30 I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31 Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there, 32 so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will,and in your company be refreshed. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen.
The first thing that stood out to me in today's passage was prayer. I have been wanting for the past two years about working on my prayer life, but sadly I have made little progress. I still find myself doing more text message-type prayers, rather than actually communicating with God. As I think of things during the day, I'll fire off a short prayer, but rarely do I actually spend even a solid five minutes. I get easily distracted, my thoughts spinning off in different directions, once I've sent off my brief one or two lines. Paul says here "join me in my struggle by praying". Doesn't that show how incredibly valuable prayer can be? When we lift someone up in prayer, we join them in their struggle. We can help to ease their burden. It's like a dog sled team, if you'll forgive the metaphor. One dog can effectively pull a sled, but six dogs or eight dogs can pull a much bigger, heavier sled. This is definitely something I am going to have to put more dedicated effort into (praying, not pulling a sled... ha ha). I want to uphold people who are struggling emotionally or physically or financially, or who are trying to follow the will of God but having a hard time knowing what that is or how to do it, or who are sad or lonely or in pain, or who are recovering from illness. I want to strengthen the leadership of my home, my church, my community and my country by giving them to God in prayer. I want to diligently pray for my husband, who believes in God but sees no need for God in his life personally. I want to diligently pray for my children that they will learn to love God with all their hearts, souls and minds and that they will seek to follow His will. The list goes on and on.
Mr. MacArthur, in his sermon on this passage, is mainly talking about following God's will, building on the verses from the last couple of days, however, he does talk specifically about prayer later in the sermon as well:
Here is the sum of the purpose of Paul's ministry. "I plead with you to pray for me that I might carry out my ministry." Why? For my own sake? No. For the sake of my safety? No. For the sake of evangelism? No. . . not really. "I want you to pray for me that I might continue to do my work for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of the Spirit." That's the purpose. You see, the thing that motivated Paul was not his own comfort, not even his own success as wonderful as that was in the spiritual dimension. The thing that moved and motivated the heart of the Apostle Paul was the Lord Jesus Christ's glory and his great love for the Holy Spirit.
And the bottom line is very simple. In your service or my service, what's our motive. . . what is our motive? Is our motive self-glory, a certain amount of self-esteem? Is our motive to be thought well of by people around us? Is our motive to do the best we can with the life we've got? All those have a place, I suppose. But the proper motive is to do what we do for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ. And see, Paul knew that if he went to Jerusalem, had all this money and these Gentiles going with him and if he got there with the money and with the Gentiles and expressed love and if the church received them, and if his trip to Jerusalem was successful, Christ would be glorified. Why? For one thing, Christ desired Jew and Gentile to be. . . what?. . . to be one. And if Paul could pull that off that would be to the glory of Christ. For another thing, Christ desired the church to demonstrate love to its own, visible love so the world might see it. This would glorify Christ. Christ would be glorified if the ministry of the Apostle Paul could continue with success and that's his desire. He said, "Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do," 1 Corinthians 10:31, "do it all to the glory of God." Always the supreme surpassing motive.
Well, that concludes my final post for 2012! Unbelievable, that this journey has been three years long already and I feel as though it is only beginning. Thanks to all who have participated, whether you have posted, commented, or simply read. It is good to have companions. May God bless you all richly in 2013.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Romans 16:1-16.