We continue this week with our discussion on how we hear from God through prayer. We’ve learned that the primary way we hear from God is through the study of his word. We can also hear from God and know his will through prayer, but prayer isn’t what we often make it out to be. It’s not about getting what I want from God; it’s about God getting what he wants from me. This week in our study of how we hear from God in prayer, we examine the phrase from the model prayer, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
If God alone is good (Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:19both say: “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. ; Luke 18:19 ) and therefore defines what a good life is, then a good life is not found in the success of my will but in the submission of all things to God’s will.
God alone defines what is good, true, wise, right, and loving, so our hope in life is never in getting our way. Hope in life is never in the realization of our own dreams. It is never found in gaining as much control as possible over the people and circumstances in our life. Hope is never found in my will being done. God has never not existed; his perspective goes beyond the origin of our past and beyond the future of our destiny, so he really does know what is best for all of his creation, including you and me. As such, true prayer is not getting the all-wise God to submit to your imperfect will but is an act of submitting your imperfect will to the all-wise God.
Unfortunately, we all slip from time to time into thinking we’re smarter than God. There are times for each of us when we believe that our plan and what we want is better for us than what God wants for us. We curl our lips at the “dish” God has lovingly and wisely placed in front of us and seek something we find more appetizing; but our idea of better will leave us empty, unfulfilled, unhealthy, and unable to receive the future good that God has in store for us.
So today, cry out for grace because the temptation to think you know better than God is still a powerful threat to your prayer life and your ability to hear from God; that puts us in the dangerous position of being our own hope – our own idol to which we pray, “My will be done.” Cry out to the Savior who submitted his own will to that of the Father to bring about the greater good for all mankind; He knows what it’s like to wrestle with wanting something different than the Father’s perfect will! Cry out to Jesus to save you from yourself. Pray for the sense to know that there is no safer, no better place to be than in submission to the will of your Father in heaven. Have the courage to pray, “Your kingdom come – let your kingdom’s reign begin in my life today. Your will be done – right here, right now, in my life – just like it is in heaven.” When we are joyfully willing to submit to God’s will for our lives, we know that his grace has entered our hearts.
Bull team competitions are growing in popularity. To win, the team needs a bull that will score high enough but a rider who can also cover him because the scores will be combined to find a winner. Too rank a bull will score higher at that end but if the bull rider bucks off, they can’t win. Too easy a bull but the rider covers, neither will have high enough of a score to win.
Everything has to work together perfectly to win but the key word here is “together.”
The stock contractor can’t win on his own and the bull rider can’t win on his own.
The stock contractor brings his talents in breeding, caring for and training a good bucking bull. The bull rider brings the skills he’s developed to go from being one-jumped out of the chute to being able to spur a 90-point ride.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Throughout this chapter in his letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul is telling them about who they all have different gifts given to them by God. In this instance, he is describing specific spiritual gifts, as he makes the point that each person is needed despite being different from the others.
We’re all working together for a common good. God’s good.
For Christians, we all have a part to play
1Corinthians 12:12-20 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
With descriptions of different body parts instead of different gifts, Paul is reminding the church how they all are part of the body of Christ. Even though we have different gifts, we all serve the same God who has put us where He wants us to be and will use each of us for His purpose.
A common argument that comes up between contestants and producers is when a fair board wants to charge the contestants admission. The cowboys are quick to point out there isn’t a show without them because the crowd is coming to see them. The producer has to point out there isn’t a show without the committee. And nothing happens for anyone without back pen workers and a crew to set the whole thing up.
Everyone has a vital part to play for the show to succeed.
Everyone has a vital part to play within the body of Christ.
As Christians, we know that even as a stock contractor, event producer or rodeo contestant, our tasks, given to us by Jesus, are to love others, share the gospel and teach others. We also know that in everything we do, we’re meant to glorify God. These are part of the “common good” we can be working toward together.
Just like we have all make up different parts in the success of a show, we all serve Jesus together in our own ways. You might be the person who is skilled at starting a conversation with strangers and your friend might be drawn to helping others. On the way to the rodeo, he stops to help the family whose car is broke down at the side of the road and while he changes a tire, you’re the person who ends up telling them about Jesus.
We all have a part to play but we all serve Jesus together knowing it’s God who puts all the parts together.
Last week we began to examine how we communicate with God (and maybe more importantly, how he communicates with us!). We first took a lengthy look at the Scriptures – God’s primary way of communicating with us, but as lengthy as that was it was still just an overview. It was a view of the Bible from 10,000 feet in the air.
This week, I want to begin to address the topic of prayer. Prayer – done rightly – is about developing an attitude and a posture that prepares us to hear from God. I want you to notice from that statement what prayer is not. Prayer is not a wish-list for God where we treat him like a genie in a bottle. Prayer is not about us getting what we want out of a permissive heavenly Father. When we pray as Jesus taught us to pray, we will find ourselves humbly seeking God’s will for all of his creation, but especially in our own lives. Prayer is not about getting what I want from God; it’s about God getting what he wants from me!
We’ll study the “Lord’s Prayer” given as a model to Jesus’ disciples when they asked him to teach them how to pray. He obliged, not by teaching them words to repeat, but attitudes and postures to develop in their prayers that would bring them under God’s sovereign rule and will for their lives. Let’s break it down a little at a time over several weeks. I think we’ll all learn much about how God communicates with us through prayer in this exercise!
Jesus began his model prayer by saying, “Our Father in heaven…” If you are God’s child through faith in Jesus, you have a Father in heaven! The God you pray to, the One who spoke everything in the universe into existence and whose power holds all things together, the One who gives every creature and circumstance a divine purpose according to his sovereign will is your Father! The One whose love put the plan of redemption into motion through Jesus’ death and resurrection is your daddy. He is the King of all creation who will not abandon his work until all that he has purposed to do in you and through you is accomplished, and he calls you “son” or “daughter.”
There is nothing more important, more life-giving that we can do than to remember that the One who created and controls everything that exists is our Father. He thinks of you with pure, faithful fatherly love, and unlike an earthly father, your heavenly Father is always with you. He never stops watching or caring for you. He never stops working to accomplish his plans for you and through you. He carries your burdens in your weakness; he corrects you on your path when you wander away. You are his child by his grace, and because of that, nothing can ever change your status as a child of the King…and nothing will ever be the same!
There’s a lot of opinions out there today about virtually everything and it’s arguable that we’ve never seen ourselves this divided in our lifetime.
It used to be we could agree to disagree and still be friends. And there was that old, unwritten rule about not talking about religion and politics. Of course for Christians, we understand we’re called to do the opposite when it comes to ‘religion’ and are actually commanded by Jesus to tell others about him. That can still be done without starting an argument. But arguing is what we do these days. We circle the wagons around those who are like-minded with us. Like those exploring and settling the west, we treat every encounter with a stranger as a potential threat.
We no longer keep our opinion to ourselves when that might be the easiest way to keep the peace. We exercise our constitutional rights and freedoms to their fullest and understandably, we are prepared to defend our freedoms.
In Galatians, Paul talks about freedom too but he means something very different.
Galatians 5:13-15For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”
The freedom Paul is referring to here is what is found in our saving faith in Jesus. When we’ve repented of our sin and asked to be forgiven in the full understanding that Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment meant for our sins, we are set free. God sees us as perfect and we are set free from the guilt and condemnation that comes from God those who have not heard or ignored the gospel, the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Knowing we’re no longer going to be condemned for our sin, Paul warns us not to take advantage of that to pursue our own sinful desires, but instead, to help others. He reminds us of the command from Jesus to love others the way we would want to be loved.
But look how relevant these verses are to our culture 2,000 years later. There are certainly amazing exceptions to this but one look at the news or especially our social media and personal conversations, and it is easy to see we’re ignoring this advice.
What do others see in our words and actions that would show them how great life is when you’re set free from the judgment of your sin?
Instead, his final warning becomes even more relevant. A non-believer looking at us at any given moment right now is more likely to see what Paul is warning about: people biting and devouring each other.
It’s a graphic description when we actually think about it but it needs to be if it’s warning Paul wants people to take seriously. Paul was writing to a church facing divisions over false teaching that was creeping into the church body. For us, we’re divided over almost everything within and outside the church and as issues like cancel culture arise, we literally are destroying each other just as Paul warns will happen when we lose focus on what the gift and grace of our salvation truly is.
We all have questions about how to know God’s will for our lives. We recognize our need to hear from God, but we’re unsure how to communicate with him. With Father’s Day approaching, I encourage all the men with families to lead them well in this area and as individuals, to rise up to the challenge of digging in and learning how to follow God’s direction.
The primary way God communicates with us is through the Scriptures. By Scriptures, we mean the 66 books of the Bible – 39 books in the Old Testament (OT) and 27 books in the New Testament (NT) (the word testament literally means covenant or promise). The first 5 books of the OT (Genesis – Deuteronomy) are referred to as the Torah, the Pentateuch, and the Law (of Moses). They reveal how God began his work of creation, man’s rebellion against God’s authority, and God’s intention to redeem mankind through Abraham and the nation Israel. God made an unconditional covenant with Abraham to bless all nations through him, and a conditional covenant with the nation Israel to fulfill the promises he made to Abraham through the nation if they would obey his commandments (or his Law). Among other topics, we learn much about the unapproachable holiness and power of God from these books.
The next 12 books (Joshua – Esther) are Israel’s recorded history as they received in part the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham. It also records their repeated distrust of God and their rebellion against him through the intermingling of their faith with the pagan nations around them which led them to worship idols rather than God. From these books, we learn many historical facts about the nation of Israel, but mostly we see God as faithful, patient, corrective, and redemptive toward his often-faithless people.
The next 5 books (Job – Song of Solomon) are called wisdom literature. These books often compare and contrast the flawed perspectives of mankind with the perfect wisdom of God. The Psalms do so in poetic and lyrical fashion while the Proverbs provide general truths for living a wise, safe, and successful life. It should be noted that these are not to be taken as commands that always have a good result but are the general precepts consistent with wise living that generally produce good results.
Our OT concludes with 5 books called the Major Prophets (Isaiah – Daniel) and 12 books called Minor Prophets (Hosea – Malachi). The differentiation between major and minor refers to length, not importance. These books were written and compiled at various times throughout Israel’s history and often represent a mixture of God’s correction of his rebellious people through trials of judgment, the promise and hope of God’s faithfulness in the midst of trials, and the restoration of those who endure faithfully with their hope set on God alone.
Throughout each of these books runs a so-called scarlet thread that expects and foreshadows the coming of God’s Messiah to initiate and fulfill a better promise (or covenant). Jesus is there in the OT; he asserted this himself (John 5:46) and fulfilled hundreds of OT prophecies about Messiah.
The NT begins with 4 gospels (Matthew – John) – the good news about Jesus. They are biographical theology, intended to connect Jesus with the coming of God’s kingdom to earth. Matthew was one of Jesus’ disciples, also called Levi. Mark appears historically in the book of Acts and was a partner in the gospel with the Apostle Peter, another one of the original 12. Mark wrote Peter’s first-hand account of Jesus. Luke was a doctor, an educated man. He joined the Apostle Paul in his missionary journeys as we learn from Acts and 2 Timothy. Luke wrote the gospel by his name and the book of Acts after careful examination of the facts and as a record of his experience with Paul. John is known as the disciple whom Jesus loved – another one of the original 12. While the first 3 gospels are known as Synoptics, John is called the Evangelist because his gospel is highly theological and written to make the point that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31).
Next, the book of Acts written by Luke records the advancement of Jesus’ church throughout Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the rest of the Roman empire. Importantly, it records the reception of the Holy Spirit by those who believed – even those who were not Israelites, the physical descendants of Abraham.
What follows are 13 letters (known as epistles) from the Apostle Paul. Paul was formerly known as Saul of Tarsus who persecuted Christians as blasphemers of true Judaism. His contribution to the NT is as unlikely as it is important. How can we explain the conversion of one of Jesus’ harshest critics into one of his greatest advocates apart from divine revelation? The first 9 letters are written to churches in specific regions. With the exception of Romans and Ephesians, they address specific situations and questions the early church faced. Romans and Ephesians are more general in nature, and therefore offer greater comprehensive insight into Paul’s theology. The last 4 letters are written to specific people, 3 pastors and one slave-owner. The 3 pastoral epistles (1 Timothy – Titus) provide insight into ecclesiology (church governmental structure and administration) in specific contexts. Philemon teaches us about reconciliation and relationships among Christians.
Hebrews is a more general letter whose author is unknown, though likely a close coworker in the gospel with Paul. Its title is derived from its audience – those of Hebrew descent and faith, and it is written to encourage and bolster their faith in Jesus the Messiah as the all-sufficient sacrifice for sin and the fullest revelation of God to mankind, and this in times of severe persecution where hopelessness and defection from the faith would be serious concerns.
The next 7 letters (or epistles) are general in nature and named by their authors (James, Peter, John the Evangelist, and Jude). James and Jude were brothers of Jesus, and Peter and John were Jesus’ two closest disciples. Therefore, these letters come from men who knew Jesus well, who saw his miraculous ministry, his crucifixion, his resurrection, and his ascension. These men had no doubt about the truth of who Jesus was and died as martyrs for that truth, so their testimony and teaching should hold great weight as we study.
The final book of the NT is the Revelation (no “s” at the end!). It is written by John the Evangelist in his old age, the record of a prophetic vision regarding the last days. The last days began when Jesus was crucified, so we see much overlap of John’s prophecy with the history of the world and specifically the church. It tells us what we can expect in the last days, culminating in the Last Day when the living and the dead are judged and sentenced to eternity in heaven or hell based on their acceptance or rejection of Jesus’ authority as Lord. It was not written for us to create timetables of the last days, but to instill hope in the persecuted church through the promise of eternal life for those who faithfully endure for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ.
WOW! That’s a lot! But how can we know what God is saying through the Scriptures unless we know what we’re reading? These 66 books were written by 40 different authors from different cultures, social, political, and geographic backgrounds and across the span of about 1,500 years, yet they all wrote without contradiction or error about the God of the universe and his promised Messiah. How? Divine inspiration. 2 Peter 1:21 says, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” The Bible you hold in your hand contains the very words of God to his people…to you! People often ask, “What is God’s will for my life?” It’s in the Bible. “What should I do when…?” It’s in the Bible. “Is it right or wrong to…?” It’s in the Bible.
I want to make this abundantly clear, though. Christian faith is not about knowing the Bible; it’s about knowing the God of the Bible and his Christ! It’s not about what you should do or shouldn’t do; it’s about who you know. When we know God – really know God – our doing will align with his will, his character, and his nature, because knowing God changes us into who he wants us to be.
I want to encourage you – especially dads – to begin to read the Bible with your family today for the purpose of knowing the God proclaimed by the Scriptures. Pay attention to how the Holy Spirit has spoken to you as you’ve read the descriptions above; is there a book or section of the Bible that piques your interest? Start there. If not, I might suggest reading the Gospel of Mark; it’s only 16 chapters and very terse. You could also read one Proverb and five Psalms each day and complete those two books in a month; your wisdom is bound to increase! The Gospel of John is a great place to turn after you’ve read one of the 3 synoptic gospels.
Read whatever strikes you, but make sure you have a little background (like what I’ve provided above) to understand what you’re reading, and make sure you read for the purpose of knowing God. He loves you. He wants a relationship with you, and this is how that relationship grows.
Draw a line in the sand today. Make knowing God through his word a primary goal in your life.