A Surprising Prayer Request

prison photo(Ephesians 6:20)  “For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Notice that Paul’s prayer request was not for his personal freedom. Most of us would say he was unjustly imprisoned. But his goal was not to reverse the legal judgment. Paul fully realized he was in jail because of his stance on the Mystery of the gospel. Both Jew and Gentile were convicted before God as sinners in need of a Savior. This is why Paul was locked up. His prayer was for boldness to stand even stronger on this message.

Paul remembered his identity in Christ regardless of his circumstance. He still considered himself an “ambassador.” He lived as a heavenly diplomat locked up in the world’s chains. In this circumstance, he looked for courage – not to face danger and death. Rather, he looked for courage to keep preaching the message. Paul knew the spiritual battle he faced originated in his own mind and the souls of people were at stake depending on whether he won or lost.

Have you ever really listened to prayer requests – either your own or someone else? Most of the time they tend to be focused on something physical. I’m not saying this is wrong. All I’m pointing out is there is a great difference between what Paul prayed for and what most of us pray about. Even though the Lord supernaturally freed him from the Philippian jail in Acts 16, the Apostle didn’t go back to that experience and ask for a repeat. Instead, his mind and desires remained on the needs of those he was trying to reach. Paul considered preaching the gospel in these circumstances as his “reasonable service” (Rom 12:1).

Renewed Thought – The world may place us in chains but our true freedom rests in Christ alone. Lord give us strength to speak your gospel in our darkest hour.

Taking Ownership

(1Timothy 6:12)  “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.”

Once I had my driver’s license, my parents allowed me to drive the family car on my own.  Yes, freedom was sweet!  But it was more than just the liberty of car keys and no one telling you where or how to drive.  I didn’t have car payments, maintenance worries, and for a time didn’t even have to pay for my own car insurance.  Car keys and a full tank of gas without ownership is truly sweet freedom to a teenager.  The moment I signed the papers to my first car, a 1978 Mercury Zephyr, I suddenly realized what owning a car was all about.  It meant I had to keep track of how much gas was in the tank – it doesn’t fill itself I discovered.  I had to maintain the condition of the car – I found out occasional oil changes keep the engine running.  I had to keep up the insurance payments – in case someone else did something stupid (not me of course!)  I not only possessed the car, I had to take ownership to make sure it was in working condition to get me through daily life.

The term “lay hold on” comes from the Greek word epilambanomai.  It literally means “to seize” or “hold.”  In this verse, Paul is writing to Timothy who already possessed eternal life.  He is encouraging Timothy to now take ownership of that life.  He wasn’t to live his Christian life passively allowing life to become just a series of events that occur.  He was to actively pursue and live a life he already owned.  All of the benefits, privileges and responsibilities that go along with it were Timothy’s – even in this life.  It meant no waiting to allow the outworking of that life to consume his fleshly life.  It meant no waiting to allow the presence and power of God to manifest itself.  It was to be an active life passionately pursuing God.

How many of us live out Christianity as a teenager driving his parent’s car?  God gave us the keys (salvation) and we just cruise around town trusting the spiritual tank of our souls will remain full and the maintenance of our souls will take care of itself?  In Christ, we possess eternal life but are we taking ownership?  The debt is already paid in full.  So it’s a better deal than having to pay off a car loan.  As a matter of fact, He already made the provision to keep the tank full.  He already made the provision to maintain the health of our soul.  He already made the provision for our insurance – nothing can destroy our eternal life!  But at the end of the day, we are the decision makers.  We choose where to go, what to look at, who to go with.  It is a responsibility to make sure we do the right thing.  It’s called taking ownership of what we already possess.

Renewed Thought – God never calls us to a passive spiritual life.  He calls us to a passionate spiritual life.

Only By Grace – Galatians 6:18

(Galatians 6:18)  “Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. To the Galatians written from Rome.”

How gracious is the grace of God!  After all the doubts and accusations, Paul ends this epistle praying for the Galatians.  The religious term for this verse is “benediction,” which most people take to mean “kind wishes.”  But there is far more behind this than man’s perception of a nice God.  Paul’s heart is bound by so much love for these believers.  His highest desire for them is for the grace of God to operate and reside in their spirit.  All problems in Galatia could be resolved if legalism were overwhelmed by the grace of God.  It wouldn’t happen by a violent or loud confrontation between the brethren.  The transformation would occur by grace reigning in each believer.  This is the personal grace of God bigger than any division or discord.

I can’t do this life alone.  When I try, it becomes a desperate attempt to be valued by this world, by other people, and by organizations in my environment.  But the real message is I need to be desperate for His grace.  I often see my need based on my circumstances.  When life is going badly, I look for His grace to bail me out.  When life is going well, I ignore His grace and come back to a life of self-dependency.  I treat this life as my life.  But regardless of how life treats me, He continually calls me to a life of grace.  He calls me to worship Him in spirit (Jn 4:24).  As His grace works in my spirit, I abandon my false ideas of worshipping Him in self-dependency.  His grace tears down the idols I’ve constructed in my heart.  When His grace is with my spirit, I walk in the power of the cross.  When His grace is with my spirit, I walk in His humility.  This is the taste of victory as grace reigns when it abides with my spirit.

Renewed Thought – “Nothing whatever pertaining to godliness and real holiness can be accomplished without grace.” – Augustine