Specific instructions for believers for an election year come to us from I Timothy 2:1-7. In fact, this is one of the great passages in the New Testament – a kind of “Magna Charta” for modern missions.
For the election here in America, verses 1 & 2 are very specific. We are to pray for our leaders and for all in positions of authority.
For God’s concern for each of us, verses 3 & 4 are very specific. It is God’s desire that we all come to Him for the salvation of our souls.
For the way to heaven, verses 5 & 6 give us direction. The only way to God is through faith in Christ. There is no “mediator” between sinful man and a holy God except for Christ. The saints cannot mediate for us. No minister can mediate for us. The church cannot mediate for us. Only Jesus Christ qualifies as the mediator to bring us peace with God.
For the hope of the world, verse 7 guides us to global missions. We are to take the gospel to the nations.
Wow, what a powerful passage of Scripture!
Do you remember “the prayer of Jabez” – recorded in the Old Testament? There was a popular book years ago called “The Prayer of Jabez.” All that we know about Jabez is included in his prayer in just two verses of Scripture in I Chronicles 4:9-10. But what it a prayer it was!
Jabez prays to God for prosperity – “Oh, that You would bless me, indeed!” What a great example to us – to pray for prosperity in finances, with our family and our spirituality.
Jabez prays for progress – “…and enlarge my territory…” While it is possible he may have wanted God to enlarge his land holdings, I believe his greater emphasis was on enlarging his spiritual capacity, spiritual ability and spiritual influence. Each of us has an influence on others.
Jabez prays for power – “…that Your hand would be with me…” He wanted the power of God to enable him to live righteously, to serve the Lord and to reach others with God’s truth.
He prays for purity – “…and that You would keep me from evil…” Jabez wanted to be kept from evil thoughts and deeds. To this day, we pray, “Lead us not into temptation.”
Finally, Jabez prays for pleasure – “…that I may not cause pain!” He wanted to be a blessing and a pleasure to God and man – and not the source of bringing pain to anyone.
The touching capstone to his prayer is the fact that God answered it! “So God granted him what he requested.” What better epitaph could a man have on his life?
I was impressed with the spirituality of American Olympic athletes Simone Manuel and David Boudia, who believe God gave them a public platform for the purpose of bringing glory to Him. Like these Olympic athletes, we should each follow the example of Jabez.
Years ago my friend missionary Don Richardson wrote a book called, Eternity in Their Hearts. The thesis of the book was that no matter where missionaries or anthropologists go – even to the stone age head-hunting cannibals of Indonesia, all peoples discovered seem to have a sense of a Creator God in their cultures and a belief in a great “sky God” in their hearts. The evangelical missionaries build on this belief to bring them to faith in Christ.
One great Christian philosopher put it this way years ago. There is within the heart of every person born into this world a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill.
Jesus was addressing this issue when he said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.”
God can put a sense of peace in our hearts that can settle all our fears – including the fear of death. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.”
God has opened a door for me to minister in India each year. In India it is especially important to teach that only Jesus can fill this spiritual void in our hearts. While this is true in all lands, many Indians are Hindus. A Hindu is often willing to add a new God to the pantheon of deities in Hindu belief. But Jesus makes it clear we cannot add Him to other Gods. The Bible teaches salvation exclusively through faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
And he can give us eternal peace in our hearts.
We are certainly living in uncertain times. Almost daily the news carries reports of international terrorism, domestic terrorism, and crime. We need to learn to live above fear. Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in me.” He also asked the disciples, “Why are you so fearful?”
It is easy to be fearful. We tend to fear things we cannot control. Modern terrorism is certainly something we cannot control. Terrorism touches each of our hearts because while we certainly care for the victims, we also realize it could have been us. We may be the next target if we are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But Jesus said, “Have faith in God.” With God in control of our destiny, we can realize that we will never be in the wrong place at the wrong time. God is in control. Jesus said, “I have all power in heaven and on earth.” He has the power to protect us. This should give us a confidence to go about our lives without worry or fear.
What if something bad happens? What if we do fall victim to terrorism (or crime)? For the believer, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
And that is not all bad, is it?
Something to think about.
My wife and I enjoy watching the Olympics, and it is especially rewarding to hear the testimonies of Christian faith from some of the Olympic athletes. This weekend I will be sharing from the pulpit the testimony of swimmer Michael Phelps, who has won more gold medals than anyone else in Olympic history. I was impressed when two divers won medals and gave glory to God by saying that they did not find their “identity” in Olympic accomplishment but in Christ. I will share one of those stories in my sermon next weekend. I will also be telling the story of U.S. swimmer Simone Manuel who has an admirable testimony of faith in Christ.
One Olympic star said he believes God has given him this platform to share his faith with the world and bring glory to God! This is a good thing. We have certainly seen athletes use their platform for other causes.
However, I found it very interesting when a famous NBC sportscaster this week televised a feature on the recent change in Michael Phelps’ life, NBC specifically omitted the obvious — that Phelps says his life has changed because of his newfound faith in Christ. Any number of websites have carried Phelps’ newfound Christian testimony. He says that even after 18 medals, his life was at a low-point. Arrested twice for DUI, embittered from his father, photographed smoking dope — he says his life was a mess and that he was potentially suicidal. Then came NFL star Ray Lewis into his life sharing Christian faith and a Christian book — which turned Phelps life around.
So, how does NBC handle this? They interview him up to the point where he says he was at the low-point of his life, despairing of life. Then the sportscaster takes over in the clip explaining that Phelps is now a father, getting married (as he should) to the mother of his child, reconciled with his own father, at peace with himself, etc. But they cut the interview off and do not say anything about his new found faith in God causing the change in his life.
C’mon, NBC! If Phelps had become a Muslim or announced he was transgender, NBC would make sure the whole world knows about it. Why is his clear and obvious story of finding Christ in his life — the very cause he says has changed his life for the good — omitted from a story, whereas this aspect of his life is included by other media outlets?
The media bias in our society in religion, politics and sports is inexcusable.
Each of us wants to know God’s will time and again for our lives. Three simple principles will help us to find divine guidance in our lives. When all three principles line up — we are on target to follow the will of God.
1 — First, God’s will must be biblical. God will never guide us to do anything contrary to His Word. Every step we take must be consistent with either the direct teaching of God’s Word or with the principles spelled out in God’s Word. (Psalm 12:6-7; Isaiah 40:8)
2 — Second, God will give us a peace in our heart. His indwelling Holy Spirit will confirm in our hearts & minds the path we should follow. (Isaiah 30:21; Philippians 4:7)
3 — Thirdly, the door will open. If it is God’s will, we do not need to force it open — it will open. Or it will close. Our goal is to find the door that God opens. (Revelation 3:7-8)
When all three of these principles line up, we will find the will of God. God will lead us according to His Word. We will have a peace and confidence in our hearts. And the door will open in His divine timing!