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Tuesday
Mar052019

The Power of Jesus II

Mark 1:29-39.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on March 03, 2019.

Last week we looked at two aspects of the power of Jesus: his powerful teaching, and his power over evil spirits.  Today we will see the healing power of Jesus highlighted.

Of course, the more you think about healing, you will quickly realize that there are many different kinds of healing and a physical healing is not always the most important.  Imagine a traumatized person who is emotionally and mentally broken, yet has had all their physical wounds healed.  There may be nothing physically wrong with them, but they can still be a shell of a person, unable to deal with the world around them.

It is interesting that even today in 2019, while experiencing all that modern, medical technology has to offer us, we have not vanquished sickness.  Should the Lord tarry, it is looking increasingly like we will not have all sickness conquered even in a hundred years (I mean definitely and not just for a period in which viruses mutate etc.).    We still do not have the kind of power over sickness that Jesus displayed throughout His time on earth.

The Scriptures make it clear that the main purpose of Jesus was not to physically heal all maladies on the earth.  When He later sends out His apostles, His instructions clearly highlight the focus and it is not on physical healing.  Rather, Jesus ministered physical healing because it is tied together to emotional, mental, and most especially spiritual healing.  People gave Jesus a true hearing about spiritual healing because of what they saw in the natural.  Yet, no amount of physical healing can heal the sin-sick soul. 

Today, as we meditate on this passage, let us come to Jesus and recognize that in His mercy He can heal us, but in His wisdom, He knows what truly ails us.

 Jesus heals those who are sick

Jesus is still in the city of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee.  It is still the same Sabbath day on which He cast the unclean spirit out of a man in the synagogue.  After the service, Jesus goes to Simon and Andrew’s house.  It so happens that Simon’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever.  Now, Luke further describes this as a great fever, meaning that it was a serious sickness that could end in death.  They immediately make Jesus aware of her condition.  So, what does Jesus do?

We are told that Jesus took her by the hand and lifted her up.  The fever instantly leaves her, even without a word from Jesus.  Notice that there is no sense of a ritual, magic, or a crude, barbaric understanding of sickness.  Jesus simply lifts her up and she is healed.  Neither is there a modern sense of scientific knowledge or medical technology.  Both methods are left with their mouths open, as Jesus simply helps her up.  Is this coincidence?  Please.  Anyone who has had a very serious fever break knows that you don’t instantly feel good enough to get out of bed and serve everyone in the room.  We see here the kind of power that Jesus has over sickness.  He simply heals her with the thought. 

Now we could turn this into a mind science, but the Scriptures do not open that door to us.  We are never instructed to work on our mind power.  Even the instructions to believe and have faith are all focused on believing Jesus and having faith in Jesus.  It is not faith in our ability to wield faith like a medical instrument.  Rather, it is faith in the One who has power over all sickness.

It often bothers us that God allows sickness on the earth.  However, remember that God has a goal that is greater than humans not having any suffering.  What would it profit us to live lives free from sickness and yet be spiritually like the devil, to go into eternity lost?  God created us to be like Him, to dwell with Him, and to work with Him.  Thus, sin is a huge barrier to all that happening.  We want God to heal everything, but let us live anyway we want.  Even when ailments are the result of sinful choices, we still want God to protect us from the consequences and yet not expect anything from us.  This attitude is sinful.

So, we want healing and have turned to all manner of things throughout the years.  There is something wrong with attempting spiritual or religious cures outside of Christ.  We are warned in Scripture that only the Holy Spirit and the ways of Christ can be trusted.  The many spiritual cures that exist are only the teachings of evil spirit that want to get permission to attach themselves to our lives.

However, there is nothing wrong with medicine and doctors helping us heal.  The same God who can heal at will has also put things on the earth with which we can make medicine.  Either way, He is the source of the healing.  When our bodies naturally heal themselves, where did they get this ability?  It was not the luck of Natural Selection.  Rather, it was the design of a benevolent Creator.  Yet, we must realize that medicine and medical technology is always limited and cannot take the place of God.  This is why I think that we will have to deal with sickness until the resurrection occurs.

What amazing power that can will sickness away, even without a word.  Christians do not need the proper prayer, or the proper verses to quote, or the proper mix of Christian “spell casting.”  Rather, we simply need to be connected to Jesus and believe upon Him.

At evening time, we are told that a crowd gathers outside of the door where Jesus is staying.  Word has spread about the exorcism done during the synagogue service and perhaps also about Simon’s mother-in-law’s healing.  They show up at evening because all the Sabbath restrictions would now be over.  Although Jesus had cast out the evil spirit on the Sabbath, there was no issue made of it.  Most likely because they were all in shock and amazed.  This was a new thing.  Later, the religious would have time to realize that they should be offended and that Jesus was technically breaking their Sabbath laws.

Regardless, at this point in time it is technically Sunday in our reckoning, and we are told that many who were sick and others who were demon-possessed were healed by Jesus.  This was an incredible day in the city of Capernaum.

If we hit pause on the scene, perhaps we should take some time to mentally digest what the Bible is presenting to us.  Israel had been waiting for God’s Anointed One to come and fix everything in Israel and the world.  The covenant that God made with Israel had many physical blessings.  If they were loyal to God then He would bless their crops, their wives would be fertile, and the diseases of the Egyptians and the Canaanites would not come upon them.  God’s people of Israel had the Creator’s word that He would keep them healthy and they would not need fear any evil spirits of the nations around them.  However, when the Anointed One comes, Israel is filled with people who are sick and even demon possessed.  The great people of God have not been loyal and faithful.  They are a plundered people who have been taken captive by their spiritual enemies even more than by their natural enemies.

Let’s take some time to contrast this with the New Covenant that Christ makes with whosoever will believe in Him.  The Mosaic Covenant was heavy on physical blessings and had some spiritual blessings.  However, the New Covenant was heavy on spiritual blessings and had some physical blessings.  We have no nation on this earth, are not guaranteed crops and fertility, and are not even guaranteed defense against physical enemies.  Yet, we have something greater.  We are guaranteed spiritual fruitfulness, and spiritual offspring.  We even have the Spirit of God Himself dwelling within us.  Yet, if Jesus were to walk among the churches of today, what would He find?  Would he not find a multitude who are still spiritually bound and not walking in the fullness that God has for us?  On one hand we fall far short of the intentions of God and His Savior, Jesus.  On the other hand, we see Jesus, loving us, and touching us in order to set us free from what binds us.  We need to come to Christ and seek to be free from those things that hold us back from walking in faith and trust in Him.  We need to find the leading of the Holy Spirit in our life and trust Him.

Back in Capernaum, there are now 100’s of people who have witnessed the power of Jesus.  Think of the countless numbers of people through the years who can give testimony to the power of Jesus in their life.  Instead of walling ourselves off from God in unbelief, we must learn to hear the testimonies about Him and learn to walk in faith.  Jesus can be trusted, even when I don’t get exactly what I want.  However, He still works powerfully in our lives today, and we need to be good witnesses of it to others.

Jesus seeks out a place of prayer

It had been a busy day.  Yet, the next morning, Jesus gets up before dawn and seeks out a “solitary” place to pray.  The pressure and busyness would no doubt begin anew that Sunday morning.  It is typical for us as humans to allow the times of pressure and busyness to squeeze out spending time with God the Father in prayer and seeking His understanding and purpose for our day.  Here Jesus in the busiest of times, takes time to meet with His Father.

It is good to pray in public.  However, if we do not have times of secret prayer then our public prayers are hollow and empty of any real meaning and power.  Jesus was powerful in these other areas because He also had a strong and powerful relationship with God the Father through prayer.   He is unique in His Sonship, but He is not unique in having a relationship with God that is both private and public.  We must follow His example.  It is secret prayer that makes public prayer meaningful and powerful. 

Jesus has many more people to heal and set free from evil spirits.  However, He also needs to keep focused on God the Father and His plan.  When people are desperate and see you as their answer, they will take hold of your life and set the agenda for you, if you let them.  We must always guard against letting others set the agenda for our life.  Take time to seek God about His agenda for your life each day.  That can only happen in times of secret prayer and on days other than church day.

So, we see Jesus who is not “going it alone.”  He is doing what He does with the Father.  You too were never intended to be alone in what you are doing.  Jesus is up before dawn because those hours are more spiritual.  He is up that early because everyone else is asleep.  Carving out time is not just about one time a day for a certain amount of time.  It is about finding a way to get alone and talk with God.  This should not be the first thing we sacrifice when we are busy, but the last thing.

Meanwhile, the disciples wake up and realize that Jesus is not in the house.  While they begin looking, people are showing up at the door hoping to find Jesus.  This gives us a picture of Christ that we must not miss.  Jesus is not always where you think He will be and is not always in an easy place for us to find Him.  Jesus offers Himself to the world, to whosoever will, but He also has His own agenda.  If we are always thinking that Jesus is in the noisy, loud, public places (perhaps even a church service), we can miss this intimate side of Jesus.  Sometimes we need to get to the solitary place and there we will find Him.  Yes, we need Church and Fellowship with other believers, and Jesus is truly there.  However, He is also in the solitary place with the Father that we can only go to by faith and through prayer in our own secret place.  You do not have to travel all over the world to find Jesus.  He is right here, right now, wherever you are.

Everyone is looking for Jesus because they all want a piece of Jesus.  Yet, Jesus has received instructions from the Father.  He explains God’s purpose.  He must go to other towns and do the same thing.  His purpose is about reduplicating what just happened in Capernaum in the other towns of the Galilee.  Blessed Capernaum would keep slurping up the blessing as long as they could.  If they were allowed to set the agenda and purpose then a huge compound would be built in Capernaum where Jesus would stay and all the world would come in order to be healed and set free, but that is not the plan.  The emphasis is not on such plans.  Rather, Jesus is going out to the people wherever they are.  In fact, you actually have both things happening.  Wherever Jesus went He was seeking people to touch and people were coming from far and wide to find Him.  So, we have this beautiful sense that while we are seeking for God, He is seeking for us.  By the grace of God, we shall meet up!  He cares about you and He wants you to find Him.

Even then, Israel’s greatest need, our greatest need, is not physical healing.  What a tragedy it would be to be healed physically by God, but not to be healed spiritually.  The miracles that Jesus did were not the main thing.  They served the purpose to get people’s attention, but the teaching of Jesus pointed people to a spiritual healing from sin and a healing of our relationship with God the Father.

If you truly believe in Jesus as your savior today then you truly are a Child of God.  And, if you truly are a Child of God then God has a purpose for everything that you are going through today and went through yesterday.  He has a present and a future for you.  That knowledge should become the foundation of our relationship with the Father through prayer.

We live in a desperate world, but in its desperation, it is grabbing on to all the wrong things, things that cannot save.  Humanity cannot heal itself.  We must humble ourselves and come to Christ so that He will heal us as only He can.  We cannot tell Him how to heal us, but must humble ourselves and allow the good physician to apply the balm according to His knowledge, not ours.

Power of Jesus II Audio

Tuesday
Jan292019

When Our Tank Is Empty

Matthew 11:27-30.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 27, 2019.

Running on empty is a metaphor that uses the image of a vehicle that is nearly out of fuel.  It can be picturing a physical aspect of a person who is not eating right and or sleeping enough.  However, it also can picture something that happens spiritually in our life, regardless of how much good food and quality sleep we get.  Christians can find themselves feeling empty even though they still have faith in Jesus and are trying to live for Him. 

Part of this is just our humanity.  We are frail and will have such moments, but we are not intended to remain stuck in that situation.  God has provided a way for us to fill up our tank, so to speak.  I don’t want to make this a crass and simplistic answer.  However, it is true that we can lose sight of where our strength lies.

So let’s look at our passage today.

We need the rest that only Jesus can give

In many ways the call of Jesus to come unto him is the call to sinners who haven’t heard the truth, or who have, but haven’t yet responded in faith towards Christ.  He is calling to those who are harassed and beaten down, without strength to go on, and offering hope.  His way is much easier on our soul than the ways of our own making and the world around us.

However, believers can never think that this call is no longer to us, since we have responded in faith towards Christ.  This same call is the echo of the Holy Spirit in the heart of God’s people every day and everywhere.  It is an echo of that first call to which we responded, reminding us not to go it alone and forge our own way.  If we “soldier on” trying to be a good Christian in the strength of our initial salvation then we are going to burn out spiritually.

So let’s talk about our salvation.

Understanding the salvation that Jesus is offering and taking hold of it is compared to resting.  It clearly means a rest for your inner self.  Be careful that you do not let the Gospel become some version of this.  Come join our group, follow this list of do’s and don’ts, and God will be happy with you.  Such an offer is not that of Christ’s.  The true Gospel is that the Son of God has joined our group (humanity).  He has satisfied all the requirements of God the Father and has paid the price for our sin and rebellion.  If we will simply yield to him as our Lord by putting our faith in Him (His actions and His teachings) then we have eternal life welling up within us.  The true Gospel removes the focus from me trying to measure up enough in order to be acceptable and it places it upon staying close to Jesus.  I don’t need to measure up, I just need to keep clinging to Jesus by faith.  Good News, He also holds onto us.  Faith in Christ is how we overcome this world and its temptations that pull us away from our Father in Heaven.

Thus, Jesus uses the image of a yoke.  Here we see that He is offering far more than just knowing that we are eternally safe.  It is very much about changing masters and the expectations that cling to our hearts and minds.  The yokes that the world puts upon us and the ones that we put on ourselves are all the obligations and expectations that connect us to the world.  They become very heavy.  In fact, they are impossibly heavy.  Thus the phrase, “I can’t breathe,” could be a metaphorical statement of life in this world.  It can become so heavy that you can’t even draw a spiritual breath. 

Some in this world believe that the answer is to toss off all yokes including Christ’s.  However, this is impossible.  Our flesh is a creature of servitude by nature (cue Bob Dylan song, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody”).  It is the default setting of humanity.  Even if we manage to break off all attachments to people and society outside of ourselves, we will still end up serving our own fleshly desires.  Believe me, they can be the worst of task masters.  The only way to be freed from it is to get a stronger master who is not interested in making you a slave.  Yes, we serve Christ and are His servants.  However, in so doing we are made free because He wants us to be free.

So does this mean a Christian should ignore any obligations they may have in this world?  No, it doesn’t.  You see, Jesus told His disciples to pay their taxes and be good citizens of the world.  However, they were to do so to please Him, not the government.  When we quit trying to please everyone, self included, and only serve Jesus, our soul is finally allowed to breathe and the breath it takes in is life itself. Yet, He helps us to truly serve the world around us without the insufferable, crushing weight of their expectations.

This is not intended to be a onetime thing.  We need to come back to Jesus continually and find the rest of simply serving Him.  When we lose focus of this truth, we become harassed by all the obligations that we feel.  Just as you need sleep every night in order to be any good the next day, so we need to rest in Jesus continually in order to have any hope of accomplishing something.  This is His gift to us, rest.  Let us take hold of it.  It is one of the reasons why many believers feel like their tank is empty.

We need the food and water that only Jesus can give us

The phrase in verse 29, “learn from me,” involves us receiving from Christ.  This receiving is not just a mystical, intuitive recharge.  Rather, it is a rational, informing of our heart and mind of the Truth of God.  We can’t just learn about Jesus, we must truly learn from Him.  There are things that only He can teach you.  At best a good, spiritual teacher can only point us to the truth, but we must come into relationship with that truth in order for it to truly be ours.  It is the Spirit of Christ that helps this to happen. 

So how does this spiritual learning happen?  In 1 Corinthians 10:3-4 the Apostle Paul compares Christ to Spiritual Food and Spiritual Drink.  Just as we need to rest daily, so we need food and water daily.  This is where we get down to earth in our walk with Christ.  How do I learn from Christ?  It starts with the Word of God.  It gives us food for our spirit.  The Bible compares the Word to food, calling some parts of it milk and other parts of it solid food (1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12).  We cannot ignore God’s Word and think that we will be mystically fed by Christ.  Yet, we cannot rely only on spiritual teachers to be our only source of hearing the Word of God.  As a spiritual baby we may need help to know which parts of the word will be easier for us to digest, but at some point we have to take ownership of this need of our to feed spiritually upon the Truth of God (Which is only a literal form of our Lord Himself).  Believers need to be in the Word and seeking Christ for wisdom through it.  When we don’t understand something, it is fine to talk with other people, but ultimately we will only learn it from Christ Himself. 

Of course your flesh will be resistant to spending time in the Word, meditating on it, and conversing with the Lord about it.  However, we need it nonetheless.  Without this in our lives, we will find ourselves trying to run on an empty tank.

It also involves more than just reading the Word or spending X amount of minutes asking God for things.  Fellowship with God through prayer enables the Word to strengthen us spiritually.  It is easy to let our prayers remain at a level of simply asking God to do things for us.  However, the Holy Spirit uses the difficulties of life to call us up to a higher interaction with God (this does not mean we quit praying for His help in matters).  Just as you would spend time talking about your day with a spouse, or friend, even more so we need to talk with the Lord.  This spiritual interaction, fueled by spending time in God’s Word and trying to live life as He has shown us, gives us a place where God teaches us.  In that holy place He gives us strength and vitality that we need. 

We all need spiritual replenishment and spiritual refreshing, and that every day.  Yet, God has provided Himself as the means to that end.  Don’t settle for only having knowledge about Jesus and carrying Him around like a lucky rabbit’s foot.  Instead take time this week to rest in Christ and draw strength from His Word through the holy fellowship He calls you into, instead of telling yourself that you don’t have time for it.  He is there for you, waiting to fill you with Him strength and His life.

Empty Tank audio

Wednesday
Jan022019

The Fruit of Faith

Romans 15:13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 30, 2018.

Today we will finish our series looking at the issue of faith. 

Ultimately faith is not intended to be a dull and drab hardship that grinds all the fun out of life.  God does want us to enjoy and rejoice in trusting Him.  In our passage today we will see how trusting God fills us with wonderful things that make life enjoyable and can fill us with peace.

God fills us with Joy

In Romans 15, verse 13 seems to be a prayer that Paul is praying for the believers in Rome.  The first thing he prays for them is joy.  He prays that it will come to them “in believing.”  This direct connection helps us to see that faith is a prerequisite to having joy or peace.

These things are given by God and yet they are also the natural outgrowth of faith in God.  When we have become convinced that God can be trusted and the things that He has promised will come to past, it ignites a whole host of things within our heart of which joy is one.

This joy is a rejoicing happiness that one can experience even in the face of great difficulty.  Sometimes it rides on the surface, but at its heart it is deep-seated bedrock that no volume of turbulent water in this life can wash away.  It is a joy that comes not from the things of this world, but from the knowledge that “I am my beloved’s and He is mine!” (Song of Songs 6:3).  Regardless of what I experience this relationship with Jesus cannot be touched by it.

Also, he prays that God would fill them with this joy.  There are many carnal joys of this life that can “fill” us for a time, but they are transient and not long lasting.  However, the joy that comes from believing in Christ is one that truly fills.  However, we can be drawn away from this joy if we get our focus off of Christ.  Yet, when we draw our eyes back to Jesus, we once again connect with that deep-seated joy that He has given us, and will constantly supply as we trust Him.  He desires joy for us, but not as a command.  Rather it is a constant supply that He pours into our lives as we trust Him, a supply that never runs dry.

God fills us with Peace

Now let’s look at the other thing that Paul prays for them.  He prays that they would be filled with peace.  This too is connected to believing in Jesus.  It is the fruit of a life that is trusting Christ.

There are several things that we should notice in regard to this chapter.  First, in verse 33 Paul refers to God as “the God of Peace.”  He does a similar thing in verse 5 calling Him “the God of patience and comfort.”  The point is not just that God has these things that He can give us, though we can start there.  God has abundant stores of peace, patience, and comfort.  However, these are also the natural experience of His being.  God is full of patience and not frustrated with how long things are taking.  God is full of comfort and not inconsolable towards the world today.  God is also at peace and not in turmoil at any time.

We in our flesh are not as impressed with God’s patience, comfort, and peace.  We often holler at God to do something right now!  However, if we trust Him, He will take from what is His and give to us without measure and without end.  Let us turn to Him for these things in our lives every day rather than turning to the things of this world to give us peace.

When your peace comes from God then nothing can really take away your peace.  You may be convinced to quit drawing peace from God, but it is always there.  1 Peter 1:6-9 says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love.  Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”

The next time you sense that you are lacking peace take time to remember that it is connected to your faith in Jesus.  Go back to the fundamentals and trust the Lord.

We receive them in Hope

Though Paul could have listed hope as a third thing that we are receiving (that is it is also a fruit of faith, a fruit of the Spirit), he instead lists it as a condition in which we receive joy and peace.  If we have no hope then our joy and peace is greatly diminished if not extinguished.  Thus hope is critical to our joy and peace in life.

As we saw earlier with peace and comfort, so we see here.  God is called the God of Hope.  Again, He doesn’t just have hope in a bag for you.  He is filled with hope Himself.  Do you ever think that it could be possible that God has had his hopes crushed and is stuck in despair?  Of course He isn’t.  He is God!  Yet, when it comes to ourselves we often forget this.  God is He who cares for you, and the One who cares for you is still full of hope.  He knows that the future holds wonderful things for those who trust Him.  Yes, He is the God of hope and, even more so, He is our God!  As we hope in Him He pours joy and peace into our hearts.

Paul also prays that these things would “abound” to them.  This means that it will be given in an abundant measure.  The word means to overly fill, to have plenty of leftovers.  Thus we need to allow faith to ignite hope in our hearts.  In fact, faith is to the mind what hope is to the heart.  I understand that faith involves the heart as well, but faith at its heart is recognition of facts.  It believes the truths about Christ.  Hope also involves the mind and looks forward to factual things that God has promised, but at its core it is a response of the heart agreeing with the mind.  Yes, He will come through for us!  As we trust in God, He fills us with hope for today and for tomorrow.

Paul also describes this as being done by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Fruit cannot grow without some energy source and thus God Himself is the author and finisher of our faith.  It is He who is working in you by the power of His Holy Spirit to fill you with faith, hope, joy, love, and peace (the list goes on).  Sometimes we allow our experiences to pull us off of the path that we should be walking with the Holy Spirit.  We can go off on our own tangents and end up wondering why we don’t have those things anymore.  Rather, we must return back to the place where the Holy Spirit is waiting for us and continue walking with Him.  Let Christ be your source of strength and power by the work of His Spirit within you.

Ultimately this whole verse is a prayer for believers, and not just those from Rome.  We too must add our prayers to Paul’s.  Take time to pray for the Lord to strengthen your faith and hope in Him.  Ask Him to fill you with His joy and peace to overflowing, so that you might live a victorious life in this world.  Also, do not let the world define for you what a victorious life is.  We dare not look to the world and our circumstances in it to give us the faith, hope, joy and peace that we need.  Rather we must wholly trust Jesus and Him alone.

The Fruit of Faith audio

Tuesday
Aug212018

Our Prayer Life and Personal Witness

Colossians 4:2-6.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 12, 2018.

Our world today has convinced itself that there is no eternity for us to face.  And so, people live lives that are focused on the fleeting thoughts and wants of this life, going here and there.  Today we need to hear Christ calling us to lift our eyes and see that there is a harvest all around us.  It is a harvest of people who have been made hungry for the Gospel because they haven’t found something that can satisfy their soul.

In our passage today, Paul is drawing near to the end of his letter to the Colossians, and encourages believers to be active in two different areas of life.  The first part is centered on our internal life and the second is focused on our external life.  When believers recognize the value that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has for us and the people around us, we give prayer and witnessing the proper vigilance that eternal matters deserve.

In our passage today, Paul turns from the relationship between slaves and their masters, and speaks to the group of believers as a whole.

Continue earnestly in prayer

If I were to summarize the book of Colossians I would say this.  Paul is concerned that believers understand the mystery of the Gospel of Christ enough in order to avoid deceptions and to be transformed into the image of Jesus.  It takes prayer to withstand spiritual deception, and it takes prayer to put off the old man and to put on the new man.  Thus in verse 2 Paul uses a verb that has the idea of continuing with strength.  Prayer is not just a passionless duty.  It is not enough to pray when you first get saved and then quit.  It is not enough to pray only in times of disaster and great need.  Believers must also continue strongly in prayer during all the times in between.

Paul emphasizes being “watchful” in prayer.  What are we watching?  We are being watchful of our lives, both external deceptions and our own internal deceptions.  We are watchful for those temptations that would seek to take us by surprise and by storm.  We are also to be watchful over one another, as spiritual brothers and sisters.  Jesus himself used the world “watch” in his last hours with his disciples.  He asked Peter, James, and John to watch with Him as He prayed.  Later, when He found them sleeping, He warned them to “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Matthew 26:41 (NKJV).  They were going through a time of severe testing and strong temptation.  It was Jesus who not only made them aware of it, but also told them that they would only overcome those temptations through prayer.  Satan is often successful because we are not paying attention to spiritual matters.  When our flesh is strong then we are prone to take the bait that he is using for us.

Of course it is easy to let ourselves fall into a dire, and even hopeless, attitude.  Yet, Paul tells them to pray with thanksgiving.  If we only treat prayer as a Christmas list that we take to God, then we can get discouraged pretty quick.  God is not in the business of spoiling His children and turning us into entitled brats.  We would be no good to anybody, even ourselves, at that point.  However, when we learn to pray with other kinds of prayer, we become stronger spiritually.  In Scripture we not only see prayers of petition, in which we ask for things for ourselves, but also prayers of Adoration.  This is where we praise God for who He is.  We should also give up prayers of thanksgiving in which we thank God for what He has done and how He has blessed us.  There are also prayers of confession in which we repent before God concerning any areas of sin in our life.

Prayer may have a novelty feel to it at first.  In fact, we can do different things to try and maintain a feeling of novelty (turn down lights, play instrumental music, light candles, etc.).    However, none of these things will ever be able to overcome the reality that our flesh will quickly grow tired of prayer.  When our flesh realizes that God is not going to satisfy our every whim and desire, it either falls asleep or walks away.  So take time to be thankful in your prayers, but not just for the things He has given you.  Also be thankful for who He is and His character, His faithfulness and grace.  We are on the winning side.  So we need not be dire and glum, though the world around us is given over to darkness.  Rather we can pray with joy and thanksgiving in our heart.

Paul also asks that they would pray for him and his companions, especially that they would have an open door to share the Gospel.  Just as they needed doors, so we too need the Lord to open doors for us to share the Gospel.  We should not take it for granted, but labor for it in prayer.  Paul also asks that they would pray that he would have clarity in explaining the Gospel to others.  Many people have a superficial understanding of Jesus, if anything at all.  They need a clear presentation of the Gospel.  So wouldn’t God just open doors for us, why should we pray?  It is true that if you do not pray, God will still be busy working.  And, God will use others.  However, those others cannot take the place that God has given to me and you.  Without prayer, I will miss those opportunities and those opportunities will be missing in the lives of those I was supposed to impact.  Prayer puts us in the harness with the Holy Spirit to do the work that needs done to prepare people’s hearts, plant the seed of truth, water it, and harvest at the appropriate time.  Even though he was in chains, under house arrest, Paul knew that prayer could open up opportunities to share the Gospel.

Walk wisely around unbelievers

In verse 5 Paul reminds them to walk wisely among “the outsiders.”  This phrase is a reference to people who are outside the Church because they are not believers in Jesus.  Have you ever thought about how your actions can affect unbelievers?  We can be unwise and act foolishly around unbelievers and negatively impact how they view Christ.

Paul also connects to this the phrase “redeeming the time.”  This was a phrase that was used of a person who purchases an item at the perfect time, whether to get a deal in the marketplace, or to take possession of a desired item.  If we walk foolishly then we will lose time in drawing others to Christ.  That can be done by neglecting to look like Christ enough to be attractive to them or even neglecting to share when they are open.  But even worse, we can be offensive to them and drive them away from Christ.  Now, it is true that Christ is offensive to our flesh because He is spiritual.  However, we cannot walk foolishly, AKA unspiritually, and then say they weren’t ready.  We should always have our eyes open and be praying for opportune moments in the lives of people.  Wisdom understands what is important in life and takes care of eternal matters at the expense of the temporal ones.  However, folly takes care of temporal matters at the expense of the eternal.  We redeem the time when we walk in harmony with what God is trying to do in the lives of people around us.

Paul also instructs believers to always speak with grace.  In that sense grace means to speak in a way that is favorable to those who listen to us.  How easy it is to let our speech rush on leaving grace behind.  Even worse, we may pick up unfavorable companions such as: anger, pride, greed, etc.  Part of wisdom is to temper our speech, so as not to offend unnecessarily.  We must remove the obstacles of our flesh as much as we can.  Yes, none of us are perfect, and people can always find some reason to reject us.  But that is between them and God.  My focus needs to be on me.  Lord, help me to walk wisely before those who do not know you.  This connects to the last chapter’s focus on putting off the old man and putting on the new.

Paul also uses a phrase, “seasoned with salt.”  It is a reference to the fact that food is made tastier when it is salted.  Our speech can be plain food without any spice, or we can speak with creative flavor of a life lived in relationship with God.  In fact, Christ uses salt as a reference to believers.  He says that we are the salt of the earth.  Thus our speech should be such that it causes people to want to hear it, at least until they make a decision to either embrace Christ or not.

The combination of prayer, walking wisely, and speaking with grace, will put us in the proper place that we will learn how to answer each person we come in contact with (vs. 6)k  We must truly have a relationship with Jesus before we will learn how to answer those who ask us why we believe in Him.

May God help us to take time this week to pray.  May we pray for the wisdom to redeem the time in the lives of unbelievers.  The “New Man” takes time to pray and to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the lost around them.  May God help us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, by the help of His Holy Spirit.

Prayer Life Audio