In 2 Chronicles 32:31 we read these words concerning Hezekiah. But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.
These are sobering words concerning the sovereign works of our God. Two things we need to remember as we consider these words are that:
- The Lord loves us as His people and is working everything so that we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Saviour.
- The Lord has promised never to leave us or forsake us. (see Hebrews 13:5 quoting from Deuteronomy 31:6)
But what do these words mean concerning Hezekiah? He obviously went through a time of not feeling anything of God. He had no felt awareness of the Lord working.
In all this God was working to give him a clear examination. Was Hezekiah only doing the Lord’s will because of the evidence of the Lord in his life. Or was Hezekiah doing God’s will because it was God’s will and that is all that matters. We must obey our kind heavenly father not because He is with us, but because of who He is.
How do I respond when I am not feeling the presence of God? How do I respond when there seems to be a barrenness and a coldness in my soul. Do I still seek to please Him even when I have no feelings for such?
One thing I have dwelt upon recently is why it is that people drift away from the Lord. Not only have such people lost their fire for their Lord, they seem to have lost their very life itself. Whether it be backsliding or proving that they have never had the Lord’s grace-given life, they fade away into oblivion.
One tentative conclusion I have reached is that a lack of attention to daily personal devotions has contributed to this disastrous outcome. Without the kindling of our hearts in His presence through the study of the Word and seeking Him in prayer we die; our life fades away. Without coming before the face of our God we lose our interest in His ways. The life of God is only experienced when we are knowing that glow from His presence into our lives through being in his presence.
When our souls are weary and the Lord seems distant, the remedy of spending time with the Lord comes and refreshes us in the walk of grace.
So we must have our quiet time. We need daily fellowship with our God. If we do not have this we risk fading away; we put our lives in peril. We set ourselves on a slippery slope to spiritual deadness.
And so how is your Quiet Time? And please feel free to challenge me about mine when you next see me. Our lives depend upon regular fellowship with the Lord in the quiet place. So let us not neglect this.
In my early days at Feltham I spent many happy times praying with just me and brother, Julio Alverio. Sadly, Julio now has his mental faculties significantly denuded and is in a care home. The happy memories still stand though.
It is interesting how praying with other believers can vary some much. To be able to pray with a small number of brothers, even just one, who are prepared to just to “go for it” and seek the Lord in praise, worship and supplication can be so very special. The sense of togetherness and freedom and lack of inhibition is so good.
Alas, this is not the case with everyone. Some seem to think that if you have verbally prayed once or twice then you have completed your roster. In such situations there is an awkwardness.
Writing this gives rise to memories of many happy times when prayer has been made to the Lord. Foretastes of heaven these are, might I say. And if you read this and are one of those brothers, then thanks to you for your fellowship and joyous unity in the gospel.
I was on a bus journey recently from Manchester to London. Somewhat casually I was walking past the driver at the end of the journey and thanked him for getting us back safely to London. His reaction to those words was striking. He mentioned how much what I had said meant to him and how most people never said anything.
This lead me to ponder on the power of words of appreciation. How much blessing and encouragement can be brought into the lives of others by simply taking time to appreciate someone for what they have done.
So much of our lives is passed in taking things for granted. The meal provided, the rooms cleaned, the building opened up, the tables and seating arranged; the list could be endless. So many of things happen and we accept them and benefit from them without a word of appreciation.
I am challenged once again about seizing the initiative to show appreciation to someone. And as for yourself, why not get thinking and praying about who you can appreciate. You don’t know how much blessing you will bring thereby!
PRAYER IS… RELATIONSHIP. Prayer is speaking to the Lord. Prayer is having a living open communication with the Lord God eternal. It is a phenomenal privilege that we, who are the creatures of dust (see Gen. 2:7) can come and have fellowship with the Lord. Prayer flows from the enjoying of a relationship. When we are drawing near to God, we are in awe of who He is and we bring proper acknowledgement of His essential majesty and holiness. Therefore, we reverence this One and always start our praying in the atmosphere of Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name (Matt. 6:9). And yet we can come boldly to him. In Hebrews, we read that we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
PRAYER IS… VITAL. Your life is now hidden with Christ in God (Col 4:3b) is Paul’s statement concerning where our true life is now as Christians. We are a people of life. That life is not centred in this world, but flows from the heavenly realm. Prayer brings this life into our lives now. If we are not praying then we are not truly living. Without experiencing this vital relationship with the Lord in prayer we are the living dead.
Prayer is vital for life. Paul tells the Phillipians that they should not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Phil. 4:6). In every situation prayer should be found. All our living should be prayer initiated and prayed saturated living. Prayer is needed to set us up for every day of our lives. Our Lord Jesus is our great example here:Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed (Mark. 1:35). A prayer-less life is a useless life.
Moreover, prayer to the Lord is needed in every crisis of life. Nehemiah when brought before the King lifted up an emergency, but very necessary prayer. We read The king said to me, ‘What is it you want?’Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king (Neh. 2:4-5). The panics of life should always be immersed in prayer to the Lord so that peace might replace panic (see Phil 4:7)
PRAYER IS… WRONG when
- …..it is based on selfishness. James tells his Christian readers that When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures (James 1:3).
- …..it is based on prideful display. The Lord condemns the Pharisees for praying to be seen by men ‘And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full (Matt. 6:5).
- …..there is unconfessed sin. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened (Ps 66:18). The Lord was similarly wearied with the prophets professed engagements with him in Malachi 1. Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?’– says the Lord Almighty (v9).
- …..it is an excuse for doing nothing. When the lady on your street wants a lift to church and you have a car and say “I will pray about it”. Then that is an evasive approach and wrong.
- …..it is a cover for disobedience. When you know that God has called you to a certain task and you say that you are going to pray about whether or not to do it then that is using prayer as an excuse for disobedience.
- …..it is used as a good luck charm. We do not pray out of superstition. We pray because we want to move in God’s favour. The people in Jeremiah’s day were just talking about the temple of the Lord and the the temple of the Lord (see Jer. 7:4). They were using the temple as a lucky charm to get God on our side. We can do the same with prayer.
- …..you know the will of God. When you are asked to lie for you to reply by saying “I will pray about the matter” is completely inappropriate. There is no need to pray; you just need to refuse to lie.
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of August 2016)
One of the things that puts Christians off from engaging with others about that which relates the gospel of our Saviour, is the feeling that they might not be able to respond appropriately to an issue that is raised or a question asked. This applies in seeking to speak with both Christians and non-Christians.
I want to assert here that you don’t need to know all the answers to any question raised. What is most important with many people is that you are willing to speak with them. What happens when you meet with people to talk is:
- Through talking they very often are helped to resolve their own issues.
- The fact that you love them enough to give them your time can be a powerful help to the person.
- If there are issues that arise that you don’t know how to respond to then you can say to the person that you will go away and consider it.
- When you have prayed before speaking with someone, it very often happens that you are given the right word at the right time for the situation.
So please in a godly and spiritual way we need to be getting involved to speak with one another in our churches and with people outside. Our distancing ourselves from others is not good.
Here is our church newsletter for September 2018. It includes an article on bitterness.
Paul says this to the Corinthians:
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also (2 Cor. 6:11-13).
Paul and Timothy (see 2 Cor. 1:1) have set an example to the Corinthians in their personal relationship with them. They have opened their hearts; they have not held back in sharing themselves with the Corinthians. In this they have shown themselves to be leaders in affection. They have indicated that true fellowship between believers is only known when there is a willingness to be open with one another.
Paul expresses his concern that the example of himself and Timothy has not been reciprocated by the Corinthians. So what are we to make of this:
- Openness and sharing of affection should be exemplified by church leaders. Secretiveness and arms-length dealings should be shunned if you are a church leader.
- In sharing our lives we are mimicking our God who shared in the most grand and potent way. He sent his Son into the World. Through the incarnation we know that our God is a sharing God.
- Normal Christianity is a giving and sharing open-hearted affair. Being just a church-attender is foreign to the faith of our God. True Christianity is about shared lives.
- We are all different. Some of us share in different ways to others. Some of us are naturally more open and some of us are more secretive. Whichever one we are, we need to know that holding back form one-another is not an option.
It is worth noting that in the following verse Paul goes on to address the issue of our contact with unbelievers. It is as if through this juxtaposition he is asserting what a contrast there should be in our dealing with believers and unbelievers. Godly separation is to mark our relationships with unbelievers; godly immersion should mark our relationships with believers.
Truly it should be that we outwork the exhortation of our Lord, in respect of our relationships with fellow-Christians to By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ (John 13:35).
Many would testify of the misery of church members meetings. They think of them as times when there have been rows among people, venting of spleens by all (and sundry) and a general prevailing ungodliness. For such to be the case is a shame on our churches, their people and their leadership. I particularly want to look at this malaise from the point of view of Church Leaders:
- If you have been a church leader in your church for more than five years and the members meetings are still dog-eat-dog hate-ins then it is very likely your fault.
- Through your general conduct and preaching the elders should cultivate an attitude of grace and truth in the Church.
- An agenda should be circulated beforehand giving the members opportunity to pray and consider the issues.
- At members meetings the chairman should, by his demeanour and conduct, give indication of how we should conduct ourselves on such occasions.
- At such times the Word of God should be read. It should also be referred to as appropriate when considering issues.
- Prayer should be made throughout the meeting so that all know that everything is being undertaken in the presence of the Lord.
- Church members meetings should NOT be called “business” meetings; this gives the wrong impression. Rather fellowship or family meeting or an appropriate equivalent should be used.
- Members should not have to wait until members meeting to speak about anything. Continually the elders should be among the sheep asking and listening to people to discern the passions, progress and position of the church.
- Necessary things have to be done at the meetings such as presentation of accounts and reports. But the primary focus is fellowship; a drawing together and discussing and praying about the necessary affairs of the church.
- Decision making should be made outside the church meeting as much as possible. This means that the church can decide things as the life of the church moves on rather than always having to hold a meeting (or wait for the next church members meeting) for everything.
And so we came to Rome. The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they travelled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. (Acts 28:14b-15). Through reading this scripture recently I was led to ponder upon the issue of what it is to see the faces of fellow believers. I was struck by the fact that Paul was not impacted by what they said or what they gave him it was simply to see them. To see fellow believers was a joy to Paul.
We don’t know for sure why he thanked God and was encouraged. However, perhaps when he saw them he was comforted by the fact that whatever happened to him in Rome, there would be some of his fellow Christians there to share that experience with him and to support him.
I feel we so easily underestimate the impact that our presence can have on people. Church attendance, for example, can be downplayed in our own hearts, under Satan’s’ prompting, by us saying that we will not be missed. But your presence matters in your church. So often, from my experience, it can be such a joy to see peoples’ faces in church. To know that for some, they have put themselves out to make a point of being with their fellow believers is such an encoragemenst
Further, Paul here was in a position where he was coming to a unfamiliar place and did not know what was ahead. Yet there were some of the Lords’ people there to be with him. He was not on his own, he had fellowship, and thereby thanked God.
Oh how precious is fellowship in the Lord and for the Lord. Please don’t downplay what a boost it can be for others to see your face.