it's about time. I haven't been able to get a word in edgewise. Get on your feet!
If someone else had been there they wouldn't have heard those words, but I certainly heard them. I heard them with my heart, my eyebrows, my ears and my eyes. I heard them in the depth of my being. So I jumped to my feet in a hurry.
Then the Lord continued. I sent you to this place, He said. I'll take care of you here.
From that day to this, that fact has been settled in my heart. Wherever God has sent me, I've trusted Him to take care of me there financially and He always has.
"Brother Copeland," you might ask, "do you think God would speak to me like that?"
He is speaking to you like that right now!
God is always speaking. He is always leading. He doesn't turn His voice on one day and off the next. He's always on! We're the ones who have been turned off. We've turned off our receivers and tuned Him out.
By failing to pay attention to Him…by talking when we should be listening…and by acting like chickens instead of trusting Him.
But thank God, we can change that. We can start doing what I did when I was a little boy learning to kick a football. We can say, "Hey, this is no problem. I can do this!"
Then we can practice fixing our attention on the Lord. We can concentrate and pay attention to Him until we're able to hear from Him every day, 24 hours a day.
Then when trouble comes, we'll know exactly what to do. We'll be able to kick the ball straight through the goal posts of life. We'll start living like the overcomers we were born again to be.
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