Dec 12, 2012
Dec 12, 2012
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. James 2:18
As a friend drove to the grocery store, she noticed a woman walking along the side of the road and felt she should turn the car around and offer her a ride. When she did, she was saddened to hear that the woman didn’t have money for the bus so was walking home many miles in the hot and humid weather. Not only was she making the long journey home, but she had also walked several hours that morning to arrive at work by 4 a.m.
By offering a ride, my friend put into practice in a modern setting James’s instruction for Christians to live out their faith with their deeds: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (v. 17). He was concerned that the church take care of the widows and the orphans (James 1:27), and he also wanted them to rely not on empty words but to act on their faith with deeds of love.
We are saved by faith, not works, but we live out our faith by loving others and caring for their needs. May we, like my friend who offered the ride, keep our eyes open for those who might need our help as we walk together in this journey of life.
Lord Jesus Christ, You did the ultimate deed by dying on the cross for me. May I never forget the sacrifice that gives me life.
We live out our faith through our good deeds.
INSIGHT:Good works are the byproduct of our faith. James deals with the evidence essential to show the world that our faith is genuine. He wrote, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds” (2:18). Authentic trust in God will always manifest itself in loving and caring for others.
How can you demonstrate your faith in Christ to someone today?
Bertha Smith, a missionary to China, once pronounced some of the most discouraging words I’d ever heard: “Charles, I want to tell you that you’re as good as you’ll ever be. You’re as good as you’ve ever been, and you won’t ever be any better than you are.”
I had grown up believing a falsehood—that believers were to pour effort into turning their flesh around and doing right all the time. Thankfully, Bertha wasn’t finished. “God never intended for you to get better, because you can’t improve flesh,” she said. “But the Holy Spirit, who is living inside you, will enable and live through you.”
She was right. My flesh hasn’t changed one bit. But as the Holy Spirit releases His supernatural power in my life, I find myself going beyond what is inherent to the nature of man. And the indwelling Spirit intends to do the same with every follower of God.
Although the works of the Holy Spirit are many, four are basic to the life of faith: The Spirit illumines the mind, enabling believers to understand the things of God; He energizes physical bodies to serve the Lord; He enables the will to follow through on doing what is right; and He quickens emotions to feel and express the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
Bertha Smith passed on an important truth to me: Flesh is insufficient. Only the Holy Spirit living inside us has the strength and wisdom to live out the Christian life victoriously. That’s why God gave us His Spirit, through whom we reap all the benefits of a righteous and godly life.
“For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart. If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:2-3)
Often we hear or feel the drumbeat of those who oppose the work of God. Many would undermine our faith in God’s promises and try to shake our confidence in the authority of His Word. David’s short answers are wonderful sources of strength for us each day.
Trust in the Lord (Psalm 11:1)—He has not forsaken us (Psalm 9:10), and we can “taste” and see that God is good (Psalm 34:8). No matter what happens, God knows what we need, and He promises that we will be taken care of (Psalm 37:3). If we trust in Him and do not lean on our own wisdom, God promises to direct all of our life decisions (Proverbs 3:5-6).
The Lord is on His throne (Psalm 11:4)—The picture of God’s majesty can be easily lost in our sin-cursed world. If we are not going to be overwhelmed by the wicked, we must see God “high and lifted up”(Isaiah 6:1), surrounded by the great host of heaven, recognizing that “heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” (Isaiah 66:1).
The Lord sees everything (Psalm 11:4-5)—His “eyes behold the nations” (Psalm 66:7), and He “knoweth the thoughts of man” (Psalm 94:11). There is no place that will hide us from His sight (Psalm 139:7-12).
The Lord judges everything (Psalm 11:5-6)—God loves justice (Psalm 37:28) and will finally come to judge the earth (Psalm 96:13). “The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down. The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD” (Psalm 146:9-10). HMM III
1 Thessalonians 4:13
We may sorrow, but with measure and limit. We know that the souls of departed believers are safe, and that their bodies will rise from the grave: wherefore, then, should we weep and lament as the heathen and the unbelieving do?
1 Thessalonians 4:14
Note the words, “sleep in Jesus.” Death does not break the union between Jesus and his saints. We are one with him eternally; and therefore as surely as Jesus rose, so surely must all the members of his mystical body rise also.
1 Thessalonians 4:15
Lord shall not prevent anticipate or take precedence of
We shall in no respect fare better. To sleep in Jesus is no dishonour to saints, and it shall not place them in a second class. They shall be in all things equal to those who survive till the Lord comes. We need not therefore dread death, nor feel any overweening desire to live till the second advent. That the Lord shall come is our confidence; that we shall escape death by his coming is but a poor subject for congratulation. It will give us no gain over the sacred dead.
1 Thessalonians 4:16
So that, in order, those who have died will have the preference. Their glory is reached first:
1 Thessalonians 4:17
The resurrection first, then the rapture, and the eternal abode with Jesus. Fairest of hopes, art thou ours?
1 Thessalonians 4:2
Unexpectedly to those who have slighted the warnings of prophecy.
1 Thessalonians 4:3
Certainly, suddenly, irresistibly. Turn which way they will they shall find no safety,—no deliverance.
1 Thessalonians 4:4
Unrevealed though the time be, your faith stands on the watch, and you are prepared.
1 Thessalonians 4:5, 6
Privilege involves responsibility. Are we children of the light? Then we are bound to be awake. The sons of darkness may legitimately slumber, but we must not, or we shall be unpardonably inconsistent.
1 Thessalonians 4:7
Drunkenness in those days had not grown so brazen-faced as now,—men who were given to intoxication reserved their revels for the darkness which would veil them. It would ill become us who have heavenly light to fall into the vices of nature’s midnight.
1 Thessalonians 4:8-10
Jesus’ great love can only fitly be acknowledged by the entire consecration of our redeemed manhood to him, at all times and in all places. Spirit of holiness, work in us communion with Jesus and conformity to him. Amen.
Hear what the voice from heaven proclaims
For all the pious dead,
Sweet is the savour of their names,
And soft their sleeping bed.
They die in Jesus, and are bless’d;
How kind their slumbers are!
From sufferings and from sins released,
And freed from every snare.
Because the apostle Paul’s ministry demanded so much of him and because there was so much resistance to stop him, he knew he needed as much prayer support as he could get! That is why he wrote to the Romans and asked, “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; that I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; that I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.”
By studying this specific prayer request of the apostle Paul, we can gain insights about how we need to be praying for our own pastors or for those who are in spiritual authority over our lives. So let’s take a few minutes to seriously look at these verses today to see what we can learn about praying for our spiritual leaders.
First, Paul makes the following request: “… that ye strive together with me in your prayers….”
The words “strive together” are taken from the Greek word sunagonidzomai, which is a compound of the words sun and agonidzo. The word sun means together and carries the meaning of doing something with someone else. The word agonidzo means to agonize. It indicates an intense agony; a violent struggle; anguish; contending with an enemy; or fighting in a contest.
This tells me that Paul was in a great spiritual battle at the time he wrote this prayer request. In fact, the fight was so intense that he felt the need for others to join with him in prayer. He didn’t want to face this spiritual fight alone, so he opened his heart and asked others to join with him in fighting this battle.
As you pray for your pastor or spiritual leader, remember that he or she needs your support in prayer. Just as Jesus requested Peter, James, and John to pray with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, your pastor needs your prayer support. Yes, he can pray alone, but it will be such a help for him to know that others are standing in faith and in the Spirit with him. The apostle Paul needed this, and your pastor needs it as well.
Second, Paul specifically asked them to pray: “That I may be delivered from them that do not believe…” (v. 31). The word “delivered” is the Greek word ruomai, which means to be rescued, to deliver, to snatch out of, or to drag out of danger.
It may sound strange that Paul would request others to pray that he would be delivered from those who didn’t believe. But Paul had gone through many experiences with “unbelievers” who resisted him, as well as with so-called “brethren” who gave him constant troubles. It is simply a fact that the devil works primarily through people. When he wants to stop the advancement of the Gospel, he often tries to resist a local church or pastor by stirring up someone in the community to be against the pastor. Sometimes the enemy even uses people inside the local church to create problems that bring division and disaster. So when you pray for your pastor, remember to pray that he will be snatched out of the traps and snares set for him by people who have wrong motives.
Third, Paul requested prayer: “… that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints” (v. 31). The word “service” is the Greek word diakonia, which is the Greek word for the ministry. The word “accepted” is the Greek word euprosdektos, which means to be pleasing, acceptable, or well-received.
This is an expected prayer request from a preacher! Paul has sought God through prayer and listened to hear what the Lord is saying to his spirit because he wants to do well in his ministry. Paul desires every word to be spoken correctly, accurately, and in a way that pleases God. Furthermore, he wants people to believe in the sincerity of his motives and not to question whether he has ulterior motives for speaking to them about the Lord. Thus, he prays that his ministry to the saints in Jerusalem will be well received.
As you pray for your pastor, be sure to include this item on your prayer list! Pray that his ministry will be blessed and accepted and that people will receive him and hear his heart the way he means to convey it. He needs your prayer power working behind him as he takes specific words from God into various situations.
Fourth, Paul requested that the believers in Rome pray “that I may come unto you with joy…” (v. 32). The word “joy” is the Greek word chara, meaning joy, gladness, or rejoicing. This simply means Paul wanted to have joy in his ministry! He had faced many hardships that gave him opportunities to lose his joy—such as broken friendships, dashed expectations, political turmoil, church divisions, and so on. Paul’s request was very simple: “Please pray that I will have and will keep my joy in the middle of everything I have to deal with in my ministry!”
Just think of the things that happen in your own life that tempt you to lose your joy. What about your pastor? Think of all the people he counsels, the marriages he tries to help, the sermons he has to prepare, and the organization he has to oversee. Then on top of all that, think of the disappointment your pastor is tempted to feel when people he has helped in the past decide to leave the church. I guarantee you that there are many opportunities for your pastor to lose his joy.
So take Paul’s prayer request to heart and apply it to your pastor. Pray that your pastor will have and will hold on to his joy in spite of everything he has to deal with in his ministry!
Fifth, Paul prayed: “That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God….” The word “will” is the Greek word thelema, meaning the design, purpose, plan, or will. Paul wanted to be right in the middle of God’s will for his life!
Just as we pray to make no mistakes and to be right where God wants us to be, Paul prayed the very same prayer! He wanted the saints to pray that he would make no mistakes and that he might always stay in the perfect plan of God.
So when you pray for your pastor, pray that he will have the wisdom to know what he is supposed to do in the various situations he faces in his ministry. Questions come at him all day long, and he needs your prayer support to make right decisions. And just as Paul requested prayer that he would be in the will of God, help your pastor by strongly praying that he will stay sensitive to the Spirit so he can avoid making costly mistakes and follow God’s will for himself and for the church.
Sixth, Paul requested prayer that be might be “refreshed” (v. 32). The word “refreshed” is the Greek word sunanapauomai, a compound of the words sun and anapauomai. The word sun means together with, as to do or to experience something with someone else. The word anapauomai means to calm, to soothe, to refresh, or to be refreshed. When these two words are positioned together, they become the word sunanapauomai, which means to be refreshed with someone else.
Everyone needs to be refreshed from time to time—including pastors and preachers! People tend to think that pastors and preachers don’t need the same refreshing that others need, but everyone needs to be refreshed and touched by God from time to time! Paul makes his need for refreshment known by telling his Roman readers, “I need to be refreshed just like the rest of you, so please pray that I will be refreshed!”
As you pray for your pastor, or for the ministries and missionaries you support, use this prayer request of the apostle Paul to guide you in your prayers. This prayer was included in the New Testament by the Holy Spirit to let us know that everyone—including ministers of the Gospel—need people to stand behind them in prayer. So why not use this prayer as a tool to help you pray more effectively for the spiritual leaders to whom God has connected you?
Lord, I am making the decision to stand with my pastor in prayer! I want to join him as a sincere prayer partner and support him spiritually by praying for him. I ask You to deliver him from people who have wrong motives. I also pray that his ministry will be well received; that he will have joy in his ministry; that he will make right decisions and stay in the will of God; and that he will always feel strong and refreshed in his spirit, soul, and body. Please richly bless my pastor, his wife, and his family.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I confess that I am a strong support to my pastor and his family. I regularly pray for him and for the other ministries and missionaries God has called me to support. They need my prayer power—and I stand with them in the Spirit for God’s blessings to come upon their lives!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
George is young, aggressive, astute in business, and… getting rich. He claims to be a believer in Christ. And probably he is.
But I notice that when I broach the subject of winning the lost and investing time in people’s lives for the Kingdom of God, his eyes seem to glaze over and his attention wanders. In my gut, I get the impression that George is being seduced by the love of money, which as we know “is the root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10a)
So… let me ask you a question “DO YOU WANT TO GET RICH“?
Clearly, God tells us not to put in the effort: “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.” (Proverbs 23:4) (Also consider: Proverbs 15:27; 23:5; 28:20; Hebrews 13:5)
But if you do, then here’s what you can look forward to:
Just where is your focus? On money? Or on knowing Jesus Christ?
It cannot be on both, because:
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Money… For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:24, 21)
Jesus reassured us that if the pursuit of Him is our primary focus, He will provide for our material needs:
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
God may in fact endow you with wealth. The difference is that when He gives it, it is void of apprehension:
“The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and He adds no anxiety to it.” (Proverbs 10:22)
QUESTION: Do you want to get rich? Or do you want to know Christ? It is either one or the other. But it cannot be both.
God shows Himself even in the field that longs to separate itself from Him
Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24–25
At his death, the great artist Michelangelo left many unfinished projects. But four of his sculptures were never meant to be completed. The Bearded Slave, the Atlas Slave, the Awakening Slave, and the Young Slave, though they appear unfinished, are just as Michelangelo intended them to be. The artist wanted to show what it might feel like to be forever enslaved.
Rather than sculpting figures in chains, Michelangelo made figures stuck in the very marble out of which they are carved. Bodies emerge from the stone, but not completely. Muscles flex, but the figures are never able to free themselves.
My empathy with the slave sculptures is immediate. Their plight is not unlike my struggle with sin. I am unable to free myself: like the sculptures I am stuck, “a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me” (Rom 7:23). No matter how hard I try, I cannot change myself. But thanks be to God, you and I will not remain unfinished works. We won’t be complete until heaven, but in the meantime as we welcome the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, He changes us. God promises to finish the good work He has begun in us (Phil. 1:6).
God, thank You that You make us new creatures through the work of Your Son Jesus Christ, freeing us from our slavery to sin.
He is the potter; we are the clay.
God has revealed Himself to mankind and provided all that is necessary for a relationship with Him. Yet many people foolishly refuse His offer.
By choosing to live without God, a person will spiral downward into sin and a skewed view of the truth. As ignorance overpowers the capacity for intelligent understanding, an ever-darkening heart develops. The individual hungers for something to fill his emptiness but fails to recognize that only the Lord can satisfy his longing.
Desiring to fill his spiritual void, the person will look for an idol to worship. It won’t be a statue of wood or gold, but rather something on which to focus his affections. “Idols” occupy a person’s passion, time, and energy; in today’s world, they often take the form of money, prominence, and relationships. The “worshipper” begins to indulge in earthly pleasures and desires, yet nothing can satisfy the emptiness. Eventually, as Romans 1:28 makes clear, the Lord will turn such a person over to a depraved mind—one that can no longer make right judgments.
Remember, the heavenly Father desires a relationship with us. He even gave His own Son to make this possible. It is man who rejects Him and begins the journey toward godlessness and emptiness.
Look around. Notice the manifold evidence that points to a holy, loving God who desires an intimate friendship with you. Don’t put off accepting His offer of relationship—the consequences of rejection are far too dangerous, and the benefits of saying yes are beyond what you can imagine (Eph. 3:20).