Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday, December 27 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 2/3 John.
Today's scripture focus is Romans 15:30-33.

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:

Prayer, beloved, is a battle. And I say this from time to time as we come to passages like this but I want to remind you of it. Prayer is a battle. I think sometimes we don't understand that because the battle isn't where we can see it. Prayer is a war waged against the forces of evil. In fact, Isaiah 64:7 speaks of, quote: "Arousing oneself to take hold of God in prayer." That's the idea of the Hebrew terminology in Isaiah 64:7, arousing oneself to take hold of God. And you remember, no doubt, reading Genesis 32:24 to 30 where it says that Jacob wrestled with the Lord and he wouldn't let go of the Lord until he was. . . what?. . . he was blessed. In Colossians 2:1 Paul calls prayer great conflict. He sees it as great conflict. It is not an easy thing, it is a conflict. He says, "I would that you knew what great conflict I have for you." What is he talking about in writing to the Colossians? I'm engaged in a battle, a prayer battle over your spiritual situation. And in 4:12 of Colossians, as I mentioned earlier, Epaphras, that wonderful man of prayer, is said to be always laboring fervently for you in prayer that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. Prayer is a battle, an agonizing experience.
Now I realize there is a certain paradox between the sover­eignty of God and fervent prayer, but the Bible teaches us to pray fervently. We go back to Luke 11 and remember the story of the man for as much knocking who was heard, because he gave much effort he finally received what he sought, and it's an illustra­tion of what we call importunity, or intensity in prayer. We remember James who said in 5:16 of his epistle, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." Even our Lord fasted and prayed for 40 days. It wasn't easy for Him.

Listen, beloved, serving in the will of God. . . listen carefully, here's the point. . . serving in the will of God, believing in the precision of gifts and callings, commitment to the providence of God as He works out the circumstances does not mean we don't pray. It never precludes that. And any theology that weakens a believer's commitment to prayer is her­esy. . . it's heresy.
Now we want to ask a question. Did Paul's prayers and those of his Roman prayer partners get a positive answer? Sure did. Did he experi­ence safety? Oh yeah. When he got to Jerusalem the mob tried to kill him and the Romans rescued him. And then there was. . . the Jews said, "Oh, we'd like you to transfer him from the jail and bring him over here and we want to discuss his case again." And the whole idea was to kill him on the way. But his sister's son heard about it and warned him and he was saved again. And then safety brought him to Caesarea and literally the whole Roman guard guarded him for two years to keep the Jews from killing him. They got the whole Roman army together to just answer that prayer. God does whatever He has to do. Yes the prayer was answered. He was safe.
Was he successful? Yes, he was successful. Yeah, when he got there they received him wonderfully. . . they received him. Chapter 21 verse 17, "And when we were come to Jerusalem the brethren received us gladly." Isn't that great? Their prayers were answered. The brethren received them gladly. The plots of the Jews were foiled. They never did kill him.
What about the third one, did he ever get to Rome? Sure he did. The Romans themselves sent him there so that he could have a trial before Caesar. After two years of being kept a prisoner for his own sake in Caesarea, they then sent him to Rome and even on the way to Rome I believe the devil tried to drown him. There was a terrible shipwreck. But not only did Paul escape but so did everybody else on board, Acts 27. He made it to Rome. Well that's the testimony to the power of prayer.

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.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Revelation 1-5.

No comments: