“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 (ESV)
Many times in our Life Group, our attention is drawn to those brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering and dying for their faith around the world. We’ve all seen or at least heard of videos being put on the Internet that show beheadings of those who refuse to disavow their faith. These atrocities are not just something we’ve heard about from centuries ago, but are occurring now, in modern times, in today’s news! With these concerns in mind, it occurred to me the other day that I had not prayed for my fellow Jesus followers who are suffering in this way.
In Ephesians 6:18, we see that we should be “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (ESV). Just giving a passing mention or nod to those who are suffering is not enough. I need to take my concerns to God in prayer, that is, if I’m REALLY concerned. Do you have concerns that you’ve failed to take to God in prayer?
Some years ago, a friend of mine was stricken with cancer. I was reminded of James 5:14: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” (ESV) So I got another believer to go with me, and we anointed my friend with oil and prayed for him.
My friend did not recover, and he soon passed away. Did my friend die because the other believer and I were not officially “elders of the church”? Or was it because my believing brother and I had gone to my friend on our own and my sick friend had not called for us to come? Too many times I think we are looking for some kind of formula in our prayer life—that is, if I cross these “t’s” and dot these “i’s” then God will do what I want.
We should ask God for whatever we want, but we cannot presume to know His will. Do you have a heartfelt desire? Are you talking to God about it?
I travel a lot, and when I look out the window of an airplane, I can’t see anything that is holding the airplane up! Sure, I’ve read the explanations about the air pressure under the wing being higher than the pressure on top of the wing, thus developing lift. But really? You can’t look out the window and see a pressure differential. Nonetheless, I take my seat and buckle in, having faith that the plane will fly.
There are a lot of things that we do every day that rely on faith. The Scriptures tell us that, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” Hebrews 11:1 (ESV). And in another place it says, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” Romans 8:24-25 (ESV).
Have you developed a perspective for the unseen things of God?
When my daughter was in high school, there was a ritual before every formal social party. She would go to a friend’s house and get dressed, and then all the parents would gather to take pictures before the teens headed off to the party. The memories of those gatherings are as vivid to me now as on the day I was there.
In fact, the memory is probably better than the event. My warm and selective memory recalls the happiness and excitement, whereas the event itself was often rushed and sometimes even attended with a bit of anxiety over her safety.
The Bible says that, “…the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” 2 Corinthians 4:18b (ESV). It’s sometimes difficult to accept the temporary nature of our surroundings, the pressures of life, or the tyranny of the urgent. But when we have a moment to catch our breaths, we indeed can acknowledge that unseen things have more permanence—and importance—than the “concrete” things we’ve spent our last hours on: the satisfaction of an accomplishment, the joy of an association, the love of a friend.
Jesus pointed His followers to an eternal perspective. Have you taken time today to listen for His voice, to forgive an opponent, or to encourage a friend?
One of my Life Group members has been battling cancer for quite a while. He shared about his non-believing brother who once asked him why God had stricken him with cancer. My friend’s answer has been an inspiration to me and to many of the guys in our group. “Why NOT me?” was his answer.
Why not me? Why not us? Can God not use the weaknesses and tragedies of His children to lead others to Himself? Who better equipped to handle, yes, even to capitalize on, the lessons of our suffering? I don’t find the scriptures promising us a bed of roses. On the contrary, Jesus said, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” John 15:20 (ESV). Likewise Paul warned us that, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” 2 Timothy 3:12 (ESV).
Are you letting God use your weaknesses, your problems, even the times when you are persecuted, to draw others to Him?