Theology and Politics from a Conservative, Biblical Perspective
In my last article in this series, I spoke of a number of things related to prayer; what it is and how it works. Certainly, it was not an exhaustive article and looking back at it, it’s probably a good idea to clarify at least one point before moving on to others.
I said in my last article, “The fact that he will be saved I believe, is a done deal” with reference to the family member I spoke about who is an alcoholic and has other addictions and to our knowledge, is not saved. Since that article, I’ve studied much more, not only God’s Word of course, but have read through a number of commentators whom I respect to gain understanding from their views about what God has to say. At this point, I am convinced of the following: God will provide every opportunity for this family member to come to Him for salvation. I believe God will open his eyes to the truth of salvation. I also believe God, who has far more love and compassion for this family member than I do, will do whatever is necessary to provide a measure of understanding that will help him to be drawn toward God for salvation.
Does this mean that this family member will become saved? In the end, he may not become saved, but it will not be due to God not trying. Consider that Jesus could not save Judas. He could not save Caiphas or others who were seriously opposed to Him. Yet, He was able to save Saul who became Paul (Acts 9), by doing the same thing He did for the religious leaders when He showed them the Truth.
In essence, no one comes to God for salvation unless they are drawn by Him. No one sees the truth unless God reveals it to them. No one can embrace salvation in Christ Jesus unless their understanding is first opened up and that awareness pushes them toward God for salvation.
It is by God’s grace completely that anyone is saved. No one can claim credit for their salvation in any way. Those of us who are saved are saved because God first allows us to understand our need for Him and then we act on that need.
I can vividly recall when I was in Kindergarten. There was a Christmas party for us kids at the church we were attending. While my friends there were running around playing games and enjoying the atmosphere, I recall my attention that was on the baby Jesus in the manger in the corner of the room surrounded by the wise men, Mary, Joseph and the animals. Something really struck me about Jesus. Did that come from me? Hardly. I firmly believe it was God directing my life even at that age though it was not until the age of 13 that I took seriously my need for Jesus and received Him as Savior.
Had not God begun directing my gaze to Him, would I have become a Christian at all? I don’t believe so. Yet, isn’t it funny that you can witness to people and they react from either a viewpoint filled with frustration and/or anger or they will use their intellect to negate what is being said to them. When that happens, we tend to think we didn’t do a well enough job “convincing” them of their need, but in reality, that is not our job. It’s God’s and God’s alone. We did not waste our time because we either planted a seed or watered one that had been previously planted but the Bible says God brings to harvest.
Regarding my family member when we spoke with him about his drinking, he assured us he is not addicted. He was on “vacation,” and therefore drank more. When he’s home he says he only drinks one or two beers a week or less.
After he left our home he flew to another family member’s house where, according to the person there where he stayed, he essentially drank another very large bottle of Jameson’s whisky and a ton of beer and did so in a shorter amount of days than the 12 days he spent with us. At one point, we were told he drank so much, that he spent the next day nodding off on the couch during a birthday party for the hosts’ wife and then simply disappeared to go to bed.
Now, if I approach this family member by telling him he’s an alcoholic, he’ll simply deny it and shut down. If I avoid that and simply note that he is destroying his brain and his liver, without mentioning alcoholism, he cannot deny that but he might try. In other words, by presenting provable facts to him, he’s in a bit of a quandary but he can still reject these facts or say, “Well, it’s my brain and my liver.”
It’s like this isn’t it, when we witness to people? We present reality, truth that people either reject or deny and given the chance, most will deny the truth of the Gospel. We are born into this world opposed to God, objects of wrath. It takes truth and a willingness to embrace that truth that changes our status from objects of wrath to sons of glory.
So, what is my point? I believe that constantly asking God to do the same thing over and over is a sign of doubt. It is difficult to exercise faith in God when we are constantly asking Him to do the same thing as if this is the first time we have asked Him. What is the remedy for this? I believe it is to praise Him for how He will choose to work!
I’ve asked God to save this family member in real salvation. Even if/when that might happen, he will have a long recovery road ahead of him unless God chooses to heal him of his alcoholism. There are no apostles or prophets alive today so the chances of one of them coming along and laying hands on for healing is non-existent. That doesn’t mean we cannot pray for that, but I’ve found that often God “heals” in other ways and that His grace is sufficient.
So, bottom line, will God save this family member? I’ll have to say now that I do not know for certain. That said, I will continue to praise God for the fact that I firmly believe He will do everything He can to make this family member aware of his need for God and the only salvation that is available. If this man dies in sin, it will not be due to the fact that he had no opportunity to come to the Lord for salvation.
So, I’ve asked God to save this man. I now move from asking God to praising God for providing every opportunity for this man to come to repentance and to receive salvation. I have noted that in understanding this difference, I am now expectant. I can see the times when I have simply repeated the same prayer, I’ve not only not been expectant but often doubtful that God will do something. If I’m continuing to ask God the same exact request, how can my faith grow? Wouldn’t it grow much better if I ask once and then every time I think about this man in our family, I praise God for all the things that God will do to bring him to the end of himself? I truly think so and over the next few articles, I really want to dig into the subject of praise, which I believe is certainly a form of prayer.
When I think of this man in our family now, I immediately begin to praise God for His involvement in his life, for the opportunities He will provide to give this man understanding of his situation and what he needs. I firmly believe that this will happen repeatedly because God is that loving, kind and compassionate. Remember, as much as we might love our family and friends and want to see them in God’s Kingdom, God loves them infinitely more. Because of this, He will endeavor to bring them to a point of salvation.
Looking at the entire issue here, it is possible that this man in our family will have to undergo much more difficulty before he finally comes to grips with his problem and begin to understand that only God can help. But consider something. If I am constantly praying that God will “save” that man, when/if I see him slipping even further down into a terrible spiral of self-destructive behavior, I might be tempted to believe that God has not heard or answered my prayers for him, right?
However, if I am praising God for what He chooses to bring to pass for this young man in order to prepare him for ultimately opening his heart to receive Jesus, then this man’s continual failures and downfalls will be subjects of praise for what God is doing! Understanding this takes the pressure off ME and places the responsibility on God and Him alone.
I really do not know what this man’s life will become, though I have a sneaking suspicion. I do not know what God may have to allow or lead this man through before he is willing and ready to submit to God’s sovereignty. I have no clue. J. Vernon McGee has said that sometimes, “God has to grease the rope” for people so that they fall and fall hard before they are able to look up.
Consider the Prodigal Son. He had everything, squandered it and ended up so low that he had no food though he was feeding pigs and actually wanted what he was giving them. He finally “came to his senses” and understood how far he had sunk. This allowed him to start looking up. You can read about it in Luke 15. Some people need to fall and fall hard before they are willing to see and embrace truth. Others come much easier. In the end, it’s all God.
I believe we should spend a great deal of time praising God after we have presented our requests to Him. I’m actually suggesting that if you are not doing this, you should start. Praising Him even when we do not know what the exact answer will be to our prayers, is a sign of affectionate trust in His ability to provide.
If we are stuck in the cycle of continuing to ask Him the same thing over and over, then I’m wondering how our faith is growing at all. Isn’t it better to ask then praise Him for what we have just asked Him about?
Do you have things in your life that you aren’t sure how God will handle so you keep asking Him for the same thing every time you pray about it? Might I suggest that you instead praise Him for His response to your request(s), however He chooses to respond to it? Praise Him for the fact that He heard you and for the fact that He will provide an answer. Praising Him even though not knowing how He will respond confirms His sovereignty and gives Him the room to answer as He sees fit, not as we necessarily imagine.
I also believe as we grow in Christ, our requests will grow out of our desires to align ourselves with His will in all things. We will never know His Word perfectly in this life. It is a growing process that helps us evolve spiritually. We start out with baby steps and then over time, become faithful “adults” in our faith. We learn to allow God to be God in all things, especially in His responses to our requests (prayers).
I am going to continue discussing the subject of praising Him in all things in upcoming articles in this series.
Theology and Politics from a Conservative, Biblical Perspective
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