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Posts tagged ‘God’s will’

Do You Avoid God’s Will Because It Hurts?

SOURCE:  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network

I was recently in a situation in which a close friend revealed some information that was quite surprising.

After absorbing the information and then prayerful consideration, I knew what God wanted me to do. Discussing with my friend what God laid on my heart was going to be uncomfortable for me. And I knew it would be even more uncomfortable for my friend to hear. Actually, I was concerned that sharing what God put on my heart might actually end this important friendship. I could have avoided the conversation and saved myself some pain (seemingly), but that would have been ignoring and dishonoring God.

Well I said it. I told him my views on his situation and advised what I would recommend as next steps. This is what he asked of me. We processed it and he agreed with my view. After consideration, he disagreed with my recommendation of next steps to apply that principle to end some of his sinful behavior, but we remained friends.

I know you’ve been in a situation, too, when it was necessary to confront a loved one with the truth you knew he wouldn’t like. How did you feel?

Incidents like this in the past really pushed me to examine myself, and I had to admit that at times, I actually feared the will of God.

That is, I actually feared doing what God told me to do because I was afraid of the material sacrifices or human relationship disruptions that might occur if I do the right thing. I have a fear that totally aligning my life with the will of God will actually cause me pain. So unfortunately, I would do what I want, avoid what God wants, and seemingly minimize my immediate discomfort. Then I realized my mistake. My fear was an emotional response.

Emotions are a great warning system of potential trouble or danger. But God never intended that we make decisions based on our emotions. Basing my decisions on His will, not my need to be comfortable, is the only way to be spiritually at peace. Then I will also have the fruit of the Spirit, psychological growth and peace, and brain chemistry renewing as bonuses.

One of Satan’s greatest lies is getting us to believe God’s way is costly … that Satan’s way (or our fleshly way) is on-sale, cheaper, better and less costly. Satan’s ways will always result in immediate spiritual, psychological, and physiological (actual brain) damage. The enemy’s solutions also cause long-term damage in the 3 spheres of spirit, mind, and body. They aren’t cheaper at all. That is just a sales gimmick. Satan’s answers are way more costly. How sad that we don’t see the cost even though the fruit of the flesh is clearly described to us.

The Word of God continually calls us to transcend living … to go beyond what is natural and to do what is supernatural. God’s will is so much deeper than our own understanding. And though His will may entail sacrifice and pain, it’s important to remember that His will not only does what is good for Him … it does what is best for us. Following God’s will always accomplishes what is best for you and those around you. The best part: it is way cheaper than Satan’s heavily advertised false imitations that masquerade as solutions.

Today, practice submission to authority. Stop at every stop sign, don’t go over the speed limit, pass up that cookie or extra serving, go to bed at the right time, don’t look at that cleavage, hold your tongue, serve your spouse, and you can think of others. Write a thank you letter to the King of the Universe who is giving you and your life special attention, guidance, and instruction.

Take a deep breath and dive into the depths of absolute trust in Him. Do the right thing regardless of how uncomfortable it makes you or how the other person might feel. Live by faith … not by sight.

The agenda, God’s will or your fleshly needs, that drives you is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father, I confess that while I pray for Your Will to be done, I am often afraid of the discomfort this will actually cause. I know that at times Your Will includes pain. When I am hurting physically, emotionally, or spiritually … I search for ways to relieve or escape my pain. The escape becomes my focus as I obsess about how I will solve my problems. I pray to You, Father, to help me really believe that Your way is perfect. Help me to rely on your peace and comfort. I pray in the name of the One who always followed Your will, Jesus Christ; – AMEN!

The Truth
As for God, his way is perfect … He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him.

2 Samuel 22:31

We live by faith, not by sight

2 Corinthians 5:7

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:19-23

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Teaching Kids About Sexual Purity

“How Far Is Too Far?” Is the Wrong Question

Four convictions parents must develop as they teach their kids about sexual purity.

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by  Dennis and Barbara Rainey

Centuries ago, a popular queen was interviewing applicants to serve on a six-man team to transport her on a portable throne on long journeys. As she interviewed each man the queen asked, “If you were bearing me along a mountain path, how close would you go to the edge of a cliff with me seated on my throne?” 

Some men answered, “Your Royal Highness, I am so strong I could go within a foot of the edge of the cliff.” 

Others boasted, “Not only do I have superior strength, but I also have almost perfect balance. I could go within six inches of the edge.” 

But others answered, “Your Highness, I would go nowhere near the edge of a cliff. Why would I want to endanger your valuable life by leading you close to danger?” 

Guess who earned the job? The wise queen chose men who would keep her far away from the edge of disaster.

We parents should heed that story as we guide our children through the adolescent years. Will we allow our children to walk near the edge of the cliff as they pursue relationships with the opposite sex? Or will we guide them so far away from the edge that we help protect them from potential disaster?

Our friend and coworker Josh McDowell makes the point well: “I would rather build a rail at the top of a mountain than have an ambulance service at the bottom of the valley.” The choice between sexual purity and sexual experimentation is an important battleground for the souls of Christian youth today. This deadly trap snares millions of teens, scars their lives, and leads them away from a vital relationship with Christ.

What do you believe?

The first step to protecting your child in this area is to determine what you believe. Most of us grew up in a permissive culture strongly influenced by the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s. The goal of that movement was to challenge moral standards and boundaries. Guilt and shame were to be thrown off as repressive, and the experience of unfettered pleasure became the god of our culture.

To determine your own convictions in this area of sex is a formidable task. We would advise a lot of thinking and communicating as a couple, but above all, that you do a lot of praying and reading of the Scripture.

The first step to take in determining your convictions is to make an honest appraisal of your own history (including your mistakes and regrets) and learn how this has affected your views. Is guilt about your own compromises (past or perhaps present) keeping you from developing conclusions about right and wrong in this area? Are you afraid your child will ask about your own sexual experiences prior to marriage? Are you afraid of looking like a hypocrite if you challenge your child to uphold standards that you did not keep?

Past failures must not prevent us from calling our child to the standard of God’s Word. We’ve all lied, yet we still teach our children to tell the truth. We have all stolen something, but that doesn’t stop us from teaching that stealing is wrong. We believe the ultimate enemy of our souls is behind this conspiracy of silence in our homes.

Once you have evaluated how you have been influenced in this area, it’s time to develop a strong set of convictions as a foundation for teaching your children about sex. Here are four convictions we believe all parents should uphold:

Parent’s Conviction #1: Our children need to learn a godly perspective about sex primarily from us.

Where is the best place for your child to truly hear a godly perspective of sex? It had better be at home. Why would we want our children to learn about this sacred aspect of marital love from anyone else?

Talking about sex may be the single most powerful way parents have of entering into the lives of their children. It also can be the most difficult. Talking about reproduction and the most intimate nature of what it means to be a man and a woman is not like discussing tomorrow’s math test or last night’s ball game. When you dare to broach the subject with your child, you communicate, “You are important enough to me that I will risk talking about this uncomfortable topic.”

And because you’ve had this conversation, your child may feel it’s safe to talk about other intimate issues with you. It has to be a relief for your child to be able to discuss this part of his life with someone he can trust, namely his parents.

Even if your child does not want to talk about sex, press through your fears, inhibitions, memories, and embarrassment. A few minutes of blushing, stammering, and clammy hands will deepen your relationship and could literally save your child’s life.

If you have been faithful in appropriately teaching your son or daughter from an early age about sex, you will be tempted to relax when your child hits preadolescence. But teenagers need moms and dads who stay involved in their lives all the way through their teen years by breaking the silence and discussing matters of human sexuality and sexual response.

King Solomon had these talks with his son. Huge chunks of the book of Proverbs are dedicated to gritty talks about the snare of sex. For example, read Proverbs 5–7, where the king implores his son to be wise about a seductive young lady.

Men in particular may back off from talking about sex with their teenagers because they just don’t know what to say. Or maybe they haven’t done a good job in other areas of parenting and they feel defeated. Regardless, dads need to pursue their children.

Parent’s Conviction #2: Sex education consists of more than an explanation of human reproduction. 

Of course, your children need to know the biological basics. If you’ve never had a good, explicit discussion of human reproduction with your child, do it now.

But even if you’ve done a great job of instructing your children about the biological facts of sex, you need to finish the process with moral training. Of all the discussions we’ve had in our family about sex, probably 95 percent of them have concerned character issues. We’ve had discussions about God’s purposes for sex, the importance of sex and marriage, why you should wait for marriage before you have sex, how to avoid situations in which you are tempted, how different types of media shape our thoughts in this area, the types of movies to see and avoid and why, how to respond when someone challenges your convictions, and many other topics.

We’ve found that the issues surrounding human sexuality, such as self-control and obedience to God, are the foundational character qualities every parent wants to build into his teenager.

Parent’s Conviction #3: We must teach and model true biblical standards of purity and innocence.

If you were asked “What are you teaching your child about sex and morality?” my guess is that you might say something like, “We are teaching him that he should wait until he is married to begin having sex.”

Okay, what does that mean?  How will your teenager interpret and apply the exhortation to “Wait until marriage before having sex?”

In this culture, challenging your child to remain a virgin until marriage is not enough. Nor is virginity the ultimate biblical goal. The problem is that too many Christian teenagers are engaging in sexual activities reserved for marriage, yet are maintaining technical virginity.

This point was underscored during a television news report on churches that are teaching abstinence to their teens. One teenage girl who was interviewed was adamant about maintaining her virginity until she was married. Yet in the next breath she mentioned that heavy kissing and petting were okay as long as she didn’t engage in sexual intercourse!

Kids today are going to push the boundaries—they’ll ask “How far is too far?” when it comes to sex.  But Scripture does not command us to preserve a technical virginity. The Bible presents a number of pointed principles to ensure that our relationships with the opposite sex are appropriate and rewarding. The key words underlying all of them are purity and holiness. Here are several basic passages:

  • “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.…For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, 7).
  • “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
  • “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

Ask yourself a couple of questions (these helped us clarify our convictions): Just how much of sex do you want your child to experience before his marriage bed? How much of sex do you think God wants your child to participate in outside of marriage?

We must set our sights high and challenge our children to the highest standard—God’s standard. As parents, don’t we want them to arrive at marriage innocent of evil, pure in their sexuality, and with a healthy view of marriage—not encumbered by a lot of emotional baggage from sexual mistakes during the teenage years?

No matter what you teach your child, your model of purity will go farthest in protecting your child. He needs to see a commitment to purity in your life.

If there is anything that can disqualify a parent from being able to talk to a son or daughter about sex, it is being presently involved in sexual sin, sexual addiction, an affair, or an affair of the heart.

Parent’s Conviction #4: We need to create a home environment that provides love, security, and physical affection for our children.

The teenage years are filled with self-doubt. This is your chance to teach your child that how he feels about himself is not based on his relationships with the opposite sex; it is based on a growing relationship with God.

Your home needs to be your child’s emotional watering hole. An oasis where he learns about trusting Christ. A place of refreshment for his soul, where he goes for love and affection (even when he doesn’t seem to want it from you).

As a child grows up and develops physically into a young woman or man, a concern may grow in the parent about how much physical affection should be given if the child is of the opposite sex. The tendency is to think he is grown and doesn’t need the affection. Don’t stop lavishing your child with physical affection; he needs those hugs and kisses more than ever! A mom hugging her son and a dad hugging his daughter will send the message to both—you are a young man or a young woman who is worthy of attention and affection from someone of the opposite sex.

The years between 10 and 12 are a crucial time to teach your child about purity.  By the time he reaches age 10, he should already have learned from you about the basics of sex, along with lessons on modest dress, manners, language, and the need to keep his mind away from sexual content on television or the internet.  Now, in the last year or two before he reaches puberty, you have a great opportunity to prepare him for what is coming up.

The Wisdom of God in Affliction

Source:  Thomas Watson as posted by Deejay O’Flaherty

The wisdom of God is seen in making the most desperate evils turn to the good of his children.

As several poisonous ingredients, wisely tempered by the skill of the artist, make a sovereign medicine, so God makes the most deadly afflictions co-operate for the good of his children.  He purifies them, and prepares them for heaven. 2 Cor 4:17.

These hard frosts hasten the spring flowers of glory.  The wise God, by a divine chemistry, turns afflictions into cordials.  He makes his people gainers by losses, and turns their crosses into blessings.

 
–Thomas Watson–Body of divinity pages 74-75 Banner of Truth edition

[Thomas Watson – (c. 1620—1686) was an English, Puritan preacher and author.]

Why does God allow me to experience difficulties?

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries

God’s Purpose in the Storm

Believers have a choice about how they will respond to life’s “storms.” Either they can cast blame while becoming resentful and bitter, or they can turn to the Lord and ask, “What is Your purpose?”

Since recognizing God’s purpose and plan is the way that faith grows, Christians have the right to ask “why?” Like a child learning new concepts, we see that when x happens, God does y, just as He promised. If we could choose the number of difficulties we want to face in a month, most of us would pick zero. Yet, God sees value in difficult times.

For instance, in the Old Testament, King David made destructively wrong choices for which God allowed cleansing storms into his life. The leader of the nation had wandered off the right path, but painful experiences drove him back to the center of the Lord’s will. We might consider the divine method cruel, but David would disagree. He wrote, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep Your word. . . . It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Ps. 119:67, 71).

When a storm rages into our life, the Lord is already planning how to turn destruction into good. Just like David, we need to seek His objective and learn to work with Him to achieve it. We must believe that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Rom. 8:28). The promise of that verse is that we will reap blessings from our losses. Through the Lord’s mighty power, He uses trials to accomplish His plans–to grow us from children into mature disciples of Jesus Christ.

1. One purpose God has for us is a growing intimacy in our relationship with Him. But He knows we struggle to put Him first over our interests. Many of us place higher priority on family and friends than on companionship with God. For others, finances, work, or even personal pleasures interfere. When the Lord sees that our attention is drifting away from Him, He might use hardships to draw us back so we’ll refocus.

2. Another reason God allows difficulties is to conform us to the image of Jesus. Pain is a tool that brings areas of ungodliness to the surface. God also uses it to sift, shape, and prune us. The sanctification process, the building of Christlike character into our lives, starts at salvation and ends with our last breath.

3. A third purpose for stressful circumstances is to reveal true convictions. Our faith is tested in tough times. It’s easy to say, “God is good,” when life is peaceful. But when everything goes wrong, what do we believe about Him? Do our words and actions reveal an attitude of trust?

King David endured much heartache: a disintegrating family, personal attacks, and betrayal by close friends. But through his trials, he gained deeper intimacy with God, stronger faith, and more godly character. Won’t you let God accomplish His purposes in your present situation?

Returning believers to right fellowship is only one of God’s purposes for a season of trials. Some difficulties are meant to blow away all distractions so we can focus our attention on the Lord. Other “storms” break our worldly mold so that we can be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Our personal pleasure is not the top priority. God’s primary concern is to shape a wise and obedient follower who loves Him.

“Unanswered” Prayer From A God Who ALWAYS Answers

SOURCE:  Pastor Mark Driscoll

Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” – Mark 11:23-25

If you have breath, you’ve probably said a prayer that hasn’t been answered. How do we reconcile unanswered prayers with Jesus’ words in Mark?

Unanswered prayer is an issue that challenges believers and non-believers alike and often challenges our perceptions of God’s goodness. C.S. Lewis famously observed, “Every war, every famine or plague, almost every deathbed — is the monument to a petition that was not granted.”[1]

More recently, Philip Yancey confesses to “…obsessing more about unanswered prayers than rejoicing over answered ones.”[2] And it’s not unusual to hear about medical studies showing no real correlation between prayer and physical healing.[3]

Therefore, Jesus’ statements in Mark 11:23-25 provide a difficult problem: do these verses promise that God will answer every prayer, every time?

Two polar views on prayer

In Christianity today, there are two polar views on prayer: prosperity and poverty.

On one hand you have those who preach a false gospel of prosperity, which views God as a cosmic genie who answers our every desire and whim. Want a new Porsche? Pray. Have a debilitating illness? Pray. Need a bigger house? Pray. If you have enough faith, God will grant your wishes. Underlying this belief system is a misunderstanding about faith. It’s assumed that if you don’t have your prayers answered, it’s due to a lack of faith. Jesus promises he’ll answer your prayers if you believe, the teaching goes. So, unanswered prayers must mean a lack of belief.

Unfortunately, this is simplistic, not true, and often damaging, as many people devastated by the effects of sin in this world are deceived into thinking they must work harder in order to earn God’s favor. Only then will he answer your prayers. Even worse, this teaching most often revolves around what is known as health and wealth. God’s will, it’s taught, is to make you rich and healthy. The sign of faith, thus, becomes one’s bank account and material possessions and one’s ability to avoid contracting viruses. This effectively makes anyone poor or sick not victims of sin, but rather victims of a God who doesn’t deem their faith to be substantive enough to warrant answered prayers.

Essentially, the prosperity gospel places the power of answered prayer in our hands and places limits on God’s ability to answer prayer by making him rely on our faith, which is not only unfortunate but also absolutely wrong. God is sovereign over his creation, not the other way around (Isaiah 22:44, 45:5-7; Psalm 115:3, 135:6; Daniel 4:35, Matthew 5:45, Deuteronomy 32:39).

On the other hand you have those who preach a poverty gospel, which views God as cosmic curmudgeon who doesn’t desire to give good gifts to his children. Instead of encouraging people to pray for good things, the poverty gospel teaches an aestheticism that calls for denial of material goods. Want a nice car (or even one that runs)? Sin. Give to the poor instead. Have a debilitating illness? Thank God for salvation, that is enough. Want a bigger house (or even a house at all)? Stop asking. Be glad you have a roof over your head.

Unfortunately, this is also simplistic, wrong, and often damaging, as many people experiencing the effects of sin in the world are deceived into thinking that God is happy to save us but not to enrich our lives in any way outside of spiritual sustenance.

The effects of the poverty gospel result in a people who mark their faith on how little they can get by on rather than the fullness of God’s mercy and love for his children and wrongly views those enjoying God’s blessing as lacking in faith because they don’t sell everything they have and force their children to wear hand-me downs and their spouse to use second-hand tea bags. God is our perfect Father who desires to give us good gifts and to take care of both our earthly and spiritual needs (Luke 11:13, Genesis 12:2, Exodus 23:25, Deuteronomy 7:13, Psalm 67:6).

Tota Sola Scriptura

The distortions on prayer found in both prosperity and poverty theology stem from not taking into account all that the Scriptures have to say on prayer. Those that advocate prosperity theology only take into account those verses that talk of God’s blessing. Conversely, those that advocate poverty theology only take into account those verses that speak negatively about riches and that call for sacrifice.

The answer, as is almost always the case, is a both/and, taking into account all that Scripture has to fully say, and ultimately hinges on a fully biblical view and understanding of God’s sovereignty and his will. A few key verses help us navigate the middle ground of the Scripture’s teachings on prayer.

In 1 John, the apostle teaches, “This is the confidence which have in [God], that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him (5:14-15). Elsewhere, Jesus teaches us to pray according to God’s will, asking that it be done (Matthew 6:10), and he exemplifies this in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

As Wayne Grudem reminds us, when we pray, we can first determine God’s will by reading his Word. Thus, we know that we cannot ask God to grant a prayer that is contra to his Word. For instance, if we ask for a new spouse because we’re tired our current one, we know that no matter how hard we pray, God won’t answer, as it’s asking for God to help us sin.

On other matters, we simply can’t know what God’s will is because the Scriptures don’t speak to our request.

However, there are many situations in life where we do not know what God’s will is. We may not be sure, because no promise or command of Scripture applies, whether it is God’s will that we get the job we have applied for, or win an athletic contest in which we are participating (a common prayer among children, especially), or be chosen to hold office in the church, and so on. In all these cases, we should bring to bear as much of Scripture as we understand, perhaps to give us some general principles within which our prayer can be made. But beyond this, we often must admit that we simply do not know what God’s will is. In such cases, we should ask him for deeper understanding and then pray for what seems best to us, giving reasons to the Lord why, in our present understanding of the situation, what we are praying for seems to be best. But it is always right to add, either explicitly or at least in the attitude of the heart, “Nevertheless, if I am wrong in asking this, and if this is not pleasing to you, then do as seems best in your sight,” or, more simply, “If it is your will.”[4]

This means that we can pray for the whole range of needs and wants in life without feeling guilty because we’re free to ask our Father and also free to rely on the comforting truth that he will accomplish his will. This moves prayer from what we do or don’t have to what we can always be assured of, God’s sovereignty and that he will always do what is good for us and his plans in this world (Philippians 2:12-13).

The Context of Mark 11:23-25

As Jesus taught on prayer in Mark 11:23-25, the Dead Sea was visible from the Mount of Olives. It’s easy to see where the imagery of verse 23 comes from.[5] Many of Mark’s references to “the sea” are referencing the Sea of Galilee but also occasionally reference is made to the destructive power of “the sea.”[6]  In 11:23, “Mark portrays Jesus as utilizing the generally destructive power of the sea for his own purposes.”[7]

The reference to moving mountains has parallels in the teaching of early Rabbis,[8] and as the ESV Study Bible says, “Moving a mountain was a metaphor in Jewish literature for doing what was seemingly impossible (Isa. 40:4; 49:11; 54:10; cf. Matt. 21:21–22). Those who believe in God can have confidence that he will accomplish even the impossible, according to his sovereign will.”

However, Jesus’ specific claim that faith could move mountains was without parallel. The restructuring of the natural world was meant to reveal the presence of God’s future kingdom, a thought that was emphasized by the Old Testament[9] as well as other Jewish texts.[10] Therefore, Jesus’ statement in verse 23 was meant to indicate that the day of salvation had already dawned.

Still, Jesus’ words indicate that prayer is effective. In the Old Testament, for example, God caused the sun to stand still in response to Joshua’s prayer (Joshua 10:12-14). Does God desire to answer prayer? Would a father give his child a stone instead of bread (Matthew 7:9-10)? Prayer is indeed effective so long as it is rooted in God’s will—this is why Jesus tells His disciples that “if you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14, emphasis added).

The Burden of Unanswered Prayer

Even in scripture we see the emotional burden of unanswered prayer. The psalmist laments that “I cry out by day, but you do not answer” (Psalm 22:2). Paul’s prayers that God remove the “thorn in the flesh” go unanswered (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Even Jesus’ own prayer to have the cup of God’s wrath removed was not answered (Luke 22:42). We are no better than our savior and can expect that not everything we ask will be granted by God, but just as Jesus rested in God’s will, so can we.

There may be several reasons why God chooses not to answer prayer:

First, there is simple logic: God cannot go against His own character. God cannot build a square circle. Nor can He answer a prayer to approve of sin.

Second, God’s perspective differs from our own. Some suffering is used to reveal God’s glory (cf. John 9:3). We cannot always know God’s purposes; even the very worst tragedies might later be used for God’s glory.[11]

Third, some desires are selfish (James 4:3). God’s greatest desire might not be for our job promotion or the new car. “For prayer is not a means by which God serves us. Rather, it is a means by which we serve God. Prayer is not a means by which we get our will done in heaven, but a means by which God gets His will done on earth.”[12]

Finally, Mark 11:25 seems to assume a condition to prayers of forgiveness: an unforgiving heart may result in a lack of God’s forgiveness.

Conclusion

To answer our initial question, Jesus’ statements cannot be taken to mean that God will grant every prayer for every person at every time. Prayer, therefore, has less to do with obtaining things and more to do with an ongoing life with God.

A helpful matrix I like to use when it comes to prayer is yes, no, and later. When we pray, God answers sometimes yes, sometimes no, and sometimes later—just as a father does with his own children. Sometimes the later is later in this life. Sometimes the later is in the life after this life. But God does hear and answer every prayer. We must be content with his answer and trust in his sovereignty. For example, one friend of mine was praying for years and finally was healed from an illness that plagued him. Another died and was then healed forever in the presence of Jesus after praying the same kind of prayer for many years.

At the end of the day, the real purpose of prayer is not to obtain things from God, but to relate to God. Philp Yancey writes:

Prayer has become for me much more than a shopping list of requests to present to God. It has become a realignment of everything. …In prayer, I shift my point of view away from my own selfishness. I climb above timberline and look down at the speck that is myself. I gaze at the stars and recall what role I, or any of us, play in a universe beyond comprehension. Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view.[13]

Still, we should seek God in prayer for all things. As the writer of Hebrews says, “Draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help [us] in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). To not seek God for our needs and desires is not a mark of maturity, but the absence of it.

Jesus’ message in Mark 11 is that a relationship with God is greater than a religious system. It’s purchased by His blood. We may therefore enjoy the benefits of God’s kingdom, including access to God’s throne. When we see prayer in this light, even unanswered prayers become a part of our relationship with God.


[1] C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer.  (United States: Mariner Books, 1964), p. 58.

[2] Philp Yancey, Prayer: Does it Make a Difference? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), p. 16.

[3] Benedict Carey, “Long-Awaited Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer.” New York Times, March 31, 2006.  Appearing online at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html?pagewanted=all.  Accessed November 7, 2011.  The article sites six studies that do not seem to show correlation between patients’ healing and prayer.  This simply reflects the cultural expectation that prayer yields near-immediate results.

[4] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), p. 383.

[5] William Lane, The Gospel According to Mark.  (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), p. 410.

[6] Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, Narrative Space and Mythic Meaning in Mark, (New York: Harper and Row, 1986), 58-9.

[7] Ibid., p. 78.

[8] Rabbinical texts include the following statements:

T. Sol. 23:1 A demon says to Solomon: “I am able to move mountains;” b. Sanh. 24a.: “You would think he was uprooting mountains and grinding them against each other,”b. Bat. 3b: “I will uproot mountains;”

[commenting on Lev 6:13] Lev. Rab. 8:8: “[Samson] took two mountains and knocked them against one another”

Cited in Craig Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20.  (Grand Rapids: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2001), p. 189.

[9] Cf. Isaiah 40:3-5; 45:2; 49:11; cf. 54:10; Zechariah 14:4-5.

[10] Pss Sol. 11:4; Bar. 5:7.

[11] An excellent perspective on this is the well-known post on the Desiring God website entitled: “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.”  Written February 16, 2006.  Appearing online at http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/taste-see-articles/dont-waste-your-cancer.  Last accessed November 7, 2011.

[12] Norm Geisler and Thomas Howe, The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992), p. 374.

[13] Yancey, Prayer…, p.  29.

30 Life Principles

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries

Dr. Stanley’s 30 Life Principles

1. Our intimacy with God – His highest priority for our lives – determines the impact of our lives.
More about Our Intimacy with God

2. Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.
More about A Life of Obedience

3. God’s Word is an immovable anchor in times of storm.
More about Our Anchor in Times of Storm

4. The awareness of God’s presence energizes us for our work.
More about Energized by His Presence

5. God does not require us to understand His will, just obey it, even if it seems unreasonable.
More about The Unreasonable Will of God

6. You reap what you sow, more than you sow, and later than you sow.
More about The Principle of Sowing and Reaping

7. The dark moments of our life will last only so long as is necessary for God to accomplish His purpose in us.
More about The Dark Moments in our Life

8. Fight all your battles on your knees and you win every time.
More about Fight Your Battles on Your Knees

9. Trusting God means looking beyond what we can see to what God sees.
More about The Thrill of Trusting God

10. If necessary, God will move heaven and earth to show us His will.
More about God Will Show You His Will

11. God assumes full responsibility for our needs when we obey Him.
More about His Promise to Provide

12. Peace with God is the fruit of oneness with God.
More about The Key to Continued Peace

13. Listening to God is essential to walking with God.
More about Listening to God – Walking with God

14. God acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.
More about God Acts on our Behalf

15. Brokenness is God’s requirement for maximum usefulness.
More about God’s Pathway of Brokenness

16. Whatever you acquire outside of God’s will eventually turns to ashes.
More about When Plans Turn to Ashes

17. We stand tallest and strongest on our knees.
More about Standing Tall and Strong Through Prayer

18. As children of a sovereign God, we are never victims of our circumstances.
More about Victim or Victor?

19. Anything you hold too tightly, you will lose.
More about Holding Too Tightly

20. Disappointments are inevitable, discouragement is a choice.
More about Overcoming Discouragement

21. Obedience always brings blessing.
More about Obedience Always Brings Blessings

22. To walk in the Spirit is to obey the initial promptings of the Spirit.
More about Walking In The Holy Spirit

23. You can never outgive God.
More about You Can Never Outgive God

24. To live the Christian life is to allow Jesus to live His life in and through us.
More about The Key to the Christian Life

25. God blesses us so that we might bless others.
More about Passing on God’s Blessing

26. Adversity is a bridge to a deeper relationship with God.
More about Burden or Bridge

27. Prayer is life’s greatest time saver.
More about Prayer: Our Time-Saver

28. No Christian has ever been called to “go it alone” in his or her walk of faith.
More about Together In the Christian Life

29. We learn more in our valley experiences than on our mountaintops.
More about The Valley Experiences In Our Life

30. An eager anticipation of the Lord’s return keeps us living productively.
More about Anticipating The Lord’s Return

All Trouble and Affliction Comes From God’s Hand (Part 2 of 2)

Source:  Bishop Myles Coverdale (written by Deejay O’Flaherty)

[Myles Coverdale  (c. 1488 –  1569) was a 16th-century Bible translator who produced the first complete printed translation of the Bible into English.]

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And to speak properly concerning safeguard, it is all one, so that we tempt not God, whether we live in poverty or in riches, in the fire or in the water, among our enemies or among our friends, seeing that God seeth, knoweth, disposeth, and ruleth all things, as withesseth the first book of the Kings 2:1 “The Lord bringeth to death, and restoreth again unto life; bringeth into the grave, and raiseth up again; putteth down, and exalteth also.”

And Job also testifieth in his misery: “The Lord hath given it, and the Lord hath taken it again.” And Christ saith: “There falleth not a sparrow upon the earth without your Father’s will; yea, the hairs of your head are all numbered.” Luke 12.

Seeing then that all our troubles and afflictions come from God, we ought to humble and submit our hearts and minds unto the obedience of God, and to suffer him to work with us according unto his most holy will and pleasure.

Wherefore, whensoever unseasonable weather shall hurt and perish the corn and fruit of the earth, or when a wicked man shall misreport us, or raise up any slander of us, why should we murmur and grudge against the elements, or go about to revenge us of our enemies?

For if we lift not up our minds, and consider that God layeth his hand upon us, and that it is he that striketh us, we are even like unto dogs, and no better, which, if a man do cast a stone at them, will bite the stone, without any respect who did cast the stone. And again, no man ought to be unwilling or discontent to render again that talent or pledge that was committed to him only to reserve and keep. Matthew 25.

It is that God, that giveth us life, health of body, strength, wife, children, friends, riches, honor, power, authority, peace, rest, and quietness for a time, so long as pleaseth him. Now if the same God will take again some of these firings, or all, he taketh nothing but his own, and even that which we did owe unto him. For the which cause, to murmur against his will, and to strive against his judgment, it cannot be but a heinous and grievous sin.

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