Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Value of Unanswered Prayer

Moses said to the LORD, "Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, 'Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,' to the land that you swore to give their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, 'Give us meat, that we may eat.' I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness." -Numbers 11:11-15

Tonight is Prayer Service at our church. Some will gather and offer up prayers requests for perceived needs and praises to the Lord for who he is and how he has answered our requests. This is a regular practice of our church and many believers around the globe. We often gauge the value of these prayer times by how many times God has said "yes" to our requests. In short, if we see many affirmative answers, we conclude that the Prayer Service is valuable and worth going to. Unfortunately, we often conclude that if our requests are not being answered, that means there that God must not hear us and there is therefore little or no value in continuing the practice of prayer. But I'd like to submit to you that unanswered prayers don't mean that God isn't listening. And unanswered prayers certainly don't mean that we should give up praying.

In these verses in Numbers 11, we see Moses approach the Lord with his troubles and requests. The Children of Israel were complaining again. Moses was taking the brunt of their complaints and was feeling quite overwhelmed. As he lays out his burden before the Lord, he asks the Lord if it was meant for him to bear the burden of the people alone, to kill him at once. This is an honest prayer. Moses can't take the heaviness, the extreme weight of the complaining, the stress of trying to meet the needs of all these people. So he simply asks the Lord to kill him to spare him the pain of this great burden. 

Have you ever prayed this way? I know that I have. Maybe the circumstances were a little different. Maybe I was not praying concerning the complaints of people. But I have prayed in times of heaviness and sorrow and stress that the Lord would spare me the pain by "taking me out". I don't know about you, but as I look back on these times I sure am glad that God didn't answer all my prayers with a "yes". I often don't pray for things as I ought. I often pray selfishly and pray for solutions that are feasible only in my mind. God wants us to pray, and he wants us to pray honestly, but he wants us to pray with a "Your will be done" attached to all our requests.

Unanswered prayer has more value than you think. Moses didn't get a "yes" answer to his request here. God didn't kill him. Instead, God appointed 70 elders to help Moses bear the burden of the people. God gave an answer according to Moses need, rather than giving a blanket answer to his misinformed request. The Lord does the same for us today. He hears our prayers and sees our needs. When our prayers don't align with our needs, he sovereignly meets the needs instead of answering the prayer we pray. You might pray for what you think is best, but then God provides something far better. Moses was not meant to bear the burden of leading alone, but the answer was not to take Moses out of the picture. No, the answer was to give support and encouragement through a team of leaders. An answer far better than the request, wouldn't you say?

Yes, tonight is Prayer Service at church. Yes, God will hear our prayers. And yes, God will meet our needs. But sometimes our prayers and our needs are not the same thing. Don't be disappointed by unanswered prayers. Be thankful that God didn't answer your every request. Chances are, you might not be happy with the results if he did.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Why Do We Suffer?

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you." -1 Peter 5:8-10

Why do we suffer? It is a valid question. It is a question that has been asked for millennia by those who claim to follow the true God and by those who claim not to be religious at all. It is a question that can be answered simply, and it is a question that can be answered in a complex way. It is a question for the believer in Jesus Christ and it is a question for the atheist. Why do we suffer?

Why do we suffer? It has to be acknowledged, first and foremost, that suffering is caused by sin. Suffering is universal because sin is universal. The Bible states clearly, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." The first sin of disobedience by Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden welcomed suffering into the world. Remember, God promised that the day that Adam and Eve at of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would surely die. They disobeyed God and they suffered the consequences for their sin and the rest of humanity was cast into a state of suffering as a result. Since that time, the sinful nature of mankind has continued to cause suffering universally.

Why do we suffer? The believer in Jesus asks this question from a unique perspective. Unlike the atheist or the agnostic, who asks the question and searches endlessly for a satisfactory answer, the Christian can ask the question "why?" and see the answer on the pages of the Scriptures. In the above verses from the apostle Peter's first letter, we read part of the answer to the question. The devil is...seeking whom he may devour. It is important to realize the the devil is a master of destruction. He wants to destroy what God has created. The devil wants to destroy nations, cities, families, marriages, humanity itself. The devil would destroy God if he could. He is rightly called "a murderer". So be on your guard Christian. Watch out, resist, stand strong, be faithful. You are not alone. Peter says that you are part of a brotherhood that is also experiencing the same sorts of suffering at the hand of the wicked one.

Why do we suffer? Part of answering this question is understanding that if you have trusted in Christ, you are headed for heaven. God has called you to His eternal glory, and He will bring you there. Notice verse 10. Peter says that God will perfect you. That means He will give you what you need to make it all the way to heaven. God will establish you. That means He will give you right directions. God will strengthen you. That means He will give you courage. God will settle you. That means He will ensure you experience final victory over the suffering in the world.

Why do we suffer? It is a necessary part of living in a fallen world. God will use suffering to accomplish his ultimate purpose in bringing the believer to heaven to enjoy God's eternal glory forever. The God of all grace will see that what He calls you to, He equips you for. Yes, you will suffer. But your suffering is not pointless. It is working for you a far more eternal weight of glory in Christ Jesus.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards #61-70

This is our final day reflecting on Jonathan Edwards 70 resolutions. Here are the last 10:

"61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it–that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, etc. 

62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty; and then according to Ephesians 6:6-8, do it willingly and cheerfully "as unto the Lord, and not to man; knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord."

63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. 

64. Resolved, when I find those "groanings which cannot be uttered," of which the Apostle speaks [Romans 8:26], and those "breakings of soul for the longing it hath," of which the Psalmist speaks, Psalms 119:20, that I will promote them to the utmost of my power, and that I will not be weary of earnestly endeavoring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. 

65. Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and everything, and every circumstance; according to Dr. Manton's 27th sermon on the 119th Psalm.

66. Resolved, that I will endeavor always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.

67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. 

69. Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it.

70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak."

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards #51-60

Have you made any resolutions for 2017 yet? Consider the next ten resolutions Jonathan Edwards made for himself:

"51. Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned.

52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.

53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. 

54. Whenever I hear anything spoken in commendation4 of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, resolved to endeavor to imitate it.

55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments.

56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

57. Resolved, when I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether I have done my duty, and resolve to do it; and let it be just as providence orders it, I will as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin.

58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity. 

59. Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill-nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times. 

60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination."

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards #41-50

This is the fifth day considering Jonathan Edwards' 70 resolutions. Here are the next ten for your consideration and reflection:

"41. Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better.

42. Resolved, frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism; which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion of the church; and which I have solemnly re-made this 12th day of January, 1722—23.

43. Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were anyway my own, but entirely and altogether God's, agreeable to what is to be found in Saturday, Jan. 12, 1723.

44. Resolved, that no other end but religion, shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. 

45. Resolved, never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. 

46. Resolved, never to allow the least measure of any fretting uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye: and to be especially careful of it, with respect to any of our family.

47. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good, and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented, easy, compassionate, generous, humble, meek, modest, submissive, obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable, even, patient, moderate, forgiving, sincere temper; and to do at all times what such a temper would lead me to. Examine strictly every week, whether I have done so.

48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or no; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of.

49. Resolved, that this never shall be, if I can help it.

50. Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world."