You may know them as Prayer Chains, or a Prayer Wall where requests and concerns are brought so that many can lift them to God…or maybe you’re part of a Prayer Warrior Group that regularly unite in focused prayer on behalf of others. Here Paul is thanking Believers for their continued prayers, telling them that he knows their prayers have rescued him from many dangers. He looks at these answered prayers of God’s grace in his life with hope and gratefulness…knowing those praying for him are praising God also. For the beauty of answered prayers is that they touch everyone….those who pray and those who were prayed for.
Even at a young age, David knew where his true strength came from. For when he confronted Goliath on the battle field he proclaimed to him, “I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty.” (I Samuel 17:45) David knew that in his own strength he was no match to the giant in front of him…but with God’s power, nothing was impossible. Many other great and mighty men in the Bible echoed this declaration in the face of their “giants”… that the Lord was the source of their strength…and we should also.
During this Holiday Season I need this verse in front of me constantly! So much to do, so little time, that sometimes I get very impatient. And what’s so funny, is that all those long lines are made up of the same impatient people that don’t want to be there either! This Scripture tells us to always try to be kind…goodhearted, and considerate to each other…even in the Holiday rush and crush of people. And if we can stop, take a deep breath, and consider the big picture of what Christmas really means…our agenda and plans will pale in comparison. So just think for a moment…it doesn’t take much effort to show kindness rather than being insensitive and rude.
After Job’s three friends had been unable to win their argument that he, (Job), was being punished by God… a young man by the name of Elihu stood to speak. (Now you can read his entire speech in Chapters 32-37 of Job.) Elihu’s assertion was that God was instructing or teaching Job…that even in all the trials and suffering he was going through, Job was to trust God. (Interestingly enough, when God started to speak, He never condemned Elihu’s words like He did Job’s and his three friends!) Now the Lord allows righteous people to suffer and go through trials everyday…but it’s not out of punishment, but to strengthen their faith and trust in Him. And when we should wander from the truth, God faithfully keeps bringing us back, that we may see the error of our way and turn. (James 5:19)
You may know Matthew by his original name…Levi, a turncoat tax collector who Jesus called in Capernaum. He was chosen by Jesus as one of the Twelve disciples…and given a new life along with a new name. But in this Scripture we find Jesus at Matthew’s house having a meal with all these “sinners” much to the disgust of the religious leaders who incredulously asked His disciples how Jesus could do this. Knowing their thoughts and their hearts, Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6 when He replied to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” In other words, our mission as Christians is to share the Gospel Message with sinners…people who may look and act very differently from us, but still need to hear that they can be healed and forgiven of their sins.
“Following the Word of the Lord…” Though sometimes, that still small voice of the Holy Spirit is almost drowned out by the incessant noise of the world. Romans 8:14 tells us that, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” But following the Word of the Lord takes practice… it takes listening carefully, and obeying immediately when prompted, without hesitation…for when we stop to debate if it’s of God or not, we’ll usually not move on it…and His work stops there. By attuning our ears to that still small voice of the Holy Spirit, we are being led down the correct path of life and accomplishing God’s work for His glory.
To carry out the Law of Christ here, we must first know what it is. James 2:8 tells us, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.” When we bear other’s burdens in a way we would want to be treated, we are fulfilling the royal law of King Jesus. But what does this look like? It’s done with compassion and love in a nonjudgmental way…listening attentively and always speaking the truth of God’s word. It’s inspiring hope in places of sadness and always it’s done with integrity, and trustworthiness.