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Praying for God’s Will

September 11th, 2013

The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

2 Kings 20:1b

King Hezekiah is an historical example of both our strength in prayer and our weakness in prayer. God has taught us to pray for His will, not ours, but He has also given us freedom to express our concerns to Him. In prayer we are lifted to the highest and most noble thoughts that God can entrust to our hearts, but we also wrestle with our baser desires, our fears and selfish orientations. Christ taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” and the word “us” is a safeguard for us, otherwise we would pray too selfishly. None of us can isolate himself from others, as though we alone are God’s sole concern. Even as we pray for our own personal physical needs, we should consider the needs of others around us, and place our lives into the greater context of what God is doing in the world.

There is nothing wrong with praying, “God, help me! Save me! Heal me!” But it should be done with a recognition of our own limited view of life and to trust these matters and leave them in the hands of God. Otherwise we would be like the child always praying for sunshine so he can play, rather than being concerned with the farmer’s need for rain.

Good King Hezekiah of Judah was told that he was to die, but he turned toward God and prayed and God healed him and gave him fifteen more years of life. On the surface it looks like a great answer to prayer, yet during those fifteen years his son Manasseh was born, who became king at twelve years of age after Hezekiah’s death, and Manasseh ruled for over 50 years as one of the most evil kings in all the history of Judah. During Manasseh’s reign the moral decay of Judah was of such a nature that the nation never fully recovered.

Why did God answer the prayer of Hezekiah? Well, that is something we will have to take up with God when we see Him in heaven. But the historical example helps us to see how little we know of life, even our own life and our own influence. It would appear, or at least it could be argued, that the nation of Judah and the purposes of God would have been better served had Hezekiah accepted his own early death. When God shuts a door, we should leave it shut.

In prayer, we rise to the noblest realm of service that God has entrusted to the human race, but we also venture into an area of great mystery to us, where our finite minds are entirely out of depth. “Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor?” wrote the prophet Isaiah who gave the message of pending death to Hezekiah (Isaiah 40:13). The heartfelt expression, “Lord, not my will, but your will be done,” is not just a proviso tossed it for luck, rather it is to be the humble and wise recognition that our best interest is always served in being submissive to the plans and purposes of God.

There is no service we can perform for God that is greater than prayer. If God shuts a door to us for our advancement among men, we may still have an advancement in heaven through being called to pray and in prayer supporting the person to whom the promotion went. While we boldly pray for things we perceive to be His will, we also should know that we cannot see all things clearly, and just as passionately pray for God’s will to be done, even if from an earthly perspective someone might view us as cursed.

Evening Devotionals, Grief and Loss , ,

Rising from the Ashes

August 2nd, 2013

For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again… Proverbs 24:16

For I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:13

Will your problems defeat you or will you defeat your problems? You will not know how much strength God can place in you until you have been brought down to your lowest level imaginable. We think we want sympathy and pity, but once we get it we find it sickening. What we want is strength and power that comes from God and God’s strength comes in our lives by faith – and that is just another word for determination to believe in God.

I think we stumble over words when it is not necessary. We talk about faith in God and faith in our self. These are not necessarily contradictory, for though there is a type of self-confidence that is proud and arrogant and ungodly, there is another type that is of God and is a clear expression of faith. The Bible says that they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles they shall run and not be weary and they shall walk and not faint. Does that describe your condition today? Are you flying with the eagles, running in an unwearied pace, walking up steep hills without fainting? Or are you moping around here on the ground, whining about life, whining about how miserable you are and how lousy everything is?

Now it is faith that will bring you out of that despair. But faith must have its object and correct posture. The object of faith cannot be ourselves alone. We cannot believe in us for our own sake or because of our own power alone. As a creation of God, however, we can believe in ourselves. We can have a new respect for ourselves as created and made by God, made for His purposes. God did not make you and me for the purpose of our complaining. He did not create us and redeem so we could walk around whining about life. If you believe in yourself as a child of God, then believe in the purpose of God being fulfilled in your life.

Faith in God means that we believe he is active in our lives and in our world and He can change things for us. “Necessity is the mother of invention” is the old human way of looking at it, and in the faith I believe it has a great application, taking its lead from many stories in the Bible. God often allowed His people, His very best people, to be placed in the midst of terrible situations so that they would learn to depend on God. You cannot say what Daniel would have become had he remained in Jerusalem, but taken to Babylon, in that unbelieving land, He shone like a star for God. Place him in a lions’ den and he is revealed to be the man of faith he was. You cannot say what Joseph would have become if he had of been elevated to leadership in his family as a young man. But sell as a slave, make false charges against him, put him in a political prison in Egypt and there in the midst of hopelessness his faith is developed and he shines.

Often hardship and trouble, betrayals and disappointments help us refine our understanding of God’s purpose for us. Those God uses are rarely given an easy road to their usefulness. There is so much pride and lust in us, so much arrogance, that God has to get that out of us before He can use us, so He places us in situations that are difficult, where we are misunderstood, even abused and misjudged, falsely accused, ignored, and it is in those settings that our faith is really developing. When you are flat on your back and have nothing, when everything you have tried has failed, then you are beginning to be prepared to become a person of real and genuine faith.

Most often God must shake from our minds the silly notions we have in our youth, idealizing certain things that are really not important in the long run, or even in the short run. Dreams of being a famous singer, or a great athlete, or a rich person with all the toys money can buy. There is nothing wrong with these per se, but the problem is that we can easily be caught up in selfish dreams, rather than godly visions.

A dream is: self-centered; unrealistic; about what we will receive from others; dependent on luck and chance; complains when it does not get its way; it is about what I can get for myself; emphasizes achieving personal rewards over becoming a person of godly character; fails the test of time; measures its success by the illusive feelings of happiness.

A vision is: God-centered; realistic; about what we will a contribute for others; dependent on God and His timing and power; rises up again after defeat and keeps on going; it is about what God can do in me and through me for others; emphasizes becoming a person of godly character above achieving all other goals; stand the test of time; measures it success by the glory of God.

Job’s life tells us much about the difference between these two. He had a life anyone would have lusted after. He was wealthy, successful in his ventures, and had beautiful children, a happy home, and his health. All this was taken away from him. His dream had been to be healthy, wealthy, and happy, but God decided that Job could make a bigger impact in this world by losing all of this and developing a profound character, and a deeper insight into the nature of God.

Do you want to be the star of the show? Do you want to be the best player on the team? Or do you want to take Christ with you into these realms, and show people in those worlds what true character really is. In every venture on earth, in every field of endeavor, we discover how important it is to be a team player, to be able to let someone else advance, to pass the ball and let someone else score, to play a supportive role while someone else has the spotlight, and that is a sign of true character.

God often dashes those hopes so that He can teach us what is really important and what He is leading us to become. God is developing people who have let go of their dreams and have taken hold of God’s dreams for their lives. As long as you want to become something special for your own sake, then no matter what you achieve it will be empty. You need a higher purpose in life – that is the way God made us.

If you want to reach for the stars it must be the stars of God – not the stars of men – that shape your ambition and guide your steps. Now we are talking character, depth of purpose, sacrifice, righteousness, and direction. If you want to be your best for your own glory – you will never become truly special. If, on the other hand, you want to become your best for the glory of God, if you want people to see you and praise your Father who is in heaven, as Christ said, now we are talking about becoming someone special.

People of true faith have an upbeat nature about them. They are not defeated, even when it appears they are, because they believe that God will enable them to rise again, that He will use someone out of the bad situation to do something good inside them, and that they are focused anyway on bringing glory to God. In seeming defeat motives are purified, objectives are clarified, and determination is solidified.

Only a fool would seek after trouble, and it is the normal and healthy thing to live a decent, quiet, and comfortable life. But we must realize that the true purpose of life is more profound than just this. We are here that we might know God, and through that knowledge influence others around us for Him. There are depths of God’s revelation of Himself that we will never know until we are on our backs trying to find the determination to rise again. If you are there now, you may be in the best condition of your life to see what God can truly do in you and with you.

Grief and Loss, Healing for Today, Spiritual Growth, The Core , ,