Steve Sjogren wrote a book some time ago entitled, A Conspiracy of Kindness In it he wrote: “God is looking for people who believe that a humble demonstration of love plants a seed of eternity in the hearts of others that will blossom into faith in Christ.” I appreciate that thought: that by our actions, our words, and our prayers, we are “planting seeds of eternity” in others’ hearts. Most of us have not been given the gift of evangelism, but we have all been given the Holy Spirit, and the fruit of His presence within us is love and kindness. No, we might not see much response as a result of our prayers, acts of love, words of encouragement…, but that is the nature of seed-planting. The farmer doesn’t see immediate results when the seed is planted, but he does have an expectation that one day that seed will bear fruit. And so should we. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work (3:7-8)” Will you commit yourself today to being a seed-planter, planting seeds of eternity in those around you? In addition to your prayers for them, will you ask the Spirit to guide you and show you additional ways, through your words and acts, how to plant seeds in their lives? And may our God follow up and use those seeds for His glory and the advancement of His kingdom. Amen!
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving
be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority,
that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
1 Timothy 2:1-2
In less than two weeks, another election is upon us. The media informs us of a growing disenchantment with politics and our political leaders. I often see it in myself: a growing disinterest, disappointment, and even anger towards the political process and our political leaders. But Paul reminds us here that we are citizens of two kingdoms, and these two kingdoms are not unrelated. Our prayers need to extend to our political leaders and the political process: our prayers can and will make a difference. Surely God is bigger than our leaders, and he can change their hearts and policies. Surely God is concerned about the direction our country is heading. Proverbs 21:1 states that: The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases. We need to be reminded that our prayers change things, even in the world of politics, even in the lives of those in authority over us, who we do not know personally. Prayer draws us towards those we pray for: as we pray for our political leaders, it reminds us we have a dual citizenship, and should not ignore or avoid our obligations in this world. We should, especially during this election season, be praying that God would control the voting process, that those whom are elected and those currently in office would promote justice and truth. And don’t forget to pray for the judges of our land, from the local ones to the Supreme Court, that they would be wise and good in their judgments. I came across a verse the other day: When a land falls into the hands of the wicked, he blindfolds its judges. (Job 9:24). We need to pray for our judges, that they not be blinded by the evil all around us. And we should take our responsibility to vote seriously, voting not just along party lines, but for those who would best promote the values of justice, goodness, peace, truth… Those who would see themselves, and the authority they hold, as from God, and for the protection and good of those they serve (see Romans 13:4). It seems to me that at no time in my lifetime has the need for God’s people to pray for our leaders been more important. Will you pray today, and often, for our leaders?
I’ve been reflecting on Jesus’ words in Matthew 28, where He invites us to come to Him, for His “yoke is easy,” and His “burden light.” A yoke is an instrument of labor. So often, the Christian life is viewed as one of labor, work, obligation… Jesus says here that is a misperception: His yoke is easy, light, and I think by inference is meant to be pleasant, even enjoyable. But there is a key: this yoke becomes light only as we “come”, and “abide” in Him. The key here is found in the word surrender, yielding to Him. Andrew Murray, in a book entitled Abide in Christ”, writes this: “My yoke is easy,” because the moment the soul yields itself to obey, the Lord Himself gives the strength and joy to do it.” Later He writes, “It is not the yoke, but resistance to the yoke, that makes the difficulty; the whole-hearted surrender to Jesus, as at once our master and our Keeper, finds and secures the rest.”
One of the reasons many are so reluctant and remiss in their prayer life is because it seems so passive: we want to do something. But we are called by Jesus precisely to passivity, so that he can work both in us and in the circumstances we are concerned about. You’ve probably heard the expression: “Let go, and let God.” Passivity is rarely the whole picture, God often does involve us and directs us to activity. But having said that, passivity is always a part of the process, part of the solution, for it is He who must work and act and direct and bring about change… Apart from Him, we can do nothing…. The more we realize the importance of our passivity, and God’s activity, the more and longer we will pray. The more we surrender, the more He is able to lead. The more we yield to Him, the more He is able to accomplish. Remember John the Baptist’s words: “I must decrease, so He can increase.” So it is with us….
It was Jesus’ final hours, His final meal and His final words to His disciples. Among other things, He said to them, “abide in me.” What do those words mean to you? He went on to say that unless we did “abide in Him,” we can do nothing. I’ve been reflecting on this concept of ‘abiding.” It’s a very relational term, isn’t it? The grapevine, if it is to bear fruit, must be connected to the vine: all of its nutrition, its very life, flows from the branch. For us, we can exist without Jesus, many people do. But only physically. Spiritually, we can’t do anything more than exist. We cannot thrive, we cannot bear fruit. We cannot love sacrificially, unconditionally. We cannot have deep, inexpressible joy. We cannot have peace in the most difficult of circumstances. And so on. We must stay connected to our branch, Jesus. Times of prayer, reading His Word, reflecting upon His blessings: all these keep us connected.
One more thought about abiding. In some ways we are like cordless power tools or electronic devices that are ubiquitous these days: we need to re-charge them or they will lose their power. We cannot go too long without prayer, God’s Word… But having said that, it seems to me we are more like the corded power tools: there simply is no power unless we are connected to Jesus. There is no reason for us to leave Him at home, or leave Him after we have spent some time in prayer. He promises to go with us everywhere, the Psalmist says we cannot go anywhere where He will not also be. Sooo, lets do both, and maybe that’s what Jesus meant when He talked about “abiding” in Him: let’s both spend lots of time alone with Him in prayer, reflection, Bible reading, but lets also take Him with us wherever we go. Let’s consciously invite Him into every moment of each day, and ask Him to sanctify every moment for Him. Then, we will be fruitful, every day, everywhere.