Preparation: Learn to Pray

Part of the “What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do” series.

Preparation is vital in the ability to face a crisis.  The most important aspect of preparation is prayer.  Jesus set the example.  He often withdrew to a solitary place to pray.   See as examples  Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12, Luke 9:18.

Notice that Jesus prayed regularly, and it is important for Christians to have a lifestyle of prayer, not just a prayer list.  (Note: I have nothing against prayer lists – I myself use one.  The prayer list should be a tool and a reminder, not the focus.)

The early church was also focused on prayer.  See Acts 1:14, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Romans 12:12 for some examples.

It is important to develop a lifestyle of prayer before you face times of crisis.  If the only time you pray is when you are in trouble, you will find that prayer is unusual and uncomfortable for you – it will turn into a kind of desperate, I-don’t-know-what-else-to-do action.  If you’ve established a rich prayer life before crisis hits, when it does prayer becomes a refuge and a comfort rather than a ritual.

Next: Preparation – Know the Word

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

This is the beginning of a new series of posts that together form a single lesson.  If you want to read ahead, the main text will be the story of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30.

Introduction

If you are human, and I’m guessing that most of my readers are, you will at some point or other in your life face a situation where you simply have no idea what to do.  You may face a crisis in a relationship, your finances, job situation, family, ________________.  The forms of crisis we face are as varied as the people who face them.

If you are a Believer in Christ, you will face trouble.  Jesus said so.

John 16:33  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Sometimes we slip into the mindset that the Christian life is simple and care free.  This leads us to the false conclusion that the fact that we are facing trouble means that we have done something wrong.  There are countless examples in the Bible that demonstrate the fallacy of that logic: John the Baptist, Paul, John the apostle, Jesus.  Each of these, and countless others, faced trouble, hardship and crisis precisely because they were obedient to God.

Christians will have trouble, but we need not face that trouble alone.  With discipline and practice, we can be prepared to face those situations.

Next: Preparation Steps

 

Grafted In

Romans 11:17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others…

We frequently think of grafting a branch into the trunk in terms of the benefit to the branch, but not often about what the cost is to the trunk itself.  Proper grafting requires a cut in the trunk.  The trunk must be wounded for the grafted branch to grow properly.

No graft without wounding — the laying bare and opening up of the inner life of the tree to receive the stranger branch. It is only through such wounding that access can be obtained to the fellowship of the sap and the growth and the life of the stronger stem. Even so with Jesus and the sinner. Only when we are planted into the likeness of His death shall we also be in the likeness of His resurrection, partakers of the life and the power there are in Him. In the death of the Cross Christ was wounded, and in His opened wounds a place prepared where we might be grafted in. And just as one might say to a graft, and does practically say as it is fixed in its place, “Abide here in the wound of the stem, that is now to bear you”; so to the believing soul the message comes, “Abide in the wounds of Jesus; there is the place of union, and life, and growth. There you shall see how His heart was opened to receive you; how His flesh was rent that the way might be opened for your being made one with Him, and having access to all the blessings flowing from His divine nature.”

Andrew Murray
Abide in Christ

God’s Holiness

Holiness is the very nature of God, and that alone is holy which God takes possession of and fills with Himself.  God’s answer to the question, “How could sinful man become holy?” is “Christ, the Holy One of God.”

Andrew Murray
Abide in Christ

On Becoming a Slug

The Second Person in God, the Son, became human Himself: was born into the world as an actual man—a real man of a particular height, with hair of a particular colour, speaking a particular language, weighing so many stone. The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a foetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.

C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity

Love in Christ’s Death

The whole of Christian life is a response to the love exhibited in the death of the Son of God for men. No one can become right with God except by making the response of faith to this love — that is, except by abandoning himself unreservedly to it as the only hope for sinful men. To trust it wholly and solely is the only right thing a man can do in presence of it; and when he does so trust it he is completely, finally, and divinely right.

James Denney
The Death of Christ

Looking Out for Others

Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Think of how vastly, hugely, amazingly different our world would be if everyone, whether a Christian or not, followed this one simple directive.

  • War would cease to exist.  There is no point in fighting if you are as interested in the other party’s welfare as you are your own.
  • Poverty would disappear.  There is more than enough food and material goods for the world’s population.  If the world’s focus shifted from gaining wealth to feeding the poor, even the problems of distribution would be quickly solved.
  • Crime would vanish.  Crimes of greed would no longer have motive.  Crimes of need would be eliminated because the needs would be gone.

Because sin still rules this world, this type of universal selflessness won’t be realized until Christ’s return.  Does that mean that we can just give up, acting however we want?  Absolutely not!  This letter was written to the church, and God’s precepts for the church apply regardless of the attitude of the surrounding culture.  It is the duty of every Believer to honor these words.  It is my responsibility to work hard to ensure that my life reflects the attitude of Christ.

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Walk In the Light

1 John 1:7a But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another

AMP: But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations].

MSG: But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purges all our sin.

Isaiah 2:5 Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Psalms 104:2 He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent.

1 Timothy 6:16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.

This is a contrast to verse 6, which discusses those who claim fellowship with God and yet walk in darkness. Those people are liars. But, if we walk in the light, as Jesus Himself does, then we have fellowship with each other.

The verb “walk” here is Strong’s #4043 and means much more than just sitting or standing around, but carries the idea of forward movement or progress. One can’t just be in the company of light and expect to experience the benefits. What is required is a active participation, forward motion – actively participating in the light. There is at least an implication here of personal growth.

It is very clear here that Jesus is to be our example for walking in the light. Jesus not only was and is light, as discussed in verse 5 but he also walked in, or demonstrated, how to live a life that reflects that light. The way Jesus lived his mortal life is to be our prime example.

But the verb translated here as “is” (he is in the light) is present tense, not past tense. So then Jesus not only set the example of living in the light while on earth in mortal form, He continues to set that example while no longer physically present here. How does that current, present tense example manifest? We know that Jesus doesn’t change. Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. So the same types of actions that were visible to the biological eye when He was on earth – healing, compassion, sacrifice – these are the same evidences that are noticeable now, and were so at the time of this letter. So, when we are faced with a situation where we don’t immediately perceive what the “light” way of behavior should be, we can not only ask ourselves “What would Jesus have done in this situation,” but also, “What would He do in this situation?” Our God is not solely past tense.

The result of walking the light as Jesus does is fellowship with one another. This almost becomes a “duh” statement – if we are all following the same Godly example of walking in the light, then we are “naturally” together. This fellowship is much deeper than that experienced by a group of people who are together for a couple of hours to watch the same movie in the same theater. The practice of walking in the light, of actively participating and moving forward in righteous actions, brings about a fellowship that is much more than skin deep. It connects God’s people at a heart-to-heart level.

JFB: ALFORD notices, Walking in the light as He is in the light, is no mere imitation of God, but an identity in the essential element of our daily walk with the essential element of God’s eternal being.

JFB: Without having fellowship with God there can be no true and Christian fellowship one with another.

My Part of God’s Miracles

John 2:1 – 11 describes Jesus’ first recorded miracle, where He transformed 120 gallons of water into the finest wine.  It is a wonderful story and a powerful miracle, and also gives us some clues as to our role in God’s miracles.

  1. Recognize that I can’t handle the situation myself.  3When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”  If there had been more wine to be served, they would have served it.  This was a situation that seemed to be unsolvable.
  2. Take the request to God.  Jesus’ mother did just that.
  3. Wait for God to work.  Notice that Mary didn’t run off to the corner store to buy more wine after asking Jesus for help.  She waited for Him.  This is very difficult for me.  For some reason I want to help God out, as if He needed my help!
  4. Be 110% obedient.  7Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.  Note that the servants filled the jars completely to the top.  Even though they had no clue why they needed to do this, they were as obedient as physically possible.  This probably took a great deal of effort.  The jars probably already contained water, and so had to be emptied first and then re-filled.  A 20 gallon jar full of water would weigh around 90 pounds (80 pounds of water and 10 pounds of jar) – this was no trivial task.
  5. Use faith, not eyes.  8Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so.   I can imagine these servants thinking that Mary’s son was a bit off his rocker.  Why should they take some water to the banquet master?  He needs wine, not water.  There is a strong implication that at the moment the servants drew the liquid from the jar that it was still water.  The servants’ faith allowed them to be obedient, even though it seemed ridiculous.  Their faith and obedience enabled the miracle.

Obviously God has the major role in a miracle, but His people also have a part.  God often chooses to involve us in His work, and if we don’t follow His direction we might miss what He has in store.

 

God in Human Life

God is not excluded from human life; He enters into it and achieves His ends in the world through it. Man is not excluded from the divine life; God admits him to His friendship and shows him what He is doing; he becomes a partaker in the divine nature, and a fellowworker with God.

James Denney
The Death of Christ