Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: God's will

Flashback Favorite - Sharing our prayers

One last Flashback Favorite before we jump into the next series. This earlier learning provides a great prequel to where we’ll be going.

Sharing our prayers
originally posted on July 15, 2015

People have said it to me more times than I can remember, but I’m unsure how many of them really followed through.  I’ve even promised to do it for someone else, and yet I failed to live up to my own words.

It’s just five words, and they are quite common to hear in Christian communities:

I’ll be praying for you.

I’m not sure that I can trust others who tell me that…but that’s probably because I don’t really trust myself when I say it.  IF it happens that I remember to do the praying I’ve promised to do, it’s usually a breath or two about God “helping” them with their “stuff”.  If I feel unsure how to pray for someone, then my lack of trust for other’s prayer-promises probably comes from not knowing what, specifically, they are praying to God about my life.

Fortunately for us, God doesn’t leave us to our own meandering minds.  God’s Word is full of prayer examples, especially in Paul’s letters.  At the beginning of his letter to the believers in Colossae, Paul gives us a great example:

Colossians 1:9-10
For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you.  We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord

The first thing that stands out is that Paul’s not spending time praying about their circumstances.  Instead, he’s talking to God about the Colossians’ relationship with God in the midst of their circumstances.  Paul doesn’t have to have intimate knowledge of their situation…rather his emphasis is that they would know God and His purposes. 

When we are walking closely with God, we are filled with the knowledge of His will and we more clearly see His desires and purposes.  We trust better.  We relax and watch for God.  We see life with a wisdom and spiritual understanding that is most definitely God-given.  These are the things Paul continually prayed for the believers in Colossae.  Not for “God’s help” in their lives, but that they would know Him and know Him well

The second thing that stands out is that Paul told them what he was praying for them.  How encouraging would it be for someone to tell you that they were praying these things for you?  To have a person specifically tell me that they were asking God that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will…that information would be perspective-changing.  It would lift my eyes away from my “stuff” and circumstances; instead I would begin to look to God for His wisdom and spiritual understanding.

This is how we support one another in prayer.  Let’s petition God about relationships, not circumstances.  But let’s also encourage one another by sharing with others what we’re praying on their behalf.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

Conditional goals

What is our goal as parents?  We spend 18ish years feeding, clothing, nursing, caring, teaching, testing, training, guiding, and living with our children.  While the “goal for today” may look different from last year’s “goal for today”, there is also a long-term target that we are trying to make sure they hit.

We don’t often verbalize what that “active-parenting-is-done-end-game” goal looks like.  Truthfully, the busyness of the moment makes it easy to forget that we’re aiming toward anything other than survival.  However, if we were to list out what we desire for our kids to be like when they finally become adults, it would probably look something like this:

I want them to be healthy, active members of society.  I want them to love God and others, and to be growing in both of those areas.  I hope they have a “good” career that uses their talents.  I really want them to be happy with their life/spouse/family/etc.

These are all good dreams for us to have for our children.  But it’s not very often that these ideas are forefront in our minds, especially as they get older.  I have to wonder, though, if we don’t think about this goal as much, not because of the busyness – but because we’re worried they may not be 100% ready when the time comes. 

No matter how well we parent, no matter how pure our love is, and no matter how spot-on our advice is – our kids’ lives could still be derailed by their own choices.  Lots of things in this world are ready to be distractions or disruptions: unhealthy relationships, various addictions, rejection of God, rejection of family, wasting of talents, etc.  But those are the reason WHY we parent them.  We give them guidance, love, direction, opportunities, and education so they CAN reach their full potential.

It’s no wonder we do these things – since God does the same with each of us.  Once we have been born again, we become part of God’s family, and He has a plan to mature each one of us.  He has an incredible end-goal in mind for what our full potential looks like.  Paul pointed this out in his letter to the believers at Colossae.  Look for God’s goal for them, but also be on the lookout for what will help them reach that goal:

Colossians 1:21-23
And you were once alienated and hostile in mind because of your evil actions.  But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him – if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith, and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard.

God the Father has reconciled you…to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him.  That goal is a HUGE change from where I’m currently at.  But looking back on my life, I can see that I’m closer now than I was when I became a Christian.  God’s been patiently working on me, and I trust that He will continue to do so, all the while aiming for His goal in my life.

But we both know that I’m susceptible to distractions and disruptions.  I can be my own worst enemy.  I could derail God’s plan to mature me if I rebel and disregard His leading and direction in my life.  That kind of behavior wouldn’t mean that I’m not part of the family – instead it would mean that God would have to address my rebellion before getting back to developing my maturity.

That’s why Paul says that God’s goal for believers – to be shown as holy, faultless, and blameless before Him – is conditional.  Some of us won’t make it to full maturity.  That’s why Paul prays that the believers may walk worthy of the Lord (1:10).  That’s why Paul says his goal is that we may present everyone mature in Christ (1:28).  These things may happen…they may not.  Throughout the rest of the letter, Paul warns the Colossians about other distractions and how to keep step with God and His aim for us.

However, Paul’s best advice comes in verse 23.  We will be able to reach full maturity if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith, and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard.

Our starting point is also our anchor.  The hope of the gospel – Jesus coming to earth to save us when we couldn’t save ourselves – is what grounds us.  Just as we trust God for salvation, we must also trust Him for our maturity.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

Sharing our prayers

People have said it to me more times than I can remember, but I’m unsure how many of them really followed through.  I’ve even promised to do it for someone else, and yet I failed to live up to my own words.

It’s just five words, and they are quite common to hear in Christian communities:

I’ll be praying for you.

I’m not sure that I can trust others who tell me that…but that’s probably because I don’t really trust myself when I say it.  IF it happens that I remember to do the praying I’ve promised to do, it’s usually a breath or two about God “helping” them with their “stuff”.  If I feel unsure how to pray for someone, then my lack of trust for other’s prayer-promises probably comes from not knowing what, specifically, they are praying to God about my life.

Fortunately for us, God doesn’t leave us to our own meandering minds.  God’s Word is full of prayer examples, especially in Paul’s letters.  At the beginning of his letter to the believers in Colossae, Paul gives us a great example:

Colossians 1:9-10
For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you.  We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord

The first thing that stands out is that Paul’s not spending time praying about their circumstances.  Instead, he’s talking to God about the Colossians’ relationship with God in the midst of their circumstances.  Paul doesn’t have to have intimate knowledge of their situation…rather his emphasis is that they would know God and His purposes. 

When we are walking closely with God, we are filled with the knowledge of His will and we more clearly see His desires and purposes.  We trust better.  We relax and watch for God.  We see life with a wisdom and spiritual understanding that is most definitely God-given.  These are the things Paul continually prayed for the believers in Colossae.  Not for “God’s help” in their lives, but that they would know Him and know Him well

The second thing that stands out is that Paul told them what he was praying for them.  How encouraging would it be for someone to tell you that they were praying these things for you?  To have a person specifically tell me that they were asking God that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will…that information would be perspective-changing.  It would lift my eyes away from my “stuff” and circumstances; instead I would begin to look to God for His wisdom and spiritual understanding.

This is how we support one another in prayer.  Let’s petition God about relationships, not circumstances.  But let’s also encourage one another by sharing with others what we’re praying on their behalf.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

Called, by God's will

Colossians 1:1-2
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Timothy our brother:
To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ in Colossae.

Paul is an apostle…by God’s will.  He didn’t choose this for himself.  God appointed him to specific service.  An apostle is a delegate or messenger.  Someone who is an apostle has a specific function – that person is chosen by Christ to be His ambassador. 

Notice also that Paul doesn’t identify himself as a believer by God’s will.  Trusting Christ for eternal life is something that Paul chose to do; however, the work we do in God’s family is something that God chooses for us.

There are many examples of God choosing both groups of people and individuals for specific service to Him.  Moses told the Israelites:

Deuteronomy 7:6
For you are a holy people belonging to the Lord your God.  The Lord you God has chosen you to be His own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.

Even then, from among the Israelites, God chose the Levites to serve as His priests.  God also chose individuals who would be the leaders, judges, prophets, and kings for the nation.  Some served faithfully (Joshua, David) but others struggled in their appointed positions (Samson, Jonah).  Even though none of them were perfect, each person God chose had a specific responsibility toward the people.  They were to aid the people in fulfilling God’s desired purpose for the nation of Israel:

Exodus 19:5-6
Now if you will listen to Me and carefully keep My covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the peoples, although all the earth is Mine, and you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation.

When the nation of Israel was in right relationship with God, they became a shining example to the rest of the world.  The groups and individuals which God chose for specific service were to help guide the nation toward this end.

Paul sees his apostleship in the same light.  He also sees that Jesus calls others in the church family to specific kinds of service:

Ephesians 4:11-12
And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son

We all have our roles, and Paul is doing his part.  As an apostle, he has specific insight from God to share with those in Colossae – which we can also benefit from as we read his letter.

Whether you find your calling in the list above, or you are one of the saints being trained in the work of ministry, God has work for us to do.  By God’s will, some of us work to build up the body and some of us work to minister to those outside of the body.  Either way, we have the opportunity to partner with the Creator of Everything in His most important mission.

Do you know what service you are called to?  If not, ask God to show you.  His answer might surprise you…but you can trust that He knows where you belong.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

Prayer, submission, and action

After Jesus finished His ‘High Priestly Prayer’, they came to the garden where Jesus was later betrayed by Judas.  Although Jesus took Peter, James, and John from among the eleven to go pray with Him, Jesus ended up separating even further away to pray alone.  When we previously looked at this passage, we observed that in His last moments before the cross, Jesus desired to spend time in prayer alone with the Father.  However, when reading the passage this time, focus on the content of Jesus’ prayer:

Matthew 26:36-44 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He told the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.  Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow – to the point of death.  Remain here and stay awake with Me.”  Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father!  If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.  Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping.  He asked Peter, “So, couldn’t you stay awake with Me one hour?  Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.”  And He came again and found them sleeping, because they could not keep their eyes open.

After leaving them, He went away again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.

Jesus’ prayer is the pinnacle example of submitting to God’s will in prayer.  We are only getting snippets of what He prayed to the Father; the full prayer must have been agonizing and heart-wrenching.  Jesus wrestled with accepting the task in front of Him.  He knew it would cost His life, with all the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual torment coming first.  It is one thing to know that a tragic event is coming, it is something different to knowingly be right on the cusp of that event. 

In raw honesty, Jesus even asked if there was an alternative…some backup plan that the Father may  have for completing the mission, another way to remove the guilt of sin from the entire world.  And yet, Jesus was willing to submit His anxious desires because He trusted that the Father’s plan – however painful it would be – was better than His own longing to avoid the imminent pain of the cross.

Matthew 26:45-46 Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?  Look, the time is near.  The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Get up; let’s go!  See – My betrayer is near.”

After seeking time with the Father and submitting Himself to the Father’s plan, Jesus knew that it was now time to act.  The time for prayer and preparation had passed.  It was now time to fulfill the mission the Father had given Him.

This observation is especially instructive.  We absolutely must seek God’s will in prayer and then submit to God’s will in prayer…but let’s make sure we go out and do God’s will when we’re finished praying.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Consulting the Father

Early on in His ministry, Jesus was teaching around the Galilee area.  He healed diseases and deformities, forgave sins, cast out demons, corrected the teachers of the law, and preached in the synagogues.  Throughout the towns in the region, Jesus’ actions led to a large number of people following him around.  Some traveled from across the nation see Him.  Their social backgrounds varied significantly, from the high-society Pharisees to the bottom-rung tax collectors.  Many were just curious to hear Him speak, others desired to be his disciples – a word which means to be a learner or a pupil.  These people wanted to absorb everything they could from Jesus.  The best news was that anyone could choose to be a learner…Jesus taught anyone who had “ears to hear”, anyone who was willing to listen.

However, for Jesus to be effective in His ministry both before and after His death, He needed to get specific with a chosen few.  Jesus would personally pour into and develop the ones who would eventually be entrusted to carry the gospel message to the rest of the world.  This was a monumental choice, a decision that would affect people throughout history. 

If we needed to make that large of a decision, how would we approach it?  Make a list of pros and cons for each person?  Disqualify some based on the length of time spent following Jesus?  Make a test for them to take?  Ask for resumes?  Hire a consultant?

Take a look at Jesus’ approach:

Luke 6:12-13 During those days He went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God.  When daylight came, He summoned His disciples, and He chose 12 of them – He also named them apostles.

Jesus spent all night consulting with the Father.  While we don’t know the specific content or wording Jesus used while talking with the Father, Jesus certainly spent more than just a minute or two asking God for “guidance” and then going on with His own decision-making steps.  The Father was an intimate part of the entire process.  In one of Jesus’ last earthly prayers, He said to the Father:

John 17:6 I have revealed Your name to the men You gave Me from the world.  They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

During Jesus’ all-night prayer session, the Father revealed to Him which 12 from the mass of disciples were going to be Jesus’ apostles.  These 12 were still disciples – they were still learners – but now they would carry the distinction of being apostles, which means they were specifically identified as a delegate or messenger.  These were the ones Jesus would purposely develop so they would eventually act as His primary representatives.

I’ve pulled few all-nighters in my life – for conversation with others, writing papers, or working on projects…but I’ve never stayed up all night to consult with God.  Looking back into my own history, perhaps the direction I needed for some of the “big” decisions in life would have been clearer if I had consulted with God by more than a cursory prayer. 

Over and over in Jesus’ life, we see that His time with the Father kept him connected and on target with His given ministry.  Jesus did the Father’s Will because He spent significant time with the Father and trusted the Father’s decisions.  We would be wise to invest a similar emphasis in face-time with the Father before making decisions in our personal lives and our God-given ministries that will affect the generations to come.

Keep Pressing,
Ken