There’s Freedom In God’s Sovereignty!

-Trust Him With Your Pain!

I’ve used my last few posts to take a deeper look at the prayer life of Hannah, from the book of 1 Samuel, chapter 1.  We’ve considered how God used her God-honoring prayers to heal her of her brokenness. She learned to pray with a view toward God’s Sovereignty over every painful situation in life.  I can’t overemphasize how important that was to Hannah’s spiritual formation. Until you can pray —about EVERYTHING— with a view toward God’s Sovereignty; and, with an acceptance —of your PAINFUL circumstances— even when you don’t have the answer to your “WHY” questions, you’ll be susceptible to a bitter heart! You’ll be in danger of turning yourself into God’s judge!

-Motivated By God’s Glory!

Until you can pray with a motivation for God’s glory alone, you’re pain & suffering will eat you up! Let me share, with you, a Facebook post that one of our members shared after hearing this message in church:  “The sovereignty of God is the pillow I lay my head upon. I have finally come to that conclusion; thus, I can sleep at night. God is in control and I can TRUST His decisions for this journey my family and I are on, now. He WILL get us through, and even if things don’t go as planned, if we are TRULY his, one day things will get better, if not in this lifetime, in Heaven… I finally GET God’s SOVEREIGNTY! I GET it,” Can you hear the “freedom” expressed in that statement?

-Trust His Character!

When you finally grasp God’s Sovereignty it’s a doctrine that offers great freedom! In part, because of God’s Character! He reveals Himself, in Scripture, as loving, gracious, merciful and benevolent toward us! Furthermore, He is just and righteous in ALL His ways! We can trust Him! We can trust that His Sovereign entry into the corners of our lives will always, ultimately be for our good & for His Glory! But, you must accept these revelations, of Himself, by faith! Then, let Him be God! Hannah experienced the freedom, of God’s Sovereignty, over all her circumstances. And, because she was motivated to see God glorified —through her circumstances— she could just leave it all in God’s more-than-capable Hands! 1 Samuel 1:18 says, “…Then Hannah went on her way; she ate and no longer looked despondent.”

-Truth Changes Us!

That line was the greatest indicator that she had left her painful circumstances in God’s Hands! Remember, back in v.7, that Hannah had grown so despondent that she wouldn’t eat. Her husband became concerned, “Why won’t you eat?” But, when she submitted to God’s Sovereign plan, “…she ate and no longer looked despondent.” Truth changes us when we believe it! Previously, in her anguish, she had been misread as drunk by Eli, the priest—”…no,” she said, “I am a woman with a broken heart… I’ve been pouring out my heart before the Lord…” v.15,16. Praying, through her pain, had been messy for Hannah. Until the Holy Spirit wrestled with her and calmed her troubled heart. One more lesson, about prayer, from Hannah! She offered praise when God answered! Take a good look at her words in the next chapter, vs. 1-10.

 

Praying About Temptations!

-How Did Jesus Teach Us To Pray?

Let me challenge you to take a good, long look at your prayers! Are your prayers consumed with requests? Little more than sending God a grocery list of items you want Him to do for you! If so, you need to spend some time meditating on Jesus’ response, to His disciples, when they approached Him:  “Lord, teach us to pray!” (Matthew 6:5-13)  They found a deficiency, in their prayer life; so, they sought Jesus’ counsel to improve it! One of the last things He teaches them, to pray over, is “temptation”—  “And do not bring us into temptation.”

-A Warning About Being In The World!

Up until this point, in Jesus’ counsel about prayer, His focus had been on praying over our relationships with God & the people around us. Now, He teaches us to pray about going out into the world, where He’s called us to make disciples; but, there’s like a bit of a warning! We need to pray— “Lord, as we go into the world to advance Your kingdom, we need your strength to help us to be IN the world & not OF it!” We will face some spiritual warfare as we advance against Satan’s kingdom! There is an evil one who wants to take us down! We need to pray for the Spirit’s strength to withstand him; so, we pray for the Father’s guidance.

-A Prime Motivation For Prayer!

Overcoming sin & evil should be a prime motivation in our prayers! Are your prayers motivated by a desire to walk deliberately with your God? To love Him with a desire to keep His commandments? Test yourself! Are your prayers centered on the STUFF you want; or, on Holy Spirit help to beat sin? Finally, Jesus adds these words, in His counsel to His disciples, about prayer:  “…deliver us from the evil one…” (v.13) Earlier, in His ministry, Jesus had taught them that “…the evil one comes only to steal and to kill…” (John 10:10).  He wants to steal your joy in the Lord & your love for God & others! He wants to kill your effectiveness as a disciple! And, we don’t have the strength, in ourselves, to stand against him! We’re no match for Satan. So, Jesus is teaching us— as His disciples— to humble ourselves by praying for the Father’s protection from evil! To pray that He would deliver us from Satan! And, from falling back into sin! To stand firm & finish strong despite persecution, if we should face that kind of resistance.

-Don’t Try To Counsel God!

As I bring this series of posts, on Jesus’ “model” prayer, to a close, let me remind you never to pray like you’re trying to be Gods counselor! Never pray like you’re trying to convince God that YOU know the best way to run His kingdom! Clearly, Jesus leaves no room, in His counsel on prayer, for us to make prayer about what we think God should do. He’s far too wise! We’re far too ignorant of the details of His work in the world. He is an omniscient God— in other words, He knows EVERYTHING! That means He’s already considered anything you might try to convince Him to do! He may answer in the affirmative! Or, He may answer negatively! And, if He does, it’s because He knows the “end from the beginning”; and, has the best reasons to make the wisest decision! Let us learn to pray with humility! Trusting God’s answers always!

What Do Your Prayers Look Like?

-Are You Willing To Get Honest?

Are you willing to take a good hard look at your prayer life? Of what do your prayers consist? Are your prayers consumed with “requests”? Are they filled with requests that God would change your circumstances? Make your life easier? Make more money at your job? Or, are you asking for a new job? What if none of that is God’s will for your life? Have you ever considered that? Have you ever considered that, for reasons beyond your ability to even comprehend, that it might not be God’s will to heal someone you’re praying for? Have you ever considered, that in God’s eternal plans for His glory & your good, that it might not be His will for you to get the job you’ve always wanted?

-The Proper Motive For Prayer!

The only proper motive, for prayer, is God’s will! In Jesus’ model prayer, he taught His disciples to pray, “…your kingdom come.  YOUR WILL be done on earth as it is in heaven…” Matthew 6:10.  Perhaps the implication is that rather than praying for God to change our circumstances, we ought to pray that God would use the circumstances to change us! Not until after Jesus taught the disciples to pray for God’s will does He turn His attention to praying for our own individual needs. Only after submitting to God’s will, in prayer, does He teach them to pray, “…give us today our daily bread” Matthew 6:11. There is so much we could say about the simplicity of that prayer request! Just give us what we need TODAY! That’s it! Don’t borrow tomorrow’s trouble! Just ask for the Father’s provision TODAY; and, leave it there!

-God Already Knows What We Need!

Earlier, in the same text, Jesus had said:  “When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him” ch. 6:7.  Don’t babble lengthy prayers about your needs, Jesus said, because the Father already knows! Then, Jesus turns His attention to praying for others. Again, this is a MODEL prayer! “When you pray, pray LIKE THIS…” He said.  “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors,” He said,  ch. 6:12.  In other words, pray that God would forgive you in the SAME WAY that you forgive others! Be so thankful for the Father’s forgiveness that you forgive others in the same way that He forgave you— TOTALLY! COMPLETELY!

-God’s Absolute Forgiveness!

There is nothing anyone has ever done to you that could ever be compared to the quantity & level of depravity that you’ve sinned against God! And, yet, He forgave you! It’s not until we are truly thankful, for His absolute forgiveness, that we are truly able to forgive others! After He’s finished teaching the disciples how to pray, He shared these disturbing words with them:  “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.  But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing” ch. 6:14-15. In essence, He’s telling them to take a hard look at themselves! If they’re unable to forgive others, it’s evidence that they may never have been forgiven themselves!

Prayer Is Not Counseling God!

-We Don’t Know What’s Best!

I’m afraid that many people treat prayer as their opportunity to counsel God on certain matters! We ought never pray like we’re trying to convince God that we know what’s best— As if the eternal all-wise God, who knows the end from the beginning & everything in between, needs our advice for anything! His eternal plans, for creation, were already laid out before the world began! The writer, of Acts, reminds us that  “The God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things” Acts 17:24-27.

-God Doesn’t Need Our Counsel!

When it comes to prayer, let’s get one thing straight:  GOD DOESN’T NEED ANYTHING… INCLUDING OUR COUNSEL! He didn’t create us because of some deficiency, hoping that we could fix Him! There’s a clear, underlying message in Jesus’ response to His disciples question, “Lord, teach us to pray!” God doesn’t need us! We need Him! According to Jesus’ response, in Matthew 6, prayer is to be “GOD-CENTERED.” “Pray like this,” He says; and, He begins with the “Father.” Not with us! By the way He didn’t tell them to memorize it & repeat it mindlessly— “Our Father, who art in heaven…blah, blah, blah.” But, “…pray LIKE THIS…” He said. This is “how” we’re supposed to pray! It’s Jesus’ model prayer!

-Don’t Try Twisting God’s Arm!

Rather than making prayer our attempt to twist God’s arm over something we want Him to do, prayer should begin with a focus on God, the Father! Start your conversation, with the Creator of the universe, by honoring Him for His character! Praise Him for who He is! Don’t rush into His presence like your schedule is what matters— “Here’s my grocery list of needs, God! Will You go shopping for me?” Show Him reverence when you pray! You’re entering the throne room of Heaven! God transcends so far above anything on your agenda! There’s an order here! You’re kingdom 1st, Father! Our greatest desire should be that God’s name is hallowed, admired & cherished! And, He’s “our” Father too, Jesus says. Never get over that great Doctrine of Adoption— that God has birthed us into His family!

-We Become His Children!

Though we were born children of wrath, because of our sin, He adopts us into His family in Christ! We’re FAMILY! Depend on Him like He’s family because HE IS! We’re brothers, sisters, and joint-heirs with Jesus Himself! And, then, Jesus models prayer by moving from the Father’s  character to His “KINGDOM”— “YOUR kingdom come. YOUR will be done on EARTH as it is in HEAVEN” Matthew 6:10. So, pray like this, Jesus says— Pray for the Father’s KINGDOM & for His WILL!  If we’re praying like Jesus taught us to pray, our primary concern will be for the Father’s Glory! For the advancement of His kingdom! Our prayers will be “GOD-CENTERED.”  Take note of the things you pray for! Are your prayers motivated by your dreams & goals; or, by God’s eternal kingdom & His will & plans?  Mature believers pray for God’s will above their own!

 

Our Gifts Aren’t For Us!

-Not About Personal Gain & Advancement!

Its our default setting to use all gifts, talents, and abilities for personal gain and advancement in this world! But, God didn’t gift us for our own personal benefit! Your gifts, your talents, your personality & charm, and, your intellect was given to you, BY GOD, to manage or steward over in a way that brings Him the greater glory! Are you leveraging all those things for the glory of God? Here’s what the Apostle Peter said about it:  “Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever” 1 Peter 4:10-11.

-So That God May Be Glorified!

Did you notice the end of v.11? The purpose for your giftedness is, “…so that SO THAT GOD MAY BE GLORIFIED through Jesus Christ IN EVERYTHING. To HIM BELONG THE GLORY…” Don’t compartmentalize your life—this is CHURCH; that’s God’s part; But, this is my WORK, that’s ABOUT ME! We can compartmentalize God right out of our life! No! God has gifted us to bring Himself glory IN EVERYTHING! In ALL of life! There is no area of your life where God does not intend to bring Himself glory! So, what motivates you? Are you motivated to live your life for God’s glory; or, for your own?

-Gifts Used Under Holy Spirit Power!

God’s method is to empower our gifts by His Spirit, so, that He receives all the glory! This is how the exercising of your gifts & talents & intellect bring glory to God! The only way we bring Him glory, in all of life’s activities, is when we exercise them under the power & control of God’s Holy Spirit! When our dependence—in the doing & the living of life—is NOT in ourselves or our giftedness; but, on God’s Spirit! If you’re “speaking” (v.11) or “serving”— “…it should be from the strength that GOD PROVIDES…” Don’t miss this crucial point to exercising your gifts in a way that brings God glory! You can NOT depend on your giftedness when you speak; or, when you serve—OR, God is NOT GLORIFIED!

-When We Fail To Bring Him Glory!

You can be a gifted speaker, even speak “on God’s behalf”; but, if it’s not “…from the words God provides…” than God is neither blessed or glorified by them!  They are words—even “good words”—but, they are spoken in the power of the flesh! You can serve—teach Sunday School; sing or play on the Worship Team; help kids learn Scripture in AWANA—but, if your service is not done by “…the strength that God provides…” than God is neither blessed or glorified by your service! They are deeds—even, “good deeds”—but, they are done in the flesh! I still believe that the Holy Spirit remains the greatest untapped power of the Church! It’s a power untapped because we so rarely lean on God’s Holy Spirit! We lean on our gifts more than we do the Creator & the Giver of those gifts! This has to change, Church!

 

How Do We Bring God Glory?

-Here’s What It Looks Like!

We often talk about living a life that glorifies God! But, what does that look like? How do we flesh that out? According to the Apostle Peter, we bring God glory, in our lives, as we yield to His Spirit’s work to transform us into Christ’s likeness. He says:  “Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.  If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, it should be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever” 1 Peter 4:10-11.

-3 Points About Bringing God Glory!

Peter seems to make 3 points, about bringing God glory. First, God’s purpose, for “gifting” us, is to bring glory to Himself. Second, our motive, as we use our gifts, should be to glorify God with them. And, finally, God’s method is to empower our gifts, by His Spirit, so He gets the ultimate glory as they are being used. So, it’s ultimately God’s purpose to bring glory to Himself as we use the gifts He has given us! Now, while the immediate interpretation, of the “gifts” here, is related to the “gifts of the Spirit”, in the broader context it could be argued that Peter means, for us, to include our talents & abilities & anything else that makes us uniquely “us.” God has given you EVERYTHING that makes you YOU—all your gifts, talents, abilities, personality, outward appearance, etc. And, what Peter seems to be saying is that He’s given you all that FOR HIM! For His Glory!

-Our Gifts Come From God, Not Ourselves!

None of these things, that are unique to us as individuals, are to be used selfishly; nor, do we have any reason to be arrogant or prideful about any of it, since, it’s all been given to us by our gracious God! Everyone has been gifted by God—some more; some less—“…according to the VARIED GRACE of God…” And, then he offers 2 examples—of “speaking” & “serving”—and, how these gifts are to be used only in such a way “…that God may be GLORIFIED… to Him belong the GLORY & the power…” (v.11).  God has purposely & intentionally given us all the “stuff”—that makes us WHO we ARE—so that we would bring Him Glory as we use them! Not for our own glory! Glory belongs to God alone, Peter says!

-We Are Tools In God’s Hand!

I’m not very much of a handy man; but I do have a great deal of appreciation for those men & women who are! And, I’ve found that most handy people have specialized “tools” for certain repairs. There’s a specific tool for everything! That’s how God purposes to use us! He’s made us all different with our own unique gifts, personalities & talents. We’re each a special tool in God’s tool chest; and, He intends to use us, in each specific instance, to bring Himself greater glory. But, God is only glorified as we use our gifts out of a motivation to see Him glorified—“…use it,” Peter says, “…as GOOD MANAGERS of the varied grace of God” (v.10).  There’s an expectation of intentionality! Don’t just float through life, living off all the good gifts God has blessed you with! MANAGE WELL! So as to bring God glory in every thing you do!

 

How Has Worship Changed You?

-What Motivates You To Worship?

People are motivated to seek after God for all kinds of different reasons—some good; some bad; some seeking truth; some seeking personal power; some genuine; and, some deceptive! Matthew’s gospel reveals a “seeking after God” that was deceptive—on the part of King Herod! If you’re thinking ahead 3 months to Christmas, you might think of Herod as the “bad guy” in the Christmas story! He was seeking the Christ-child to destroy Him & he was so committed to killing Jesus that he ordered genocide against all the male children, under 2 years, in an attempt to kill Him. His lust for power was insatiable!

-Motivated To Seek After God!

There was another group who were motivated to seek after God; but—in direct contrast to Herod—they were motivated, not by personal gain; but, out of a desire to Worship Him:  “…wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him….It (the star) led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed beyond measure. Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped Him” Matthew 2:1-12.  When worship, of God, is genuine, the heart & life will be changed! Perhaps nothing contrasts that truth more than Herod & the wise men’s story.

-Genuine Worship Is A Life Changer!

Herod feigned worship in his attempt to kill Jesus; but, he was a fraud! While the worship, of the wise men, was a heart & life changer because it was genuine! Their worship was INTENTIONAL— “…we have come to worship Him…” v.2. Jesus was their sole purpose for coming! They left their homes to search for Him! Their worship also ELEVATED JESUS & lowered SELF—when, “…they saw the child they fell to their knees…” To fall to one’s knees, before another, was the same as saying, “YOU have great dignity & I am lowly by comparison.” Their worship was also EMOTIONAL— “…they were overjoyed beyond measure…” v.10. If they had a gauge affixed to them, to measure emotion, they would have broke it!

-Their Worship Was Sacrificial!

Finally, the text says, “…they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” v.11.  They sacrificed GOLD which was offered to deities in that day—They honored Him as “EMMANUEL”—God With Us! They sacrificed FRANKINCENSE which was used by the priests at the altar—Jesus is our great High Priest who offers Himself & intercedes for us! And, they sacrificed MYRRH, an oil used primarily for embalming the dead—Jesus died for us! None of that is coincidental! God calls us out to worship Him—to “…offer your bodies as a living sacrifice which is your SPIRITUAL WORSHIP…” Romans 12:2. We’re called to worship Him by giving ourselves, to Him, as a living sacrifice!  That’s how worship changes us—we’re NOT our own! 1 Cor. 6:19-20. We give ourselves TO HIM in genuine worship!