Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. (Jeremiah 29:12)
Isn’t it interesting to read in The Bible, the prayers of some well known characters? Here are just a few examples:
I suspect that some of you wish that you could pray like these people! Others of you may feel your prayers are weak and powerless in comparison to these. Well, it’s interesting to note that these people all have a number of things in common. Ruth Bell Graham in her book ‘Ask in Prayer’ reminds us that they ‘never read a book on prayer, never attended a seminar on prayer, and never heard a sermon on prayer. They just prayed'. Yes, that’s right, ‘They just prayed’.
It’s possible that the devil has tried to prevent you from praying by telling you that you don’t know how to pray, or that God will never listen to your prayers. Or maybe you pray for a few days and get discouraged because you think you’re prayers are no good and you’re not getting answers.
In his commentary in The Bible in a Year, Nicky Gumble gives us a this advice ‘Start praying where you are, as you are, about whatever concerns you, about what is lying most heavily on your heart, about whatever is irritating or frustrating you at present.’
Do that every day. Do it when you feel like it. Do it when you don’t feel like it. Just do it!
Watchman Nee wrote,
Our prayers lay the track down which God’s power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails.
One last thing, keep a pen and paper beside you and write down what you have prayed about. You’ll be amazed at how, like Abraham, Moses, David and Hannah, God marvellously, and in encouraging ways, answers your prayers also.
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.” (John 12:27)
Philippe Petit is a French tight-rope artist who gained notoriety for his illegal tight-rope walks between the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 1971 and also on Sydney Harbour Bridge. His most famous feat though took place in New Your City in 1974.
In 1968, he saw an artists’ drawing in a magazine of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre. Immediately, his dream to one day cross from one tower to the other on the tight rope was born. Years of careful planning ensued. It was executed like a military operation.
In the early morning of 7th August 1974, after having smuggled himself, a companion and his equipment into one of the towers, he rigged up his wire. Shortly after dawn, he began his daring feat 1,312 feet above the ground, without the security of a safety harness!
As he crossed between the Twin Towers eight times over a 45 minute period, he danced, knelt and even lay down on the wire as onlookers below craned their necks to see the marvel unfolding above them. When he finally decided to end his show, he was promptly arrested by the New York Police Department, having broken dozens of laws.
He had risked his life one week before his 25th birthday.
Many people think that feats like this require passion, courage, dedication and determination. That may be so, but it’s only as we lift our eyes to another height that we see a greater passion and a greater courage. At Calvary, we see that Christ was not only willing to risk His life to save mankind, He actually gave His life. By willingly stepping out into the abyss of sin for mankind was he able to bring “many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10)
As Spurgeon wrote:
You never hear Jesus say in Pilate's judgement hall one word that would let you imagine that He was sorry that He had undertaken so costly a sacrifice for us. When His hands are pierced, when He is parched with fever, His tongue dried up like a shard of pottery, when His whole body is dissolved into the dust of death, you never hear a groan or a shriek that looks like Jesus is going back on His commitment.
That is true courage.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
One of the principles for growth in the Christian life is to trust God......in all circumstances!
In theory it seems straightforward, but in reality, many struggle to put it into practice. It’s a lot easier to think it rather than to live it.
Scripture is replete with examples of those who, like Abraham, learned to trust God and reaped the blessing which followed. However, we also read of those, like Lot, who chose not to follow the royal road of trust. As a result, he never entered through the door to deep fellowship with God that only trust can open.
A friend recently send me a copy of the following prayer an older farmer prayed in a rural farming community when he was asked to say grace. This is what followed: “God, I hate buttermilk and lard, and God, you know I don’t much care for raw, white flour. But God, when you mix them all together and bake them, I do love warm fresh biscuits. So God, when things come up that we don’t like, when life gets hard, when we don’t understand what you’re saying to us, help us to just relax and wait until you are done mixing. It will probably be even better than biscuits. Amen.”
Many of the situations that God asks us to trust Him in are not palatable. Like the old farmer, we may even ‘hate’ them. But, while God is still ‘mixing’, we need to still trust Him. As Charles Spurgeon wrote;
God is too good to be unkind
He is too wise to be mistaken.
And when we cannot trace His hand,
We must trust His heart.
Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. (2 Timothy 2:3-7)
Recently I was reading a short biography of the Scottish missionary John Gibson Paton who, along with his wife, felt called by God to go to the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) in the South Pacific in 1858. Before leaving Scotland, his friends begged him not go to such a dangerous mission field where other missionaries had lost their lives at the hands of the locals who were cannibals, who even strangled the widows of their own warrior and who mistreated their women. Three months after arriving at his destination, his wife died of tropical fever shortly after giving birth to a baby boy. At 36 days old, the baby also died. Many attempts were made on his life and during one attack, a ship arrived just in time to rescue him and take him to safety.
After remarrying, he was posted to a different island where he and his wife endured many years of deprivation and danger from natives and disease. They had three children, one a girl who sadly died. They continued with their work and, after many years of patient ministry, the entire island of Aniwa professed Christianity. In 1899 he saw his Aniwa New Testament printed and the establishment of missionaries on twenty five of the thirty islands of the New Hebrides.
But how did John Paton manage to endure such unimaginable hardships? How did he continue to work in the face of death, danger and disease? Well, I think at least part of the answer lies for us, in instructions that the apostle Paul writes to his spiritual son, Timothy. He says ‘Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus’ (2 Tim 2:3). He then proceeds to give examples of single minded devotion to a cause.
In Colossians 3:23-24 we read,
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.’
Today, shall we let the life of John Paton, who lived as a good soldier, who was single minded and worked for the Lord with all his heart, stir us up to a life of deeper devotion and greater service for Jesus Christ?
“Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord.” (2 Timothy 4:5)
Words are very important, but perhaps more important still, is the person who speaks the words.
Imagine a wealthy gentleman who has enjoyed good health all his life, has feasted like royalty daily, has never known real heartache and who lives a life of peace, comfort and security, speaking these words, ‘don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord’. You would look at him in disbelief and perhaps even ridicule. How on earth can this man have any idea what it is to suffer for the Lord? I’m afraid we would all walk away from the man, paying little attention to his words.
Enter Paul! Now, here is a man who indeed has suffered. He has been shipwrecked, known hunger and thirst, been stoned and left for dead. He was ‘put in prison more often,..whipped times without number, and faced death again and again’ (2 Corinthians). This is a man whose words you take notice of.
Have you ever wondered how Paul could have dared to write these words to Timothy? How did he know that Timothy could endure the suffering?
The answer is simple. Paul said, “ I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13 NLT). He could not have endured the sufferings in his own strength and willpower, but he found that there was One who came alongside and gave him the power and the strength that was needed to sustain him.
He, himself, could now pass this word on to Timothy that the One who had strengthened him in his hours of trial would be the One who would draw near to Timothy, so Timothy did not not need to be ‘afraid of suffering for the Lord’.
Many of you who read this will also have known your own hours of suffering in life, even if it hasn’t been directly related to preaching the gospel. You will have experienced days, weeks, months or even years of some kind of trial. And, like Paul, you have also discovered a hidden source of strength coming to you, quietly and sweetly to uphold you to the end.
Standing somewhere in the shadows you’ll find Jesus,
He’s the only One who cares and understands.
Standing somewhere in the shadows you will find Him,
And you’ll know Him by the nail prints in His hands.
For some of you, your hour of suffering may yet be ahead of you, but be encouraged by Paul’s words and, if and when the time comes, ‘don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord’.
We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-16)
A few years ago I, and a crowd of thousands of others, attended the Trooping the Colour in London which is an elaborate ceremony that has marked the official birthday of the British Sovereign for over 260 years. Regiments of the British and Commonwealth armies perform the ceremony, watched on by Her Majesty The Queen as well as senior members of The Royal Family. After the ceremony, the Royal Family return in regal, horse drawn carriages to Buckingham Palace. Following a 41-gun salute by the King's Troop in Green Park, The Queen leads the Royal family on to the palace balcony for a Royal Air Force flypast. She then greets hers thousands of well wishers. It is breathtaking and spectacular.
In today’s text, we read of another magnificent event, though yet to take place. The words that Paul uses here are from a Greek term that was commonly used to describe the coming of the emperor to a city, accompanied by great pomp and celebration. When Christ returns, it will be a time when we will honour the Heavenly King, the One whose majesty eclipses all earthly kings and princes. There will be celebrations more elaborate than anything ever witnessed on earth. It will be a time of unrivalled magnificence and splendour.
But, do you really want to wait until that wondrous hour arrives to honour God? Do you not, even now, feel a desire rising up in your hearts to show your love, worship, and loyalty to Him? Why wait until that final day? Why linger for the final trumpet call of God to sound forth before we honour Him? Surely there is a trumpet call in our hearts today, summoning us now to honour the King; and we can indeed do so.
We honour Him when we tell the truth rather than a lie; we show our love for Him when we are content when others receive the recognition that was due to us; we demonstrate our allegiance to Him when we speak a kind word in reply to a cutting comment; we show our esteem for Him when we don’t take part in conversations that belittle others; we honour Him when we speak in defence of the defenceless. Our whole lives can be be spent honouring our King.
So He got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (John 13:4-5)
We read of some very sad moments in the Bible such as when the rich young man, asking Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life, turns and walks away sad when he hears Jesus’ answer to sell all that he has and give it to the poor. He was not ready for radical discipleship. He loved his own life more than he loved God.
However, there is another part which I often read with sadness. Jesus has lived his life on earth as a servant. He has given people their sight, brought health to many a sick body, delivered his friends from danger, and now He is about to die the death of a criminal. He is spending His last night on earth with his beloved disciples, giving them His final teachings. He is making the final preparations for their life without His physical presence. Having walked the earth as a servant rather than a prince, Jesus remains in his role of servant to the end, and takes the towel that everyone else in the room has avoided. His disciples had been afforded one final opportunity to serve the servant; they all missed it. Not one of them, yet, had learned that ‘no servant is greater than his master’ (John 13:16).
Do you ever wonder how the disciples felt after that night? I’m sure that every one of them, had they been able to turn the clock back, would have arrived first in that upper room to perform the servant’s task, and have the privilege of washing their Master’s feet. But it wasn’t to be.
We may not have the privilege of serving Christ in person, but He did say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:40 NLT
Let’s be alert today and not miss our opportunity to serve, for in serving others, we are serving Christ.
So be careful how you live. Don't live like ignorant people, but like wise people. Make good use of every opportunity you have, because these are evil days. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
A few weeks ago I was doing a study with the residents in Teen Challenge about being a manager for God. I told them that I was going to give them each £525,600. They had 24 hours to spend every penny of the money; they couldn’t keep any of it or save any of it. Every penny had to go. What would they do with it?
Interestingly, each of them wanted to help others with at least some, if not all of their £525,600. One man wanted to open a homeless shelter while another wanted to provide for his family. None of them wasted any of their cash. I was pleasantly surprised at their genuine thoughtfulness.
However, I wasn’t actually trying to teach them the importance of managing money, I was trying to show them the importance of managing time. You see, every day in life, God gives us 525,600 seconds. It’s ours to manage. It’s our to decide how we will use every one of these seconds. As Nicky Gumble says; “Time is your most valuable possession. You can get more money but you cannot get more time.” I agree.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
When I was out walking this weekend, I noticed a family out flying two kites. The father, with his two younger daughters in tow, was holding firmly on to his kite as he let the line out. Up, up and up, the kite went. Fifty feet, one hundred feet, one hundred and fifty feet, two hundred feet!! Would it ever stop? I’d never seen a kite soar so high. It was an awesome sight.
My eyes then turned to his eldest daughter who clutched the second kite, her mother by her side. But this kite never made it more than about forty feet off the ground. I watched and wondered why the girl wasn’t unravelling her line. Why was the kite still earthbound? Then I noticed that her line was full of tangles. She began to try to untangle the knots with the help of her mother. I sat on a fence watching this operation, willing them to succeed; I was longing to see that kite soar alongside the other.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. I got up from the fence, watching the second kite struggle to keep at forty feet while the other was soaring high above all the trees, reaching for the clouds.
I couldn’t help thinking that God’s will for each of us is to soar. When we are born again, the new life in us has the potential to ‘soar high on wings like eagles’. So what keeps some Christians earthbound while others take spiritual flight?
Getting entangled in sin is the obvious answer, but there can be other reasons. One of these is that your mind gets entangled in worry.
In Matthew 6:25-27, we read these words,
That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
Worries are like the knots and tangles in the kite’s string; they hold you back from rising to the heights of God that beckon you. They keep pulling you back to earth. As long as you allow your mind to get over burdened by cares and worries, you will never be free to soar.
Charles Spurgeon said:
‘Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.’
You need to unravel these tangles in your mind and then you will be free to steadily move upwards where you can ‘soar high on wings like eagles’.
Pauline Ann Anderson
Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will." (Matthew 26:39)
Around 786 BC, we read of a man named Jonah who God chose to send on a mission to preach to a vast, Gentile city. In Jonah’s mind they were Pagans, not even fit to pollute the good earth by living on it. They were the “untouchables”. How could God show any interest in them?
He sets off from Joppa, once the oldest sea port in the world, but, instead of running towards his mission, he is fleeing from it. This famous account sees the reluctant prophet spending three days in the belly of a whale before he is convicted to obey God and complete his mission. That message saw that vast city repent of their sins and turn to God.
Fast forward almost 800 years and we see another reluctant servant of God in Joppa; this time it’s Peter, one of Jesus’ apostles.
Peter had been told by the resurrected Jesus to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ but, reluctant to preach to Gentiles, Peter needed a vision from God, on a rooftop in Joppa, to send him north along the coast to Caesarea. This historic journey results in the first Gentiles receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ and being baptised in the Holy Spirit. This was the first, of what would become billions of Gentiles following Jesus Christ down through the millennia.
Sometime between AD 30 and AD 33, we see a man, late at night, praying in agony in a garden, facing a commission more momentous than that of Jonah or Peter. He didn’t run in the opposite direction like Jonah, or stall reluctantly like Peter; He accepted His commission, in spite of our sinfulness, and gladly went on to save humanity from its sin.
Aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t flee in a ship like Jonah or procrastinate like Peter? Aren’t you glad beyond words that He willingly shouldered the cross for all mankind?
Like Jesus, let us not be slow to say “Yet not as I will, but as you will” when we face our Ninevehs, Caesareas and and Gethsemanes.
Pauline Ann Anderson
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