Friday, November 15, 2013

A Favorable Disposition in Prayer

Neh 2:1  In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. Neh 2:2  And the king said to me, "Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart." Then I was very much afraid.

As I was meditating on Nehemiah as he approached his king with a problem that he was greatly troubled over it seems this account has some parallels with the way we should approach the Lord in prayer.  In those days it could mean the displeasure of the king or even worse to come into his presence looking sad or we might say in a bad mood.  We see this in Esther 4:2 He went up to the entrance of the king's gate, for no one was allowed to enter the king's gate clothed in sackcloth.  When they were around the king his subjects were to look happy assumingly because they were to be happy to be in his presence.  They were to be consumed with him, his rule and doing his will and they were to look happy doing it. 

It was clear to the king that Nehemiah was bothered by something and in this case Nehemiah had the favor of the king and so he asked him what was the matter.  There are a couple of things to see here when it comes to prayer.   I think a case can be made that we pray amiss when we habitually approach the Lord in prayer all out of sorts about our problems but have not started with being focused on the kingdom of God.  One reason earthly kings didn’t allow such displays in the throne room was because their subjects were in essence saying their problems were at least as important as the king.  They were living in their own world with no thought of the greater good of the kingdom.

We are to approach God consumed with his glory and how we can serve him and when we take our concerns to him it is to be in the context of service in his kingdom.  It should not be in the context that we don’t like what is going on and so we are going to complain to him and get him to focus on us and not the other way around.  The Lord has brought us into his kingdom to serve his interest and our needs are met as we do that.  To put it more simply, we are here for him; he is not here for us.  In the grand scheme of things creatures are for the pleasure of the Creator, they were not created to become the focus of the universe.  And this is even more so true when we consider that he is also our Redeemer who has extended grace to rebels and made peace.

And so when we approach the throne room for help let us come before him full of joy and thanksgiving and looking for help in our needs so that we can serve faithfully in the kingdom.  I imagine that too often we come to him having never given a thought to how we can honor him in our situation.  Instead, we find ourselves hurting or in need and run to him with no thoughts of anything but immediate relief. 

But the second thing I see here is a reminder that even though we often are selfish in our prayers, yet because of Christ we find favor and help anyway.  Obviously the king has a favorable disposition towards Nehemiah and so hears and answers his request anyway.  I don’t take this to mean that it really doesn’t matter how we pray but that in Christ we have access and blessings even though we don’t deserve it. 

Verse six might be the reason why Nehemiah gets a favorable response, Neh 2:6  And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), "How long will you be gone, and when will you return?" So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time.  I find it interesting that for some reason we are told that the queen was sitting next to the king.  I don’t think this is ever mentioned elsewhere in the biblical accounts.  Why on earth does this matter?  Some believe that this is none other than Queen Esther.  If this is true then the book of Esther has told us that she was the instrument of salvation, the meditator, between God’s chosen people and the king.  We cannot know for sure if it was her but it reminds us of the fact that because Jesus sits exalted on the right hand of the God of glory we have an advocate.  He is the one who has given the Holy God a favorable disposition towards us to hear our prayers, selfish as they sometimes are, and to answer them for our good and for his glory.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Living By Faith

Rom 1:5  through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

Rom 10:17  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Hab 2:4  “… but the righteous shall live by his faith.”

It seems that a lot of teaching on faith centers on trusting God.  Of course, I don’t have a problem with that but I do have a problem with separating faith from obedience to the Word of God as if you can trust the Lord even if you aren’t following the Word.  The first two passages above specifically link faith to obedience and the Word of God.  I think a lot of times we just think of it as the Habakkuk passage refers to it.  We speak of living by faith but not by obeying the Word but by simply trusting the Lord.  While biblically they should be seen as the same thing, I think often they are seen as different things entirely.  Let me explain.

Often when some one speaks of living by faith they mean that they are trusting the Lord to take care of them, to lead them, to provide for them, etc.  I am afraid that often that is all they mean.  What we sometimes find is that they make little effort to study God’s Word and so understand God’s will for them.  In other words they are not growing in faith but assume they can live by faith.  They assume that they can trust the Lord to take care of them while they are to some degree ignoring him.  My point is that if this is the case, you aren’t trusting in him to begin with.  At best you are presuming upon him to take care of you while you are busy doing what you want to do.

We see from Romans 10 that faith comes by hearing, or learning, the Word of God; this is growing in the faith of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I think a more complete way to think of living by faith is to believe God’s revelation and his wisdom and to live accordingly even when this world tells us something differently.  How can I trust in a God I know little about?  How can I obey commands I don’t know?  How can I do all things for the glory of One I know so little about that I cannot love as I ought?

Our faith is proven by living in the eternal truth of God’s revelation to us.  It is to see the wisdom of God and realize that he knows better than we do.  The more we know of God, the bigger he is in our estimation and the more we will trust him and not ourselves.  We trust what he says because of who he is.

Those that mostly see life as something they are to do and then expect God to take care of any messes they make, who take “leaps of faith” that are really foolish decisions based on their desires and will but not on the principles of God’s Word are not living by faith, they are presuming upon the Lord.  

I know that there are many times in my life where that better describes my life rather than living by faith in a biblical sense and I suspect I am not alone.  I want to trust God fully to use me and protect me and strengthen me as I am doing his will; not running behind me cleaning up after me like a parent would a small child who is only doing what he wants to do.   So living by faith is not simply trusting the Lord for help but actively living by his Word regardless of the consequences because we know the Lord will make all things right to them that love him.