Saturday, 28 July 2012

devotional: praying for our unsaved family and friends:


Marianne sat down in Pastor Johns  office and sighed.

"What's troubling you?"  he asked her.

"Well, I'm feeling a bit discouraged"  she admitted, "For years now I've been praying   for my family to become Christians and nothing has changed. Jack still gets drunk every weekend and Mum is talking about going to visit a Clairvoyant. are my prayers doing any good at all? Are they even getting through? Mum changes the subject whenever i talk about church and Jack just tells me to shut up talking about that god stuff. I wish I knew what to do!"

"It's hard not to be discouraged sometimes,"  he replied sympathetically, "Especially when you want something so much and nothing seems to be happening, I know I've felt that way too, that's when we have to trust that god knows what he's doing and keep on praying even though we don't feel like it. You know the story of Abraham and Isaac, how god gave him a son when he was 100 years old and Sarah was 90?  If he had given up praying for a son when he was 98 do you think Abraham would have gotten his miracle?"

"Probably not,"  she admitted thoughtfully.

"Anyway Marianne, it doesn't matter how far someone may be from accepting the truth, God can take the hardest of hearts and turn them around, look at what he did with the Apostle Paul. you remember we studied his story in the book of Acts? Before he became a Christian he actually persecuted the church. He believed that Christians were telling lies about god and so he tried to stop them but Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus road and stopped him in his tracks."

"So I guess if God could get through to someone like that, he can get through to my family, right?"

"Yes. Nothing is too hard for God, so just hold onto that. Keep Praying for wisdom about how and when to witness to them, look for opportunities to do good things for them   and most of all,keep praying for them. God will reach them at just the right time."

"I will,"  she said, feeling encouraged and much more hopeful, "Thank you."

All of us want to see our family and friends coming to know Christ. the most important thing we can do for them is pray for them and not give up even when we don't see results. We also need to ask God to show us what he wants us to do or say to them. We can show them the love of Christ by our actions, by doing things to help them, just like Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.   sometimes  God might tell us to say something, share a bible verse or talk about something we learned at church, while at other times the best thing we can do is drop the subject for a  while and pray that god will send someone else to speak to them, such as  a co-worker or friend whom they respect and would listen to.   

God wants our loved ones to be saved even more than we do, so we can trust them to him. the bible says:
The Lord isn't slow to keep his promise, as some think of slowness, but he is patient toward you, not wanting anyone to perish but all to change their
hearts and lives.
[2 Peter 3:9]

Dear god, we all have friends and family that we love and care about and we long to see them get saved and walk with you. We ask you will give us wisdom and show us what we can do, and help us to keep praying when we feel discouraged and remember that you love them much more than we could ever do. We commit them into your hands Lord, please do your will  in their lives. In the name of Jesus we pray, amen.

HOPE message about hope:

  Romans 5:3-5
This doesn't mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys-we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles. Taken in the
right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady
hope, a hope that will never disappoint us. Already we have some experience of the love of God flooding through our hearts by [the Holy Spirit given to us.

I want to talk about hope today. Before we go any further, though, I thought it would be good to have a definition:
This is a definition I found on wikipedia:
"to cherish a desire with anticipation"; "to desire with expectation of obtainment"; or "to expect with confidence".

as Christians, our hope is not vague but it is certain. We hope to be with Jesus forever. that will happen. We  hope to escape the second death, if we hold onto our faith, that will happen. We hope to see our saved loved ones who have gone on before us. that will happen.

Why do we need hope?

Imagine you are going on a long journey. sometimes the road is bumpy, you have mountains to climb, rivers to ford,  valleys to get through. sometimes the difficulties of the journey make you forget why you started out in the first place. But, if you have in your mind where you are going and why you want to get there, you will keep plodding on because you know the result is going to justify all the struggles and effort you went through on the journey.

that's why God gave us hope. He knew life would be difficult, there would be persecutions and trials and the usual suffering that happens because we live in a fallen world of fallen people. He wanted us to keep our mind set on the goal, what we are aiming for, eternal life with God, so that we will keep on battling through until this life is over and we are in the presence of god.
This is because we remember your work that comes from faith, your effort that comes from love, and your perseverance that comes from hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.
[1 Thessalonians 1:3

the bible warns us not to lose our hope.
if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation[
[Colossians 1:23]

To  see hope in action, we will have a brief look at some incidents from the life of Abraham. He is acknowledged as a man of great faith, which he was, but he was also a man of great hope, as the bible says:
In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”  He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead ( since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb.  No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,

[Romans 4:18-20].
god also promised to give Abraham's descendants the land of Canaan, where Abraham lived as a semi-nomadic shepherd.

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram [Abraham] in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look towards heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?”
[Genesis 15:1-8 ESV]

So,  one of the things Abraham was hoping and praying for [that is, the birth of a son] happened in his lifetime. In fact, Abraham had several sons, Ishmael by Hagar, Isaac by Sarah and Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah by Keturah. The other promise, that he and his descendants would have the land of Canaan, didn't come true for 400 or more years! Even so, Abraham, Isaac and the rest of the Patriarchs hoped expectantly for this thing to happen and at last it did happen when the Israelites, under Joshua,  took the land.

My point is this: some of the things we hope for will happen in our lifetime, but most of what we as Christians hope for won't happen till after this life is over,yet we still need to hope.

Abraham's faith and hope were tested in about the strongest possible way when God ordered him to offer  up Isaac as a whole burnt offering:

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”  So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
god called Isaac Abraham's only son because it was Isaac with whom God would  make his covenant and his descendants would inherit the land. We don't know why God asked Abraham to do this thing, some suggest that Abraham and Isaac were acting out a prophecy that would be fulfilled when God gave his only begotten son, that is, when Jesus died for us on the cross.  Others suggest that Abraham's love for his son was bordering on worship and God needed to correct him. We don't know. Anyway, here is what the writer to the Hebrews says about this event:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

The point is, Abraham's faith and hope didn't waver even during this most difficult time. Our hope and faith should not waver either, no matter how difficult life gets or how unlikely it seems that we will ever get what we hope for.

Another example of hope in action is David. He was a young man and at the time he was first anointed as king by Samuel, he was keeping his father's sheep.  it was years before he actually became king of all Israel. At the time he was anointed, Saul was the king. God had rejected him from being king because of Saul's disobedience. Initially, David was welcomed at the king's court because he was a gifted harpist and his  music soothed the king, who was tormented with an evil spirit. however, when David killed Goliath, Saul began to be jealous of David. he gave his daughter to David as a wife, but Saul began plotting to have him killed until David had to flee for his life. For years he lived in the desert, hiding from Saul who was pursuing him, wanting him dead. At last David escaped to the enemy of  his people, the Philistines. He had plenty of reasons to despair and give up hoping but he never did.

when Saul was killed in battle David reigned over Judah for 6.5 years and one of Saul's sons ruled Israel, until Abner, Saul's uncle, switched sides and encouraged the whole nation to make David king. David was finally made king after Saul's son Ishbosheth was murdered.

All the Israelite tribes came to David at Hebron and said, “Listen: We are your very own flesh and bone. In the past, when Saul ruled over us, you were
the one who led Israel out to war and back. What’s more, the Lord told you, You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will be Israel’s leader.
So all the Israelite elders came to the king at Hebron. King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over
[2 Samuel 5:1-3]

This took place years after David's first anointing by Samuel, yet David never gave up believing and expecting god to do what he had promised. he never lost hope. In fact, he encouraged Israel to hope in their god:
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me.
But I have calmed and quietened my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and for evermore.
[Psalm 131]
So, be encouraged and hope in god.  Your hope is like a fire, if it isn't tended to it goes out. Spending time with god in prayer and bible study and reminding ourselves what God has done for us keeps that fire burning. We can encourage each other to keep hoping, just like Saul's son Jonathan encouraged David:

Saul’s son Jonathan came to David at Horesh and encouraged him with God. Jonathan said to him, “Don't be afraid! My father Saul’s hand won't touch you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be your second in command. Even my father Saul knows this.” Then the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David stayed at Horesh, but Jonathan went back home.
[1 Samuel 23:16-18
Jonathan was half right. Saul didn't touch David, but Jonathan died on Mount Gilboa and was never David's second in command. Still he encouraged David at a  time when Jonathan's own father was doing his utmost to kill David. we can encourage each other too. We all have challenges in life but we know it's going to get better.

, thinking about the future keeps our hope alive. 
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,  and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
[Hebrews 12:12-13]

Let me leave you with this blessing from romans 15:13.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

questions to ponder:
These questions are just for you to think about and answer in your time alone with god.
1. what things are you hoping for?
2. can you think of other reasons why we need to keep our hope strong?
3. how do you keep your hope strong when you are going through hard times?
4. Do you know anyone you can encourage to keep hoping in God today?