March 2012

Take no thought for tomorrow

Recently I was having one of those sleepless nights that everyone can identify with, when I was obsessing about some challenges I was facing in the week ahead. Thankfully it is an infrequent occurrence. But no matter how hard I tried or fervently I prayed I could not lay my nagging concerns to rest so I could finally get some rest. I was so frustrated that I was even resenting the moonlight shining through my bedroom window, viewing it as a source of irritation and contributing factor to my insomnia.

But then as a passing cloud shaded the full moon’s light I caught a glimpse of the starry sky. I really cannot explain it, but at that moment, resonating out of the vastness of the universe and the knowledge that the one who created it also created and cared for me, were the words “take no thought for tomorrow.” It was not something dramatic like an audible voice or startling revelation or some angelic appearance or intervention. It was more like the sense and satisfaction a person has when they solve a math problem or discover an important fact they have been looking for. It just settles things and arms a person with the truth that allows them to move on.

When that phrase ‘take no thought for tomorrow” came to me it was like, “Oh yeah, I can do that. If the creator of the universe is telling me to take no thought, then why waste time taking thought.” And right then and there I decided to stop thinking and worrying about the morrow, laid all my anxious thoughts aside and within minutes was asleep.

Take no thought for tomorrow Read More »

Turning weakness into strength

The Greek word which is translated weakness in this verse is astheneia. It is defined as an ailment of mind or body that deprives someone of enjoying or accomplishing what they would like to do. That is why weaknesses in our lives are so despised. They are joy robbers and frustrate us in our pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Weaknesses in our lives have a dichotomous effect upon us. In whatever form they may take, they cause us to run the emotional gamut from being difficult to acknowledge to being an object of obsession and regret. We treat them like someone who is a nuisance. We start off trying to ignore or deny the fact we know them, and when confronted by them in a face to face encounter, we conjure up any excuse possible that will enable us to slip away from them in hopes of focusing our attention on more pleasant things. But the lingering effect of the unpleasantness of our encounter with them is not as easy to shake off and readily dismiss. Like being in a magnetic force field we are drawn into replaying the exposure of our weakness again and again. We hate the fact they have such a debilitating effect upon us. We desperately want to move beyond them and break free from their gravitational pull.
Much is being made today, both in the business world and in the church about identifying, developing and working out of one’s strengths. It could go without saying, but both intuitively and objectively, the idea of maximizing our strengths does promise the best return for our labors. Many a case has been made for the extrinsic as well as intrinsic benefit and fruitfulness from utilizing our talents and strengths. And that is true as far as our labors go.
But there is another level of accomplishment that is both counterintuitive and much more subjective, and that has to do with maximizing our weaknesses. In the natural we do not associate weakness with power or perfection. Quite the opposite. But Jesus’ advice to Paul, who was experiencing the perplexity of a weakness he could not overcome, is life giving advice to us as well. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

Turning weakness into strength Read More »

The Prayer of Faith

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16 (KJ 2000 Bible)

James refers to this type of prayer as a “prayer of faith. (vs. 15) In just a few verses he gives us a primer on prayer that may be one of the best explanations of effective praying in the entire Bible. Specifically in this one verse he provides insight into the three primary ingredients for praying a prayer of faith

James, the author of this book by the same name, is uniquely qualified to do so because, as most scholars agree, he was the brother of the Lord Jesus Christ and the lead elder in the early Jerusalem church. (Matthew 13:55 & Acts 15:13) He was also highly esteemed by the two leading apostles of the day, Peter and Paul (Acts 12:17 & Galatians 2:9). And so if anyone had firsthand knowledge about the prayer of faith it was James.

Bottom line, the measure of an effective prayer is ultimately whether or not it gets an answer. What would be the point of asking someone for something if there is no expectation or hope of getting an affirmative reply? And that is where faith comes in. Prayer by its very nature is undertaken from a place of faith, trusting that there is a God who is greater than us and who hears and answers our requests. Prayer is a faith proposition from beginning to end. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Prayer is based on a trust in someone who is not seen, initiating something from a realm that is unseen and causing it to make its appearance in a realm that is seen. Faith then truly is “fixing our eyes, not on what is seen, but on what is unseen . . . for the things which are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

James is underscoring this when he writes “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (vs. 16b) There are three defining characteristics of the prayer of faith in this verse and they specify that it must be:

1. PURE HEARTED – Faith in God hearing us is rooted in two things. 1) First it requires having a heart that is pure in righteousness because it has been cleansed by the blood of Jesus through repentance and forgiveness of sins. James makes this clear in these verses as he encourages “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (vs. 15-16)

2) Secondly it requires having a heart that is pure in its motives because a person’s will has been fully yielded to the will of God. The Greek word in this verse from which the phrase “righteous person” is translated is “dikaios” which specifically refers to a righteous person who is just or impartial. It is a term that conveys a righteousness both in spirit and in motive. It is a noun that could be used to describe a judge who is unbiased or unprejudiced in making a ruling on a case. Whenever a person prays from a place of having fully relinquished their own desires, that prayer is a prayer they can be confident God will answer.

2. PASSION FUELED – James tells us that the prayer of faith is “fervent.” He describes this type of prayer using a Greek word “energeo” from which we get our English words energy and energized. Energeo, depending on the English version of this verse, is translated as “effectual fervent” prayer and means to be fully engaged in, to be mighty in or working at. It conveys a no holds barred, passionate level of commitment to prayer. Working to move a big obstacle and overcome inertia requires a steady all-out effort and determination to persist no matter what the cost.

The Prayer of Faith Read More »

Scroll to Top